Itchy Face and Facial Rash – Causes, Treatment, Pictures

Facial Itching

Itching of the face is a common symptom that every person experience, often on a frequent basis. In most case it is a mild it that is quickly relieved with rubbing or scratching. The face is the most exposed part of the body as it is almost never covered. It is constantly bombarded by the environment through dust, dirt, microbes, wind, heat, cold and other irritants. These are easily removed with washing. Sometimes the skin is very sensitive and even a mild irritant, that may not irritate every person, can cause itching. It may be associated with allergies or even skin diseases. An itchy face usually does not need any specific medical treatment unless it becomes persistent and is associated with a skin rash or other symptoms that indicates a problem.

Causes of Itchy Face

Psychological Causes

Facial itching is at times imagined or associated with nervous behavior. Sometimes a person may not experience any itching yet scratch the face regularly. Apart from a nervous disposition, itching is also at times a sign of being untruthful as are many other nervous tics.

Treatment may involve counseling or the use of anti-anxiety or antidepressant medication. In most cases though, no specific treatment is needed.

Unwashed Face

Dirt, dust and microbes are constantly making contact with the face. These contaminants if not removed can irritate the skin. An unwashed face tends to be itchy. It men this may sometimes be associated with facial hair which tends to trap and hold contaminants.

Treatment involves good hygiene by regularly washing the face.

Dry Skin

Dry skin is a very common cause of an itchy face, second only to poor hygiene. It can occur at any time in the year but is more common in winter. Seasonal dryness and itching is therefore often referred to as the winter itch. However, the constant exposure to air conditioned environments particularly in settings like the workplace can dry out the skin. Facial itching due to climatic conditions is also more likely to occur in windy environments.

Dryness of the skin leading to itching may also occur with :

  • Excessive washing of the face, particularly with hot water and harsh soaps can also dry off your facial skin. Most soaps, particularly heavily scented varieties, and facial washes dry out the skin on the face.
  • Alcohol based products, like men’s aftershave and antiseptic soaps, are known to cause excessive dryness.
  • Acne products also tend to dry out the skin as part of its chemical action to combat pimples.
  • Sun exposure, which does cause additional oil secretion and sweating, eventually has a harsh drying effect on the skin.

Treatment would involve proper moisturizing of the skin, avoiding any conditions or products that dry the skin and using sunscreen for adequate protection.

Allergies

An allergy, or hypersensitivity, may be a result of allergic skin diseases or irritants to the face in a person who otherwise does not have these conditions. Allergic skin diseases that are more likely to present with itching includes atopic dermatitis, allergic contact dermatitis or urticaria (hives). Pollen, pet hair, molds and dust may trigger the allergic reaction. Other irritants that may also be responsible for an allergic reaction even in the absence of skin diseases includes :

  • Hair dyes (itchy scalp, front, eyelids, neck, and often marked facial swelling)
  • Shampoos (itchy scalp and/or face)
  • Cosmetics (itchy face)
  • Food and medications (itchy lips, mouth, throat, and upper body)
  • Head lice (itchy scalp, neck, shoulders, face)
  • Pollens (itchy eyes and nose)
  • Jewelry (itch and rash at the site of skin contact)

Treatment may involve the use of antihistamines and corticosteroids. Severe cases associated with anaphylaxis require adrenaline (epinephrine). A more important measure, however, is to prevention by avoiding the trigger.

