External irritation can also cause the type of damage that kicks off the acne formation process. This kind of irritation is either mechanical or chemical.

Mechanical irritation

Frequent pressure, rubbing, friction and other forms of mechanical irritation are a well-established trigger for acne. In medical speak, this is called acne mechanica. Examples include getting pimples from baseball caps, backpacks, helmets, etc.

Music players ay also suffer from this. Medical literature reports several cases of violinist’s neck; acne or other forms of skin problems due to violin frequently rubbing against the neck and the chin.

Spa and facial treatments that combine skin care products with vigorous rubbing or massaging can also trigger acne.

Here are signs that suggest you are dealing with acne due to mechanical irritation:

  • Restricted to the area of frequent physical contact
  • Can happen anywhere in the body

There’s not much more to it. This kind of acne rarely puzzles people, and I won’t spend much time on it. See the treatment section for suggestions on how to deal with this type of acne.

Chemical irritation

Many chemicals can cause skin irritation and trigger acne. Chemical irritation can take several forms.

Overuse of harsh skin care products

Probably the most common type of skin irritation for acne patients. Many of the conventional acne treatments, like benzoyl peroxide and tretinoids, can cause severe skin irritation – especially when overused.

When the products fail to bring expected results, many people make the mistake of using more of them, and frequently step over the line between using enough and using too much.

Symptoms of a skin irritation with harsh products include skin that is:

  • Sensitive and easily irritated
  • Red
  • Dry and doesn’t hold moisture
  • Prone to breakouts
  • Sometimes itchy

Allergic/irritant reaction

Certain substances can cause allergic and irritant reactions when they come in contact with the skin. In most cases this shows as a red and itchy rash. And while these aren’t usually mistaken as acne, it’s possible they cause skin damage that leaves the skin vulnerable to breakouts.

Symptoms include:

  • Itching in most cases
  • Burning
  • Stinging
  • Pain
  • Redness

Comedogenic ingredients and products

Certain substances can clog the skin pores and cause acne that way. Such substances are called comedogenic, or sometimes acnegenic.

Symptoms include:

  • Looks like normal acne
  • Severity varies from small spots to painful pimples
  • Appears shortly after using a comedogenic product

In reality, comedogenic ingredients aren’t as big of a problem as people make them out to be. In the vast majority of cases, a product that contains comedogenic ingredients doesn’t cause acne. In the treatment section, I’ll go into more detail about comedogenicity and explain how to check your products for comedogenic ingredients without going for a comedogenicity witch hunt.

About Me

Hi, I am Acne Einstein(a.k.a. Seppo Puusa). I'm a bit of a science nerd who is also passionate about health. I enjoy digging through medical journals for acne treatment gems I can share here. You can read more about my journey through acne and how I eventually ended up creating this.