When we think of acne, we typically associate this common skin condition with blackheads, whiteheads, red or purple bumps, pustules, or cystic lesions.
Although we don’t generally regard acne as an itchy condition, some individuals occasionally experience itching or a tingling sensation that causes them to pick at their acne.
If you are someone who is experiencing itchy acne, you are probably wondering whether that is normal.
Well, yes and no, but when it comes to skin conditions, it takes a trained eye to recognize what exactly may be causing this unusual sensation.
Therefore, today we are going to talk about why does acne itch as well as how to successfully treat this rather bothersome condition.
But, first things first:
What Causes Acne?
The main trigger for acne breakouts is clogged pores.
However, besides that, here are a few other things to consider when trying to figure out why is your skin breaking out all of a sudden:
✔️ Excess sebum production.
If you are someone with quite oily skin, you are probably no stranger to having a few blackheads, bumps, or pimples here and there.
Having oily skin doesn’t necessarily mean that you will experience full-blown acne breakouts, however, from all other skin types, this one is by far most likely to be the very root of acne. And here’s why:
Your skin has small passages known as pores and every single one of these pores is an opening to a follicle. The follicle is composed of a single hair and a sebaceous gland.
The sebaceous glands are in charge of releasing an oily substance known as sebum which travels up and out of the pore in order to keep the skin moisturized and lubricated.
Sebum has mild bactericidal properties that keep the skin soft and protected from external bacteria as well as environmental aggressors.
So sebum on its own isn’t the problem, right?
However, acne starts to develop when the pores on your skin become clogged with excess sebum and a mixture of accumulated dead skin cells and white blood cells.
Because when a pore is clogged with all the bad stuff, it creates a perfect airless environment for bacteria to grow and thrive deep inside it.
✔️ Pore-clogging skincare ingredients.
You already know that if you have acne-prone skin, you never want to use anything that is going to clog your pores even more and therefore aggravate your acne.
However, unfortunately, there are many skincare products labeled as “non-comedogenic” and “won’t clog your pores” and these have some of the worst ingredients that clog pores and cause even more acne.
If you feel cheated, you are not the only one. But why would a manufacturer use an ingredient that will clog pores into a skincare product and claim the opposite?
Well, there are many reasons as to why. Some highly pore-clogging ingredients give products a smooth and elegant feel and this justifies a high price point of skincare products in many cases.
But the same properties that make these products feel smooth and luxurious contribute to clogged pores.
Some of them are oils that are marketed as “natural”, “healing”, “soothing”, and “calming” but are in reality notorious when it comes to clogging the pores and exacerbating your acne breakouts.
✔️ Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormone imbalance that can cause irregular periods, excess or abnormal hair growth, and acne among other health – related problems.
Polycystic ovary syndrome is caused by an imbalance in the hormones secreted by the pituitary gland that in turn affects the ovaries.
Many women who are struggling with this issue have higher than normal levels of insulin from the pancreas, but Polycystic ovary syndrome usually happens when the levels of the luteinizing hormone are too high, which results in extra testosterone production by the ovaries.
Testosterone, in turn, has a direct effect on the sebaceous glands as it stimulates them into producing more oil, therefore, that means more clogged pores, and more pimples or full-blown acne – breakouts along with other health – related problems.
If you are suspecting that your acne breakouts are caused by Polycystic ovary syndrome, it is always the best idea to visit a doctor as this particular condition requires a clinical approach.
✔️ Heat, sweat, and UV light.
There is a number of environmental factors that can cause acne and pollution, heat, and the sun are no exception when it comes to exacerbating the problem.
Prolonged sun exposure leads to an increase in body temperature, which also means an increase in temperature in your follicles.
This may potentially lead to small and itchy pimple-like bumps called miliaria or commonly known as a sweat rash or sweat itch and this condition is a common ailment in hot and humid climates.
Additionally, intense activity and sweating cause friction between the folds of the skin and any activity that traps heat against the body for a prolonged period of time can be the trigger to a slightly different condition called acne mechanica.
✔️ Malassezia Folliculitis.
Acne vulgaris isn’t typically considered to be an itchy skin condition; however, many people experience itching, which leads them to scratch their acne lesions, causing secondary bacterial infections and subsequent scarring.
Although itching rarely is mentioned as a clinical feature of acne, there is one other condition that looks exactly the same as typical acne, however, this one tends to cause itching and even burning when it comes to more severe cases.
Malassezia folliculitis or commonly known as fungal acne is an infection of the hair follicles caused by lipophilic malassezia yeasts.
It is a species of fungi that is a part of the skin’s microbiome which is essentially the first line of defense against disease, infection, and pathogen attacks.
Often referred to as the acid mantle, the skin’s microbiome gets affected by changes in the pH levels of the skin typically caused by badly formulated skincare products as well as low levels of hydration and harsh environmental aggressors.
All these factors essentially lead to concluding that “one bad bacterium too many” can cause massive flare-ups, sensitivity, blemishes and fungal infections which are one of the main reasons behind that annoying itch you’ve been having.
Malassezia folliculitis thrives in the presence of sebum, therefore, if you suspect that you might have fungal rather than typical acne vulgaris, you definitely want to take special precautions in order to treat it effectively.
Can Acne Be Caused By Allergies?
While this is rarely the case, some people may be allergic to an active ingredient in a certain skincare product as well as preservatives, or thickening agents in products that are meant to treat acne.
As a result, you might find that using these products can cause mild itching, swelling, or even burning in more severe cases.
This response to an allergen is called allergic contact dermatitis, and it is a slightly different condition than irritant contact dermatitis.
Although the allergic reaction is usually not serious, you should definitely discontinue using the product in question if you are suspecting that it may be the cause behind your allergic reactions.
Additionally, it is always a good idea to do a patch test of a product you just purchased and test it out on your inner wrist or behind your ear before applying it directly on your entire face.
Moreover, in case of severe allergic reactions, you should always seek immediate medical advice in order to treat it quickly and effectively.
I hope you enjoyed reading my article where I explain the possible causes of why does acne itch as well as how to how to recognize different types of acne that can be caused by several different factors.
Additionally, make sure to check out the linked articles for in-depth information on the conditions mentioned.
Moreover, drop me a comment if you are currently struggling with acne so we can work together on fixing the problem. I look forward to hearing from you!
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Thanks for stopping by! My name is Simone and I am a certified skin specialist. I created this website to teach my readers how to take great care of their skin and I also like to occasionally share my honest opinions on skincare products I’ve tried. You can learn more about me here.