Infections

The skin and hair follicles may become infected by a number of different microbes. Itchiness is a common symptoms in some of these conditions. The infectious causes of an itchy skin may include :

  • Childhood viral infections often present with skin rashes that may cause itching in many cases. In chickenpox (Varicella zoster), measles (Rubeola virus), German measles (Rubella virus), or fifth disease (Parvovirus B19), itchy papules or vesicles appear on the face and trunk. These skin lesions crust over and disappear or peel off after about a week. These infections will resolve on its own with no specific treatment being necessary. Treatment may involve the use of anti-inflammatory drugs like acetaminophen to reduce any inflammation and various types of skin applications like calamine lotion, urea creams or just plain emollients.
Herpes zoster on the face
Picture 1. Herpes zoster
(Sourced from Dermatology Atlas,
Samuel Freire da Silva, M.D.
atlasdermatologico)
  • Herpes simplex infection usually appears as a group of small, translucent, burning blisters around the mouth (cold sore). Severe infection may be treated with antiviral drugs (acyclovir).
  • Herpes zoster infection (shingles) may present with a chronic burning or itchy rash which tends to follow the course of the trigeminal nerve branches. It is usually only on one side of the face. Treatment is with oral acyclovir.
  • Dengue fever is a self-limiting viral disease with fever, itchy rash and small bleedings on the skin. It is transmitted from human to human by mosquitoes. It appears worldwide, except in Europe and Antarctica.
  • Tinea barbae is a fungal infection of the bearded area in men. It can be passed from person to person but may also be contracted from animals. It is caused by a number of Trichophyton and Microsporum species of fungi, some of which naturally reside on human skin. A tinea infection of the skin of the face is known as tinea faciei. Treatment is with anti-fungal drugs applied on the skin (topical) or ingested (oral).

Skin Diseases

A number of skin disease may present with itching of the face. These skin diseases also present with a skin rash in most cases and other symptoms that allow it to be differentiated from less obvious causes. Excessive scratching in these cases often leads to permanent discoloration of the skin.

Seborrheic dermatitis of the face

Picture 2. Seborrheic dermatitis.
systemic lupus erythematosus - SLE

Picture 3. Systemic lupus erythematosus.
Lentigo maligna - melanoma on the face

Picture 4. Melanoma on the cheek
(source: Samuel Freire da Silva, M.D.
Dermatology Atlas)

  • Acne vulgaris is the common type of acne seen more often in teens. It is associated with excessive oil (sebum) production, blockage of the pores with blackheads and whiteheads and bacterial infections of the skin. Pimples, or zits, may be painful and the skin may be painful even without pimples in the area. Acne does not always cause skin itching. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition. Mild causes can be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) soaps, face washes and other drying and antibacterial agents. For more severe cases, treatment may involve oral contraceptives (females), antibiotics and isotretinoin.
  • Acne rosacea, just referred to as rosacea these days, is a skin condition marked with severe redness due to widespread inflammation.  These areas of redness may appear as patches or slight raised lesions. It is often worsened with sunlight exposure. Treatment is with antibiotics, isotretionin and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Pseudofolliculitis barbae (ingrown hair, razor bumps) is an inflammation of the hair follicle after shaving, and not an infection. It mostly occurs in men with curly hair. Prevention is by avoiding shaving hair close to the skin. Lotion with glycolic acid may be used at night to prevent inflammation. In resistant cases, antibiotics or laser hair removal may be tried.
  • Cholinergic urticaria (heat rash).
  • Irritant contact dermatitis may occur with contact to any number of substances like cosmetics, sunscreens and even aftershaves. Saliva may also cause skin irritation, and this is more common in children.
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema) appears mostly in children with asthma or other allergies. It runs in families. Rash may appear on the face or anywhere on the body, often on the limbs. Treatment is by avoiding triggering substances, moisturizing creams and corticosteroid ointments.
  • Seborrheic dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin with greasy, yellowish, scaly clusters of shed skin cells appear on the scalp, behind the ears, the armpits and groin. It may be associated with skin fungi but is not a fungal infection. Treatment involves zinc, selenium, sulfur, salicylic acid or tar shampoos and ointment.

