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Can acne be itchy?

by | Last updated Aug 5, 2020 | Published on Aug 5, 2020 | FAQ | 0 comments

There’s nothing worse than an itchy bug bite.  I lied. 

Itchy acne is worse.  And what’s worse, itchy acne often appears on your face.

Your must be here asking yourself, Can acne be itchy?

Having acne is almost a normal part of growing up.

Because this condition is so common, around 85% of the teens and young adults will face it[1].

Most of them grow out of it. Once our body adapts to the changed hormone levels the acne settles itself.

For many others this condition will be a part of their adulthood as well. It requires long term management and care.

So if that acne on your cheeks, jawline or chest won’t stop itching, here’s why.


In summary

What causes itching?

Itching is body’s response to an irritating or damaging stimuli. Whenever such a stimuli occurs, certain chemicals are produced in blood. These chemicals bring about different signs and symptoms like pain, redness or itching.

Why is my acne itchy?

Inflammation surrounding a pimple may cause pain and pruritus. Presence of bacterial or fungal matter also incites to the skin. Moreover, dryness of skin over a pimple and exfoliation brings about the scratchy itchy sensation as well.

How to treat itchy acne?

First and foremost, avoid scratching your face. This will prevent the condition from worsening. Use a mild, non-abrasive face wash to gently cleanse. Don’t go too hard on washing as well so you won’t over-dry the area. Moisturize using a lightweight cream. Avoid chemical laden products and try a natural skincare routine.

Before you can understand why acne itches, here’s a brief introduction to what causes acne.

Human skin has tiny pores which are present on almost all over the body. These pores are outlets for the secretions of oil glands, sweat and hair.

The main cause of acne can simply be explained as blockage of these pores[2]. Whenever the pore is clogged, swelling and inflammation occurs which gives us the appearance of pimples.

They appear most commonly on the face, back, upper chest and shoulders.

Acne can be mild, moderate or severe depending on the different type of acne.

Common symptoms of acne are following:

  • Clogged pores called blackheads which are open and whiteheads which are closed.
  • Small or large raised bumps or pimples which can be infected.
  • The bumps are often painful and tender to touch.
  • Redness and itching around the bumps.
Why is my acne itchy

What causes acne to itch?

Some people have mild to intense itching around their acne[3].

An itch is an uncomfortable sensation produced by the body in response to tissue damage or irritation[4]. Think of it as an alarm your body is producing to divert your attention towards that part of the skin.

Itching in acne is caused by multiple reasons.

Dryness. Oily skin is more prone to acne. But during healing phase, a pimple dries out from the surface. The skin over the pimple also separates and is replaced by healthy cells. This causes dryness and itchy sensation around that area.

Bacteria infection. There are bacteria normally present on our skin which are usually harmless. In some people, especially those with very oily skin these bacteria can overgrow.

This leads them to infiltrate a pore and form a pus filled pimple called pustule or cysts. The draining fluid called pus is bacterial matter and dead cells. It irritates surrounding skin and causes inflammation and itching.

Fungal infection. Just like bacteria, we have a fungal organism called Malassezia furfur living on our skin[5]. It feeds on the fatty acids present in sebum. In people with excessively oily skin this fungus can proliferate and infect the pore. This gives rise to fungal acne.

Intensely itchy clusters of pimples are a sign of fungal acne. The organisms incite the production of chemicals like histamine in blood[6]. Histamine causes inflammation and produces itching.

Can acne be itchy? 1

How to stop acne from itching?

It is very uncomfortable and irritating to deal with this condition.

First, a few steps to better handle this situation are be the following:

  • Cleansing
  • Moisturize
  • Avoid irritating ingredients
  • Wear light airy clothing
  • Treat as fungal acne
  • (most important) stop touching your face!

Here’s a bit more about each step to stop acne from itching:

Stop touching your face:

This is by far the MOST important.

As much as we’re told not to touch our faces the itchiness makes it hard to resist. You want to scratch your face off!

This can lead to spreading more bacteria to your breakouts.

But you can imagine how scratching will cause tremendous damage if you’re violent on already irritated skin.

It can form excoriations which will act as an inlet for infections. Constant touching will spread the infection from one place to another. It will also cause damage to healthy skin and promote scar formation.

These scars take forever to heal and might never disappear completely. So do anything you can to avoid scratching and picking at your skin.


Keeping your skin clean is extremely important in preventing clogged pores.

Dry skin is always prone to irritation and itching.

But washing too much or using abrasive cleansers can do more bad than good. It over-dries your skin and can cause dehydration. 


Dryness worsens the already maddening sensation. Therefore it is always recommended to follow a cleansing routine with moisturizing cream.

It is also important that you use a mild lightweight moisturizer suitable for sensitive skin. Avoid thick creams and those which are perfumes. Skin products with heavy fragrances are not suitable for sensitive skin.

Avoid irritating ingredients:

Some chemicals used in skincare products might not suit your skin. Especially if you have sensitive skin, it is really important to be careful with what you put on.

Many acne fighting medications like benzyl peroxides also cause itching and irritation on the skin. You can try a lower concentration of a particular active ingredient or go for an alternative.

Other products might contain high amount of fragrances and preservatives which might be a cause.

Wear light airy ingredients:

Acne on the body is often linked to wearing tight clothing or synthetic material. It prevents ventilation of air and trapping sweat on the surface. This sweat promotes growth of fungus and leads to fungal acne.

Go for natural fiber like cotton which lets air pass. Wash of the sweat as soon as you can.

Workouts can get especially sweaty. Make sure to shower after intense workouts.

Treat fungal acne:

If your acne is extremely itchy you might want to rule out fungal acne[7]. If you do have it, look for specific treatments.

You can also avoid aggravating fungal acne by keeping your skin clean and dry. Use a mild dandruff shampoo to wash your body after sweating.

Alternatively if your fungal acne doesn’t improve, special medicated body washes are also available.  Refer to your dermatologist and doctor.

In summary,

Acne is already tough to deal with and itching only makes it worse.

Especially if you live in a hot and humid environment it’s too hard to avoid. The heat and sweat makes the situation unbearable.

But if we understand the causes behind this infuriating symptom we have a better chance of curing it. Most importantly, without causing further damage to the skin.

Disclaimer: Our content does not constitute a dermatologist or medical advice.

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