What It Really Means When Your Acne Itches

In the worst cases, acne can be irritatingly painful. But sometimes this pain can also be combined with an additional symptom — itching. A recent study published in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venerology (via Wiley Online Library) found that up to 70% of those with acne reported mild to moderate itching.

Those with acne are often told to avoid touching the affected areas, per Healthline, as it can make the irritation worse and even cause the acne to spread to further parts of the body. Of course, for those whose pimples are annoyingly itchy, this guidance can be extremely frustrating — and can be hard to obey.

But did you know it's a certain type of acne that causes your skin to itch? Furthermore, it turns out that this itchiness can actually be a symptom for other skin conditions that take on the same symptoms as pimples. Here's what it really means when you get the urge to scratch those spots.

Itchy acne can actually be positive — or it could be indicative of a different skin condition altogether

According to Clearly Derm, there are two main types of acne: comedonal and inflammatory, and it's the latter that usually comes with the symptom of itching. The dermatology site notes that those spots tend to be cystic, which tend to be quite painful as well.

Positively, though, itchy acne can also be a sign of healing, according to Healthline. When your acne is beginning to heal, your skin starts to shed to "uncover new layers of skin" which Healthline says is part of the healing process.

But per the American Academy of Dermatology (via Medical News Today), itchiness can be a symptom of other skin conditions. The AAD notes that some types of folliculitis (an inflammation of the hair follicles) can result in acne-like symptoms. This is down to bacteria infecting the follicles, which can cause tiny bumps that may itch and look very similar to pimples. Certain types of fungus can also cause this type of inflammation in the hair follicles, including a type of yeast called pityrosporum folliculitis that "may produce an itchy, acne-like rash," according to the AAD.

And in some cases, itching can actually be caused by an allergy to active ingredients, preservatives, or thickening agents in an acne treatment product. An allergy to one of these ingredients can cause "mild itching, swelling, or burning" according to Medical News Today. Other ingredients often used in these products like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinas can dry the skin and cause itching as well.