Acne is a skin condition that affects nearly everybody at one point or another. Most teens experience acne during puberty, and many people continue to struggle with acne throughout adulthood. It’s a common condition caused by inflammation of the skin glands and hair follicles. The most typical contributors to acne are:
- overproduction of sebum, an oily product of the sebaceous glands that is responsible for lubricating the skin and hair
- skin pores clogged by dirt, dead skin cells, and other debris
- bacterial infection of the sebaceous glands
Acne can be itchy, painful, and irritating. We know what causes acne, but what makes it itch?
Acne can begin to itch for a few different reasons. The most common reason is due to the friction and dryness of skin cells that are the result of clogged and cramped pores. When skin becomes dry, its nature is to itch.
Other itchy triggers include:
- skin reactions to chemicals like benzoyl peroxide
- heat, which can intensify itching
- sunlight/UV light
On a positive note, itchiness can be a sign indicating that the acne is getting better. When acne is healing, the red, pustular skin needs to be replaced with new, healthy skin. During this process, your body exfoliates, or sheds old layers of skin to uncover new layers of skin. The dry, flaky, and dead skin cells are part of the healing process, but they can also cause uncomfortable itching sensations.
Everyone understands the maddening sensation of being itchy, and the uncontrollable desire to scratch and rub the itch away. However, when it comes to itchy acne, it’s very important to avoid doing so. In addition to harming your skin, scratching the acne hotspots can cause:
- permanent scarring
- lesions and infection
- aggravated acne symptoms
Perhaps the most important reason you shouldn’t scratch the affected skin is because you run the risk of popping or piercing the pimple. This can cause the bacteria inside the pimple to spread to other parts of your body and create more outbreaks.
However, you don’t need to suffer the itchiness without relief. There are ways to treat these uncomfortable itchy pimples and their annoying itching sensations.
There are many different approaches to treating itchy acne. Common treatments include:
- washing pimples after they burst (using a mild soap fortified with a moisturizer)
- keeping your hands clean and not touching the affected areas
- avoiding overexposure to the sun
- applying light moisturizers with aloe vera to control dryness, redness, and inflammation
- applying calamine lotion
- using antihistamines to control sebum secretion and prevent itching
- taking antibiotics prescribed by a doctor
While there are many different treatments for itchy acne, the main points to keep in mind are keeping your skin moisturized, clean, and safe from abrasion.
Itchy acne is an uncomfortable and extremely common affliction. Clogged pores primarily cause acne. Itchiness is caused by dryness and irritation. While scratching may bring relief in the short term, it can make acne symptoms worse, so it’s important to resist the urge. Various at-home and over-the-counter treatments are available to manage itchy symptoms, but it’s important to speak to your doctor or dermatologist about the best approach for you. You can book an appointment with a dermatologist in your area using our Healthline FindCare tool.
With patience, acne and its associated itchiness can be overcome to reveal clearer, brighter, and healthier skin just below the surface.