We all know that irritation can aggravate acne. This is most assuredly not a myth. It’s a widely accepted, and quite frankly, obvious truth to many of us who pay close attention to it. For instance, pretty much every time I get sick or have bad allergies, I will break out around my nose because I blow my nose so much, thus irritating the skin around that area. Also, pretty much every time I wear a tight hat for more than a day I will get little breakouts around my hair line where the hat squeezes into my skin.

We can’t avoid irritation altogether, but simply becoming aware of it helps empower us to keep as clear as we can. The list I currently have on Acne.org regarding irritation includes:

– picking
– tight hats
– resting your face in your hands
– helmets and chin straps
– cell phones
– napkins

I think we can come up with a more filled out list however. Here are the ones I’m going to add. Please reply with your suggestions as well.

– frequent nose blowing
– trying on clothes (the collars can rub against your face as you put them on and take them off)

What else?


Leave a Reply

  • crichel

    I find glasses, especially sunglasses can irritate where they rest on your face. Turtlenecks as well can irritate around the neck area.

  • Adam

    -Weight Lifting (any sort of exercise laying on my back, like Bench Press, irritates my back acne)
    -Leaning back in chairs
    -Razors with too many blades (I use the two-bladed Gillette Trac II)
    -Certain shampoos (I would get irritation when I used Pert Plus Shampoo and then worked out. The sweat would combine with the chemicals in the shampoo and then run down my face and back. I started using baby shampoo and baby wash, which are both gentle and non-comedogenic)
    -Laundry detergent (Use All Free Clear, which has no dyes or fabric softener)
    -Fabric softener (I stopped using this)

  • Adam

    -Dry Cleaned shirts (the starch in the collar can irritate the neck area)
    -Any sort of collared coat or shirt
    -Sunblock Spray (Sunblock Spray in an aerosol can is usually alcohol-based and comedogenic)
    -Eating food sloppily (watch around your mouth area when you eat sandwiches. I tend to sometimes have greasy meat or sauce accidentally touch my face)
    -Backpacks and Satchels (I carry a briefcase now so I don’t irritate my back and shoulders)

  • BP

    Rubbing the face too hard during the regimen can irritate as well.

  • Anonymous

    Wind (like getting “wind burn” on a cold day)
    Hair dye (for women)

  • Jordan

    Sleeping on pillows.

  • Kevin

    – Sleeping on pillows
    – Halloween masks
    – Blowing your nose
    – Letting people touch your face (like your girlfriend)
    – Even making out can give you pimples around your lips. Especially if their wearing lip gloss or makeup that is comedogenic.
    – Certain colognes or perfumes sprayed on the neck can cause irritation and break outs.
    – Having a hairstyle that leaves hair falling on your face. For instance your forehead or your cheeks.
    – 3 blade and 4 blade razors can also cause irritation.

    Those are just a few that I could think of.

  • Ryan

    -suit shirts

  • Dan

    really good stuff you guys. keep ’em comin’…

  • D

    I don’t get the point of such a list? You can’t live an OCD about acne life. Sleeping on pillows, kissing, wearing caps, shaving, wiping your snot off your nose etc.. is unavoidable parts of everyday life. Even if you are aware of the 1000 actions that may cause irritation, will you limit changing t shirts, shaving, using tissues, wearing caps using cellphones or helmets?

  • I

    thats true, all those actions are not completely unavoidable

  • K

    _wiping sweat off forehead

  • Sheryl

    -hot water
    -hot rooms
    -harsh lighting
    -too much sun

  • Mandy

    -I don’t use fabric softener on my pillowcases, which are 100% cotton and change them regularly (hair products can get on them)
    -I wash my sun glasses with dishsoap regularly

  • HTX_2008

    hair gels, hair spray, etc…that run down your face as you sweat.

  • Melissa

    Resting your head and chin in your hands seem to do it for me.

  • Devon

    crying. use a tissue when you cry. that’s probably strange,but i have counseling pretty much weekly and the salt irritates my face if i cry.

