My teenage niece Sara recently came to me almost in tears. She’s been dealing with acne for quite some time and it recently spread to her back, chest and arms. If this doesn’t sound bad enough, she said the pimples had also started to itch.
Dealing with pimples can be traumatic, but itchy ones are downright annoying! Needless to say, my niece has been mortified, sad, and embarrassed for a few months now and doesn’t believe she’ll ever get a boyfriend at this point. With her senior prom just a year away, she was begging me to help her treat and heal these itchy pimples as soon as humanly possible.
She knows I am a health nut and she recently learned the benefits of all-natural care so I was happy to have her inquire about natural ways to deal with these pesky, itchy pimples. Do you or someone you know struggle with pimples, especially itchy ones? If so, read on.
What Causes Pimples?
While people of any age can deal with pimples, they are most common in adolescence. But what exactly causes them? According to the Mayo Clinic, pimples occur when too much bacteria, oil and dead skin cells clog up your hair follicles.
This happens because your hair follicles are connected to your oil glands. Your oil glands produce a substance called sebum that is responsible for lubricating your skin and hair. The sebum moves along your hair, through the opening of your hair follicles and out onto the surface of your skin.
For various reasons, your body sometimes produces an excess of oil. If this occurs, and you have too much dead skin on your body, the mixture can block your pores. Once that blockage occurs, bacteria can enter and multiply, causing redness and inflammation – also known as a pimple.
So what are the reasons for excess oil production, you ask? The culprit is hormones. Hormones are raging during your teen years, as is the case for my niece. As a woman, you can also experience hormone changes later in life, especially during pregnancy, menopause or when taking oral contraceptives.
If you’re interested in a live animation of what exactly occurs in order to form a pimple, check out the following YouTube video.
What Causes Pimples to Itch?
According to Livestrong, pimples become itchy when they’re starting to heal. So while itchy pimples are a pain, they’re a step in the right direction. With proper skin care you can help lessen the itchiness and prevent further infection.
While itching can be normal during the healing process, if you notice intense, persistent or signs of pus are likely to mean there is a skin infection that should be treated by a doctor.
A more serious cause of itchy pimples can be cystic acne. WebMD tells us that cystic acne occurs when the infection of a pimple goes more deeply into your skin and creates a bump filled with pus. This type of acne may hurt or itch. The bad news is that when a cyst bursts, the infection can easily spread to other areas creating more breakouts.
Now that you know what might be causing your pimples to itch, let’s look at how to prevent and treat it.
8 Ways to Prevent Itchy Pimples
As I mentioned, both my niece and I initially wanted to look for some all-natural remedies for itchy pimples. We quickly learned that there are simple steps you can take in the comfort of your home to start dealing with the issue.
1. Stop Scratching
While the urge to scratch is intense, you must make sure you don’t give in. Science shows us that scratching an itch can actually make it itch more, or at least give us that sensation.
The Huffington Post tells us that scratching an itch causes minor pain, prompting the brain to release the “happy” chemical, serotonin. This chemical helps regulate our mood and can sometimes make an itch feel more intense.
Zhou-Feng Chen PhD, director of Washington University’s Centre for the Study of Itch, explains that as serotonin moves from the brain into the spinal cord, “the chemical can ‘jump the tracks’ moving from pain-sensing neurons to nerve cells that influence itch intensity.”
Long story short, scratching can relieve your itch by creating minor pain signals. However, when your body responds to those pain signals, it actually can make the itching worse.
On a similar topic, being conscious of how much you touch your face is important as well. More often than not, our hands carry germs, bacteria, and dirt. While it’s common sense to not touch your face when your hands are dirty, if you’re suffering with acne it’s a good idea to reduce the habit as much as possible.
For just one day I logged how often I touched my face and was shocked at the number of times I did so! I told my niece to do the same. She couldn’t believe how often her face was resting in her hands. It was a helpful experiment because she realized that eliminating this habit could not only help with her itching but with preventing pimples in the first place.
I challenge you to give it a try and see what your face to hand contact is like for one day.
2. Stop Washing Your Face…Too Often
While you might think the more you wash your face, the clearer your skin will be, that’s not always the case. While dirt, bacteria and dead skin cells do need to be removed regularly, you want to make sure you aren’t washing your face too often.
Washing your face frequently or with harsh abrasive soaps can quickly dry your skin out, causing itchiness. Pick a mild soap that is non-irritating and won’t dry out your face. FacingAcne.com gives these great tips for choosing the perfect soap:
Don’t use products that make your skin tingly, itchy, and red or cause a burning sensation. Some prescription strength benzoyl peroxide formulas are especially aggressive. They suggest using only up to 2.5% benzoyl peroxide in any over-the-counter products you might purchase
Avoid scented formals or products with fragrances or essential oils. These can further irritate your skin.
Monitor your sun exposure.
Avoid skin lightening produces that contain hydroquinone or vitamin C. They could cause spotting on your skin. Instead choose lightening products that contain arbutin or kojin acid as these will help you avoid spotting
When you do wash your face, avoid scrubbing or drying it in a harsh manner. This can also cause dryness and itching. Many websites suggest using Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash, their “effective yet gentle acne cleanser.” You can find it at your local convenience store or you can have it delivered to your door from Amazon.
3. Lightly Moisturize
After washing, you can opt to use a light moisturizer, applied with a cotton ball. This will help keep your skin moisturized and the cotton ball will decrease the amount of hand-to-face contact.