Other Causes

  • Insect bites can occur on any site on the body and the face is more commonly attacked by mosquitoes and other airborne insets. There may be an allergic reaction, infection or localized skin irritation following a bite. Severe allergic reactions like anaphylaxis need to be treated with adrenaline. A combination of antihistamines with antiseptic, urea and calamine lotions may be sufficient for treatment.
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). A red skin patch in the form of a “butterfly rash” extends over the nose and cheeks. The joints and vessels are often affected. Treatment is with steroid ointments and various other medications.
    Rash also often appears in other rheumatic diseases, like rheumatoid arthritis, polyarteritis nodosa, temporal arteritis.
  • Dermatomyositis is a rare inflammatory muscle disease with skin rash. Violaceus rash and swelling around the eyes, on the back of the fingers and elbows or knees is characteristic.
  • Melanoma is highly malignant, fast growing, dark pigmented (brown, black or bluish) tumor, from few millimeters to few centimeters in size. It usually grows in the level of the skin, or appears as a raised tumor. Treatment is with a surgical removal. Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma usually appear as a crust like tumor on the face, eyelids, ears, lips, or scalp. Treatment may involve surgery or radiotherapy.

Treatment of Itchy Face

The treatment of facial itching is largely dependent on the cause and individual treatments have been discussed above. General measures for treating an itch includes :

  • Antihistamines (oral)
  • Corticosteroids (topical)

However, the underlying cause needs to be treated or the itching will persist indefinitely. Sometimes simple measures are sufficient if there is no clearly identifying cause of facial itching. This may include :

  • Washing the face regularly with gentle soaps like baby soaps and non-scented soaps.
  • Drying the face thoroughly after bathing
  • Using a moisturizer or emollient for dry skin.
  • Avoiding skin creams and cosmetics on oily skin
  • Protecting the skin with suitable sunscreens.

Related Articles:

  • Itchy Scalp
  • Itchy Eyes
  • Itchy Throat
  • Itchy Eyelids
  • Itchy Rash on the Neck
  • Causes of Itchy Skin
About Jan Modric (249 Articles)
Health writer
  • itchy

    I had a bad itchy rash from amoxicillin 3 months ago. I am still itch .I have been to all kinds of doctors. No one knows why. I take 3 24 hr. antihistimes and 2 pepcids a day. If I stop the mid dose i get rashy and really itchy within a few days. Im 50 and miserable. Now I need to take a sleeping pill cause I am so jacked up from all these pills. I am scared what its doing to me. But I am afraid to get off them. I have done blood work and its fine.

  • Jan Modric

    itchy,

    was an allergy to amoxicillin confirmed? Why were you taking this antibiotic? How does the rash look like, where is it, is it constant or does it come and go?

  • Jessica

    I woke up yesterday with itchy bumps on my left eyelid, and around my nose and mouth. They were not red or swollen just really itchy. I bought Calamine lotion and applied but it seems to be spreading and still really itchy.

  • Jan Modric

    Jessica,

    pinkish bumps could be hives caused by an allergic reaction to some fabric…Rash strictly limited to one side of the face could be shingles -a reactivation of the varicella zoster virus. If some bumps have white heads, it could be staphylococcal folliculitis.

  • Glenn Walker

    Hi, i am a 23 year old male. My face is always dry, especially when i get out of the bath. When i apply any moisteriser my skin seems to break out into red rashes on cheeks. I have been trying to sort this for over a year now. Any tips on anything i should be doing or what moisterisers are the best. I Have used e45 cream and that doesnt seem to work.

  • Jan Modric

    Glenn Walker,

    How does the rash look – like a pinkish red bumps or patches? An antihistamine pill taken at least one hour before bath preventing rash after applying a moisturizer would speak for an allergy. You could be allergic to a physical contact with hot water plus maybe to certain substance in moisturizers. If rash disappears in few hors this additionally speaks for allergy.

  • tsungai

    I have had a rash & pimples on my face since I was a teenager, I am now 34 and am from Africa. I have been using a product called Bio Claire which worked very well the past 10 years but I stopped using it about a month ago because of concerns over an ingredient called BHT in it. I now have an itchy face, with rash around my chin area and over my cheeks and forehead. Sometimes there are small light-coloured patches on my face. My nose and the area around it is free of all blemishes, though it is rather oily. Can you help? I don’t know what to use to cleanse my face or moisturise it or to get rid of the rash.