  • Sarah

    Kissing…especially someone with a beard. Just found that out πŸ˜‰ Ouchie…

  • Will

    -Shaving is probably my number one irritant. If I do not do it just right – warm water for a while to soften up hairs and foam up the shave gel and only slightly glide it over the skin and then heat the razor in hot water and follow the hairs- then I break out as a result.
    -I also have problems with resting my chin or cheek in my hand
    -Rubbing sweat off of my face when I work out
    -Rubbing my face throughout the day because it feels like I am kind of rubbing the oils off as they build throughout the day.
    -Trying to pop a pimple with an extractor or just with hands when you think it is ready but it isn’t or just messing up and doing it wrong.
    -Aggressively scratching an itch on your face.
    -Over treating your face whether it be washing too many times a day or putting too many things on or spotting too often
    -ALCOHOL! This is the worst. Astringents with alcohol and using them constantly. I used to do this for the shiny oily face. It just made life miserable after a while.

  • Zach

    -Any time of tight clothing (after a day of walking in my tight jeans, my legs had lots of irritated areas), including dress shirts with button-up collars.

  • Emma

    Nail biting – some people rest their hands on the side of their mouth when they do it.
    Smoking – I’ve seen alot of smokers with really bad acne along their mouth for I guess the same reason + the dryness.

  • Sanderson

    This might be an odd one but I often chew the inside of my mouth, this can irritate the skin, especially on my chin where I get painful nodules often. I’ve stopped doing this but I still do it in my sleep and I also bite my bottom lip. I got a mouth-guard thing to wear in my sleep (they usually sell them for people who grind their teeth) which stops me from noctornal chewing and biting.

  • Dan

    Awesome stuff you guys. I’m compiling a larger list per your suggestions. I will keep in mind not to freak people out about it though. I know that irritation can’t be avoided, but it is good to just become aware of irritation so you can avoid it when it’s easy to do so.

  • JV

    -Boxing, Muay Thai….although getting punched in the face is unavoidable and defense requires your gloves to touch your face, be sure to clean for gloves after every practice, especially the inside part that touches your face. You may even want to ask your sparring partner to clean his off gloves with alcohol before you begin.

  • Tim

    Boxing gloves

  • SilentWalker

    getting round house kicked in the face

  • Amira

    Rain and humidity, glasses, sunglasses, an itch on the face, resting my head on a pillow other than my bed pillow(couch, boyfriends clothing, couch pillows..etc), kissing, waxing eyebrows, when food gets around mouth or chin area,my puppy licking me or putting there nose on my face, conditioner and other hair styling products.

    I can’t think of anything else at the moment but i do know a lot more.

  • Jordan

    Surprisingly, I’ve found that roundhouse kicks actually help clear my acne!

  • Nancy

    TIME OF THE MONTH ughhhhhhhh

  • Will

    Ok, I have two more to add. I have been experiencing these two key points for the past couple of days therefore I am in prime position to talk about them. The first one of the two would be dryness. Of course, drying out the breakout is part of what the benzoyl peroxide does and it is part of what makes it work. However, if you wash with something that strips too much of the skins essential moisture and then you fail to use a good moisturizer I have found that the dryness and the tightening of the skin that occurs as a result is a huge irritant. That combination has always done horrible things to my skin and has actually cause me, for one, to not heal current acne and, for two, to cause new breakouts. Then the second of the two irritants would be not having the right kind of product. If you are trying to wash your face with beads or with something particularly harsh or if you are trying to apply moisturizer that is as thick and gloppy as mayonnaise then you are going to cause so much extra irritation that you are not going to get anywhere with you regimen.

    So, what my experience has been lately is running out of the acne.org moisturizer. I did not want to buy a bottle of the moisturizer because someday it is going to change and I do not want a big bottle of the old stuff lying around when I buy the new kind. So, I have not purchased anything. What I am relying on is the cetaphil stuff and I really do not like it. It makes me so oily and shiny for one thing. And the other thing is that it is really thick and gloppy and it does not go on or absorb very well. Other then that it is ok, but to me those issue do not make it worthwhile messing with it. So, I am trying to salvage the last couple of drops that fall out of the acne.org bottle. I know people have made a few complaints about the moisturizer and I agree with the stinging and the slight shiny or “coated” look that your skin gets. However, what I do love is that the stuff is very thin and goes on easy. Also, it just absorbs on its own. I do not have to do too much working in for it to just automatically absorb into my skin (so less irritation of course). It also does a fine job of actually moisturizing.