This blogger has some great suggestions for oil-free, non-greasy products to help moisturize your skin. Remember that just because you want to avoid an oily face, doesn’t mean you want to avoid moisture.
4. Avoid Cosmetics
While you are waiting for your itchy pimples to heal, you should avoid applying cosmetics to the area. Some cosmetics contain chemicals that may irritate your skin further. I’m a fan of all-natural beauty anyway.
If you feel a bit nervous about letting makeup go for a while, gain some confidence with a look at this teen star’s no-makeup selfie, acne cream included. We are all beautiful without makeup too!
5. Assess Your Current Products
If you’re currently using a face wash, cream or spot ointment, pay attention to your skin’s response.
Does your face burn or itch shortly after applying the product? If so, it could also be a culprit when it comes to your itchy pimples. Try eliminating one product at a time for about a week or so, and see if the itching decreases at all.
6. Avoid Heat and Sweat
Sweating and hot climates can trigger itchy pimples. Your sweat contains salt which, when left to sit on your skin for an extended period of time, can cause itchiness.
If you work out a lot or live in a hot or humid climate, be sure to rinse off immediately after a profuse sweating session. Avoid the sun at the peak of the day and try to stay cool, dry and moisturized indoors.
7. Manage Stress
Stress can play a part in breakouts and itching. To avoid aggravating your issue further, try to remain as stress-free as possible. Easier said than done, I know! If stress in your life is unavoidable due to work, family or finances, plan some stress-relieving activities into each day.
Whether you take a walk, try a yoga class, read a book, meditate, exercise or colour, you’ll be on your way to great health and in turn, great skin.
8. Watch Your Diet
If you’ve been reading my articles for a while you’ll realize what an important role diet plays in your overall health and well-being. “You are what you eat” is so very true.
The food we ingest directs so much of how our body acts and reacts. If you make poor food choices, you are going to start seeing poor outcomes such as weight gain, skin issues, and ultimately disease.
Avoiding sugar, carbohydrates and processed foods can be a game-changer for your itchy skin and your health. I also recently read that adding garlic to your diet can help prevent pimples as well, who knew?!
There are vitamins out there specifically for healthy skin or treating skin conditions. My favourite is biotin which is said to have a possible effect on the health of your skin.
According to Dr. Axe, biotin is a nutrient that “helps us keep a young, attractive appearance since it plays a major part in maintaining the health of our hair, nails and skin.” Dr. Axe also tells us that biotin can help “protect skin from acne, fungal infections, rashes, and severe dryness and cracking.”
After consulting with your physician, you might want to try adding some biotin to your daily regimen.
4 Ways to Naturally Treat Itchy Pimples
Now that we know some good preventative measures for helping with itchy pimples, I want to share a few home-based topical remedies with you. This Livestrong article details out several ways to use products you might have in your home in order to treat itchy pimples.
This isn’t something that immediately came to mind when I was brainstorming ways to treat itchy pimples. My lack of knowledge aside, it’s said that using tea tree oil as a spot treatment “may help reduce bacteria and inflammation.”
Livestrong also mentions another herb – guggul. Guggul can supposedly help reduce acne symptoms. It’s also said that it might be “as effective as tetracycline, a prescription medication used for acne.” You’ll want to be careful with this herb however, consult with your physician before ingesting as it can react negatively when taken with other medications.
2. Aloe Vera
Another topical remedy you may already have in your home is the gel of an aloe plant. Aloe has literally been used for thousands of years to help heal many different conditions such as:
- Skin Irritations
- Skin Inflammation
Using aloe vera gel on your itchy pimples can soothe and reduce the severity of your itch. Aloe vera is used in plenty of over-the-counter skin products due to its great characteristics.
3. Honey and Cinnamon
This was an interesting concoction I read about on the Livestrong article I mentioned previously. I had no idea that two things I always have in my cabinet could help with healing itchy pimples. The article states that honey has antibacterial properties while cinnamon can prevent the effects of nitric oxide, a chemical believed to contribute to painful acne.
To use this method, mix 3 tablespoons of honey with 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder. Use the paste as a spot treatment for your acne before you go to bed and then be sure to wash it off in the morning.
4. Yogurt and Oatmeal
We’ve all heard about the probiotic benefits of yogurt, but did you know that probiotics can actually help inhibit bacteria that cause acne? The coolness of the yogurt can also help to soothe itching, burning and inflammation.
Since oatmeal is a great exfoliator, it can help remove dead skin and clogged pores.
Mix some plain organic yogurt together with oatmeal and then apply the mask to your face for 20 to 30 minutes. Wash and repeat daily for a full effect.
The above 12 points are a lot to take in, so let’s have a quick review. There are plenty of ways to prevent and treat itchy pimples without intervention from a prescribed medication. These tactics include:
- Stop scratching
- Don’t wash your face too often
- Lightly moisturize
- Avoid cosmetics during the healing process
- Assess your current products
- Avoid heat and sweat
- Manage stress
- Watch your diet
- Try some herbal remedies
- Soothe skin irritation with aloe vera
- Capitalize on the antibacterial and preventative effects of honey and cinnamon
- Create a mask out of yogurt and oatmeal
So what do you think? Have you tried any of these home based methods in the past? Let me know which ones did or didn’t work for you in the comments below. My niece is in the midst of trying pretty much everything on the list, I’ll let you know how she fares!