  • Jan Modric

    tsungai,

    I don’t know what is the cause of your rash; it could be a persistent form of acne or seborrheic dermatitis, for example. A dermatologist can give you a diagnosis; I can’t recommend any remedy without knowing the exact cause.

  • goldgodess

    Hi Im 32 I’ve had lots of dandruff for last 2 years don’t know if its connected 2 months ive had white flakey rash and redness on eyelids which are a tad swollen & burning a little. my eyes are itchy, watery, rash seems to have spread a bit to under the eye have a red burning rash around sides and base of nose is this blepharitis, eczema, psoriasis ahhhhh

  • Jan Modric

    goldgodess,

    one possible cause is seborrheic dermatitis. A dermatologist can give you diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

  • viki

    Hey,

    I have a cold virus right now my brother has it also I am 19 and he is 17. We live in England.

    Today we both had a rash on our faces his eyes were swollen and his face is dry, red, patchy and itchy. (all itching is above the eye brows, cheeks, near the nose and in my case in-between my eyes brows.)

    Mine symptoms are the same except I do not have itchy or swollen eyes.

    We are both asthmatic and finding it hard to breathe, but I assume that is down to the phlegm on the chest and stuff. None of us have taken any medication except our inhalers which we have both been using since childhood.

    Any help?

  • Jan Modric

    viki,

    please visit a doctor, both of you. I can’t say if the rash is a part of infection or an allergic reaction (which is more common in people with asthma) to some medication or skin product…

  • itchy

    For the 2 weeks now, my face appears some patches of redness around the sides of my upper cheeks and my forehead. They’re very itchy and irritant.For two days now, my eyes are swollen. Some times my eyes are so puffy that I can’t open the eyelids. My face is now swollen. I’ve been using the heater a lot during this cold winter. Is that possible the cause of my puffy face? How may I get back to my normal skin? I’ve tried not to turn the heater to high temperature already. Thank you for helping!!

  • Jan Modric

    itchy,

    upper facial swelling, redness and itch may be, for example, due to a hair dye allergy, or systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) with a typical butterfly rash. I’m really not sure if a heater alone could cause such swelling and irritation. A dermatologist may give you a diagnosis.

  • baf

    Hi!
    I am 29 yrs. old.Female. My face had some acne, acne marks and pimples.I heard a certain cream from my nephew. He said this cream really works! That’s why a week ago i decided to apply [NAME REMOVED] exfoliant -whitening cream.Hoping to cure my skin problem. But then, 2 days of applying this cream, My face started feeling hot and itchy in various places on my ears and cheeks. What seems to be the problem… Help please…

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Baf

    You should never use skin care products to treat a skin condition without first consulting with a dermatologist. You may be having an allergic reaction to the crea, or the cream may be highly toxic, especially if sourced from unreputable manufacturer. Some “whitening” creams also contain corticosteroids, hydroquinone or even mercury. You need to stop using the cream immediately and see a doctor as son as possible. Without medical treatment, you may have permanent scarring/darkening of the skin develop over time.

    Please do not mention brand/trade/commercial names of products in the future.

  • carelessme

    Hello.,.i’m a filipino.,..and i’m 20 years old.,.my korean friend gave me a facial mask (PRODUCT NAME DELETED) the back portion is all korean so i don’t know exactly what it says.,.so i just follwed how we usually apply face masks.,.like leave it there for 20 mins rinse with water.,.and apply a moisturizer.,.i’ve used it twice already.,..first was last wedensday and then just this sunday.,.she also gave me (real nutrtion cream) from COMPANY NAME DELETED.,.i’m quite not sure if it’s a night or day cream.,.i couldn’t understand the label.,.so i decided to just use it day and night.,.i’ve been using it for four days already.,.i haven’t noticed any sign of irritation until this morning aftr shower.,.i have this tiny red spots on my cheeks.,.which for me looks like tiny blood clots.,i dnt feel any discomfort.,.or itch.,.but these tiny dots are disturbng me.,.i used olay tonight and ddnt put anything else to avoid further irritation.,.i also tried putting cool towel over my face.,.hope you can help me find out what happnd 2 my face.,.:( thanks :)