  • unknown

    touching your face is a big one i think because the oils on your fingers go into your pores and ta-da.
    also pillows
    milk for me ( i dont know why?)
    not a regular diet
    not excersiseing (this one is HUGE for me).
    thats it…

  • Stillettos & Cigarettes


    Dust storms

    Make-up to cover your acne and scars
    THEN you have to worry about:
    If it rains!

    Going to the gym and sweating

    Pillow cases πŸ™

    Resting your head anywhere


    Smoking –then if you quit you have to worry about the breakouts from stress


  • barry mlone

    This was a good article, I want to say you should keep up the good work, but I want to commend some things about the hymn people say about acne and the truth ways out, you see their a lot of things people are saying about cause and the treatment of acne, but i want to say here that acne is not cause by any of those things many people saying, lather, acne is a complete act of a skin disease and some dead cells
    *link edited out*

  • julie

    bra straps

  • Ally

    basics – the hair on your head that will fly to your face which will irritate it.

    another basic – your hands can bring bacterias to your face that will irritate it.

  • Kristi Lynn

    Shared office phones!

    My office uses cordless phones and although each of us has one at our desk, I’m not always at my desk and I know I’m not the only one that uses my phone. I noticed an oily film building up on the phones I was using and that discovery happened right around the same time I got a bad break out on my jaw line.

    I use Lysol wipes once or twice a week and wipe down all the phones. So far it seems to be helping!

  • James

    Guys with acne, I’ve started to find when, shaving, if your acne is moderate/mildish (mine used to be severe and has started to clear), shave once a day WITHOUT shaving gel/foam, but use a friendly face wash as shaving gel, then rinse with cold water, this will eliminate the need to over-use certain products, which can irritate skin and cause breakouts further.

    Also a few things i’ve found which irritate:

    – pet hair
    – flying insects (midges, flys etc)
    – pillow cases, bedsheets not being fresh.
    – unclean hands touching face, neck.
    – lying back on sofas, chairs not allowing skin to breathe
    – not washing excess food/grease off after eating.

  • Jordan

    what is the point of listing things such as “pillows.” i mean you have to sleep everyday, what else would you sleep on! (unless of course you guys are talking about dirty pillows?

  • JJ

    Regarding the pillows, I have always liked to sleep on my stomach. This means I have my face in my arms (usually turned to the side a bit, or some other not so ergonomically great position). recently I have wondered if this could contribute to my mild, come and go acne. I guess for me it is a combination of my arms and the pillow that I am sleeping on. But what would be the obvious solution to this is just to change the position to sleeping on my back. But it is so difficult for me to change lol. Anyway, maybe it’s not a big contributor… Just a thought.

  • T Marie

    Many of my triggers have already been noted, but I would like to add:

    GUM! I just figured this one out. It makes sense though. If you have acne around your mouth, and the skin is constantly moving while chewing gum, the oil on your face will be stimulated and move around, and your pours may open too???? (This is my guess of what happens.)

    Hair products: Especially for acne on the back

    Hand lotion: Even if I try really hard to not touch my face, having certain lotions on my hands seems to make my face itch and exacerbate my acne. I’ve tried “regular” and more natural lotions, and have the same problem with both. One of the only lotions that doesn’t bother me is Cetaphil. So perhaps it’s a fragrance issue for me.

    Fruit. (This one bums me out. Apples, blueberries, and strawberries seem to break me out.)

    Stress (and the stress of acne creates its own little vicious annoying cycle)

    Vitamins. Multivitamins break me out. My doc thought I was crazy. I’ve tried them enough times to think that it is a real cause. I’ve recently read that the problem may be the iodine. I’m going to do some more research on this.

    That’s it for now. If I come up with anything else not already mentioned, I’ll come back.

    Good luck to everyone!