Of all the skin conditions that can affect our face, including acne, eczema, oiliness and dryness, itchy skin is perhaps the most perplexing.
Annoying, frustrating and sometimes embarrassing, having an itchy face means having to touch our faces a lot which at best can ruin our perfectly applied makeup. Worse, regularly touching our faces can cause other existing skin conditions such as acne to become worse by introducing dirt, oil and bacteria onto our skin.
Which can lead many of us to plead, why is my face so itchy?!
Why does the skin on our face sometimes itch and what causes an itchy face? How can we soothe our itchy skin and stop it from feeling so annoyingly ‘there’ all the time?
Here, we delve deep into the what, why and how of itchy skin.
What Causes Dry Itchy Skin on the Face and Neck?
Frustratingly, there isn’t one sole cause of dry itchy skin on the face and neck. Instead, there are many reasons why our skin may become itchy.
Itchy skin, also known in medical terms as pruritus, can be caused by an external irritant such as something you’ve touched or are putting on your skin. It can also be caused by an internal irritant such as something you’ve eaten or a medication you’ve taken or an allergy to something you’ve breathed in. Or it can be as a result of suffering a dry skin condition.
Sometimes, working out what’s causing dry itchy skin on your face can be difficult, and may include the use of elimination diets with the help of a doctor or nutritionist, or starting from scratch with simple skincare to see what might be causing your symptoms.
Why is My Face Red and Itchy?
Some itchy skin accompanies a rash, whilst other itchy skin conditions have nothing visible on the skin.
If the skin on your face is red and itchy along with a rash, it could be caused by an allergy to something you’re either eating or your skin is coming into contact with. For example, certain foods, such as shellfish can cause itching skin, as can certain soaps and cleaning products.
If you’re allergic to any of these, your immune system responds by causing a surge of white blood cells to the surface of the skin, causing it to become red, itchy and bumpy (these red bumps are called hives).
You may notice that each time you eat or use a certain something, the same thing happens. If so, it’s best to avoid your triggers if you can. The heat can also cause red, itchy skin called prickly heat. If you notice red, itchy bumps when you’re hot or in the sun, take good steps to remain cool and avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day.
Other skin conditions, such as psoriasis, eczema and rosacea can also cause itchy skin accompanied by a rash or red, raised areas of skin.
Why is My Face Itchy But With No Rash?
More tricky to work out the exact causes for, is why your face is itchy but no rash is present. This kind of itchy skin can be caused by dry skin. In fact, this is the most common cause of itchy skin with no visible rash.
Dry skin can be helped by using kind, gentle skincare products developed with non conformist skin in mind. They can help to nourish and hydrate dry, parched skin, replace lost moisture and help to relieve the annoyance of both dryness and itching.
Another reason you could be suffering from itchy skin is a sensitivity to the water you’re using to wash your face. Some areas have particularly hard water, meaning that it has a high mineral count that some are sensitive to. You'll know if you have hard water by looking for signs on your taps - very high mineral content water deposits a white buildup on taps and other surfaces. If so, you can buy a water softener that can help.
Having an iron deficiency can also cause itchy skin but no rash. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you have a poor diet or you experience particularly heavy periods, you may benefit from taking an iron supplement.
What About Itchy Spots on My Face?
Having acne prone skin can also mean having raised bumps on your skin, caused by acne spots that become itchy. The itching of some acne spots can also be made worse by being hot, sweating, a surge in hormones such as during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy and the menopause and certain skincare and makeup products.
What is a Neuropathic Itch?
Perhaps one of the most frustrating types of itchy skin on the face is one that isn’t actually there. A so-called neuropathic itch is triggered by neurosensors in your face telling you that there’s something itchy on your face, when actually, there isn’t.
Known as a sensory hallucination, a neuropathic itch can be linked to a neurological health condition (one that affects the nerves and nerve endings) such as shingles or multiple sclerosis.
Insect Bites and Itchy Skin
Perhaps somewhat obviously, an insect bite can cause the skin to become insanely, but thankfully temporarily, itchy. If insect bites don’t clear up after a few days, speak to your GP as they are being caused by bugs that are hanging about, such as bed bugs, lice and other infestations.
Itchy Skin Caused By Nerve Damage
Sometimes, itchy skin can be as a result of a condition linked to nerve damage such as a stroke or multiple sclerosis. This tends to be contained to one area rather than coming and going all over the body.
Hormone Related Itchy Skin
Some women find that around the time of their period that their skin becomes itchy. The same can happen during pregnancy or the menopause and it’s all down to our hormones.
Your skin should settle down once your hormones do, but if you’re pregnant and have very itchy skin, make sure you speak to your GP or midwife.
Itchy Skin Reactions Caused By Skincare Products
What we choose to put on our faces, from skincare products to makeup and beyond, can all cause itchy skin if our skin decides it doesn’t like them. In fact, as skincare products become ever more ubiquitous, itchy skin reactions have been on the increase.
If you have skin that tends to react to new products, test a small area first, before applying to your entire face. A small blob on your jawline overnight should be enough to see if you’re going to react.
Mental Health and Itchy Skin
Perhaps surprisingly, having poor mental health can also cause our skin to become itchy. Struggling with stress, anxiety or depression can make any underlying skin itchiness feel worse, or even highlight that it’s there, without you having realising before.
Also, conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, may cause you to take frequent showers or baths or to make hand washing a regular event, which can upset the delicate balance of the skin, causing itchy, soreness and irritation.
Other mental health conditions can lead you to scratch or pick at your skin which again can cause irritation.
If you’re concerned, speak to your GP or other healthcare provider.
What Causes Itchy Skin at Night?
Why is my face itchy and dry in the morning we hear you ask! Nocturnal pruritus, or itching skin at night can be caused by the usual fluctuations in body temperature, fluid balance and hormone release.
You can help to soothe your night time itchy skin by having a cool bath before bed and using a humidifier in your bedroom to counteract any dryness caused by central heating.
How to Relieve Itchy Skin on the Face
Quite often, itchy skin can be down to simply dry skin caused by overwashing. If you wash your skin more than twice a day, try cutting down to see if this makes a difference. Also try to avoid excessively long or excessively hot showers and baths.
Use a gentle cleanser and moisturiser like our ones here at Sönd. We specialise in gentle skin products made using plant botanicals and alkalising silica salts that are kind to the skin, helping to keep it hydrated, supple, nourished and problem free.
Always make sure you moisturise to replenish moisture after cleansing, which will help to keep dry, itchy skin at bay. Our products also help to gently but effectively support skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis, eczema and rosacea that can cause itching skin. Our Ozonated Olive Oil is also a great addition to your skincare routine.
If your itchy skin is caused by an internal or external irritant, try to avoid your triggers and continue to nourish and treat your skin with gentle skincare products like ours.
Another tip to help soothe itchy skin is to pat your skin dry after washing, rather than rubbing it with a towel. During particularly infuriating flare ups, rest a cool, damp cloth or flannel onto the skin for immediate relief.
Try to avoid wearing tight collared shirts, roll necks or scarves around your neck if you can, too and instead aim for cool, loose fitting clothing made from natural fabrics such as cotton or hemp. Consuming spicy foods, hot foods, caffeine and alcohol can also cause itchy skin to flare up, so avoid these as much as possible.
If taking holistic steps to treating your itchy skin doesn’t work, it may be worth speaking to your GP who can arrange a referral to a skin specialist or an allergy specialist who can do some food intolerance tests to pinpoint any skin conditions or allergies.
Sources:https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/nov/09/kamala-harris-us-vice-president-woman-of-colour-three-writers https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313084#_noHeaderPrefixedContent https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6116811/
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.