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Carelessme

    Without knowing the active ingredients in these products, there is no way that we can comment further. Since these symptoms arose after you started using these skin care products, it would be fair to assume that it is the cause. You are most likely having a superficial reaction to it (contact dermatitis) and if you are allergic to any of the ingredients, this would more likely irritate the skin even further. You should stop using the product immediately and speak to your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor may prescribe medication or topical applications to reduce the extent of the irritation and prevent any complications like skin discoloration which commonly arise with these types of reactions, especially if it is left untreated.

  • http://www.healthhype.com evan

    my 1year old son is having dry itchy skin and scalp just one week after Measles though i consulted skin specialist but after 10 days medication it doesn’t help as yet, my doctor say’s it could be deficiency in Vit.A could it be since i went to see the doctor today she told that he’s doesn’t seem to have that so she gave me only mUlti vitamins, please help

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Evan

    Skin symptoms following conditions like measles is not uncommon. Even if your doctor feels that it may be a deficiency and starts your son on multivitamins, don’t expect results overnight. It can take several weeks. In the interim, do not let your son use a swimming pool and discontinue using antibacterial soaps on the body as well. Also stop bubble baths. There are various possible causes for dry skin. Sometimes eczema can only start up by 18 months or so of age. This is more likely if you are not breastfeeding, there is a family history of allergies or he has other allergic conditions like asthma or hay fever. It would be wise to go back to the dermatologist after a week or two.

  • kay

    i really need help! :( for past couple of months my skin was all good and soft i never used to apply make up or notthing but jus recently iv been using foundation both [NAME DELETED] for first couple of days it was ok but just recently i have realised some small spots on my face and theres alot of them but you can barely see them but when i touch my face it feels really rough nd spotty and it also burns alot and not to forget it also itches alot i cant take it any more! please help! :(

  • Janet Parslow

    Dr. Chris,
    I recently used a bronzer on my face. After a week of use, I noticed my skin was becoming tan, but scaly, itchy and blochy as well. I have discontinued use, but nothing seems to relieve the scaling and itchness. It almost appears burned. I used witch hazel, but now have discontinued all products on my face. What next??? Thanks.

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Janet

    It usually takes about 6 weeks at least for contact dermatitis to subside. You should notice some improvement by 2 to 3 weeks after stopping ALL products and just moisturizing the skin with a hypoallergenic (no fragrance, colorants, etc) cream / emollient. Of course not every case will just pass on its own by just discontinuing the application that caused this. You may still need further treatment to reduce itching, prevent any secondary bacterial infection and assist with any wound healing. At this point it would be advisable that you see your GP, or preferably a dermatologist.

  • Dr. Chris

    Hi Kay

    This may be case of contact dermatitis. It could be due to the makeup you are using and even if you were fine previously, you could start having a reaction to it. Stop using it and see a dermatologist as soon as you can. Leaving it unattended can cause a number of skin complications that can be quite serious in the long run.

    Note from Editor :
    Please do not use brand/trade names of commercial products.

  • brittany

    my chin line, tops of my hands, and lower shi s/ ankles, have been itching and burning and driving me insane over the past couple weeks. i show no visible rash other than sometimes that part of my skin looks a little redder than the areas around it. and its only in those 3 places. sometimes my chin line itches will move around my face and forehead but other than that it stays in the same place. i use hydrocortisone creams it helps for a min.. but thats it.. no new soap, ect..anyone have any idea what this is? before i go nuts with it? and i dont work around chemicals. tops of hands..chin line/ face, and 3 inches above my ankle to my ankles.. my feet are fine…