Anything which rubs, scratches, or comes into prolonged contact with the skin can cause irritation and potentially contribute to breakouts. This is so well known to acne researchers that it has it's own name: acne mechanica.1-7 None of us can completely avoid irritation. However, becoming aware of sources of physical irritation, and reducing them when you can, will help you achieve and maintain clear skin.
Picking at skin: This one is huge! One of the very worst things any acne sufferer can do is to pick at their skin. Not only does it irritate and cause more acne, it can lead to scarring just as much if not more than the lesion itself. Avoid picking at all costs!
Rubbing too hard on the Acne.org Regimen: Be sure to keep your touch ultra light when performing The Acne.org Regimen.
Resting face in hands: You might be surprised to find how much you rest your face in your hands when you start to become aware of it. Do your best not to rest your face in your hands while at your desk or while sitting at a table.
Cell phones: If you tend to smush your cell phone against your face while talking, this may be something to become aware of.
Scratching an itch: If you need to scratch, do so quickly and gently.
Hats/bandanas/headbands: Anything that presses against and/or rubs the forehead can cause breakouts. If you wear a hat/bandana/headband, be sure to perform The Acne.org Regimen on your forehead.
Washcloth: Washing with a washcloth is a surefire way to introduce unnecessary irritation. Washing the skin requires only the most delicate touch with your bare hands. Let the cleanser do its job. This requires no rubbing, and no washcloth or any other cleansing device.
Napkins: We all spill food and drink on ourselves on occasion. When wiping it up, a quick and gentle dab/swipe is all that is required. Try to refrain from rubbing the skin too much.
Nose blowing: Frequent nose blowing introduces irritation to the nose area. Be extra generous with benzoyl peroxide during allergy season or when you have a cold/flu. Avoid tissues which contain lotion, as the ingredients in these lotions may be pore clogging.
Pillows: Smushing your face into your pillow as you sleep can irritate. Positioning your face toward the edge of your pillow instead of the middle can help more of your skin remain untouched.
Chin straps: Since the chin is already an acne prone area for many people, the irritation from chin straps can often push the skin over the edge and initiate a breakout. If you wear a helmet on a regular basis, be certain to apply extra benzoyl peroxide to the chin area, and consider applying AHA as well.
Wiping sweat away: We all have to do this from time to time, but if you gently dab instead of wiping/rubbing that'll help reduce irritation.
Hair in face: Hair can rub against the skin, creating a low level of irritation. Also, prolonged exposure to the oils of your hair and some ingredients in hair products can aggravate sensitive facial skin.
Razors: Guys, this is a huge one! Single blade razors tend to drag on the skin. Three, four, and five blade razors can cause huge amounts of unnecessary irritation. Also, electric razors are highly irritating, no matter how "sensitive" or "gentle" they are advertised. A two blade razor provides by far the least irritating shave, and is the way to go for those of us with acne-prone skin. Gillette Trac II or the Gillette Sensor Excel are the best choices.
Towels: When drying the skin, take extra care to let the towel do the job for you. This means patting the face with the towel gently and slowly. Do not rub or scrub your skin dry. After drying the skin in this fashion, you may still be slightly damp. That's okay. Just let the remaining moisture evaporate on its own.
Glasses: Glasses and sunglasses with nose pads tend to irritate less than those which rest directly on the bridge of the nose.
Nail biting: If you find yourself breaking out around your mouth, the irritation caused by nail biting or other oral fixations may be at least partially responsible.
Kissing: While it may be worth the irritation it causes, kissing can aggravate the area around the mouth, especially when the person you're kissing has stubble. Take extra care to treat the area around your mouth so you and your sweetheart can continue enjoying physical affection.
Threading/Waxing (sugaring): Many women choose to remove unsightly facial hair through threading or waxing (Sugaring). Either process can be highly irritating to the skin. Laser hair removal, while still somewhat irritating, may be a better choice.
Hair Products: Many hair gels/creams/pomades contain ingredients that can irritate acne-prone skin. Normally, the thicker and oilier the product, the more it offends. This is especially true for products made for black people.
Pimple popping: Popping a pimple is sometimes necessary. Do it the right way, and then leave the area alone. Playing with the area or picking at it will most definitely introduce unnecessary irritation, and can also increase the chance of scarring.
Backpacks (purse straps): Backpacks & purse straps are unavoidable for most of us. Treating the back can normally combat any irritation from straps which rub the skin. However, if you experience severe back acne you may want to try carrying your bag in your hand for a while while you get the acne under control.
Fabric softener/laundry detergent with fabric softener: Fabric softener works by leaving behind a waxy residue on fabric, making clothes feel softer. This waxy residue may aggravate acne. Choose a detergent without fabric softener, and try crumpling up aluminum foil into a ball in the dryer instead of fabric softener sheets.
Halloween masks/makeup: Masks rub the skin, and Halloween makeup is very often filled with greasy pore cloggers. Gently wash off Halloween makeup as soon as you get home, and be extra diligent with The Acne.org Regimen application in the days following.
Shirt collars (turtlenecks, scarves): If you are prone to acne on the neck, shirt collars rubbing against the skin of the neck can aggravate this condition. Normally, the stiffer the collar, the more irritation it can cause. Adequately treating the neck can often alleviate this issue.
Makeup: If you must use makeup, use oil-free varieties which are made for sensitive, acne-prone skin. Almay in particular is known for their care in this area. Also, stay exceedingly gentle in application. See the makeup page of acne.org for tips.
Breathe Right Strips: These can irritate the nose area.