Does Touching Your Face Cause Acne?

You've always touched your face with your hands and never given it a second thought. That is until your friend told you that touching your face with your hands causes pimples, and if you stopped doing it, your acne would go away.

Could it really be that easy to clear your skin? 

Teenage girl checking out skin in bathroom mirror
Image Source / Getty Images

Simply Touching Your Face Isn't Causing Your Acne

The whole idea that touching your face with your hands causes acne has been overstated. Touching your face with your hands, while not really helpful, probably isn't doing much to cause acne. And, more importantly, simply not touching your face anymore isn't going to make acne go away.

Acne Is Caused by Several Factors; Fingers Are Not One of Them

The reason you have acne is not because you brushed your fingers across your cheek last week, and it's not even because you like to rest your chin in your hand.

The real acne-causing culprits are: over-active sebaceous glands (also known as oil glands), abnormal shedding of skin cells, certain bacteria (specifically propionibacterium acnes), and hormonal influences. Touching, or not touching, the skin isn't going to impact these causes all that much, if at all.

Squeezing or Picking at Pimples Is Never a Good Idea

Of course, this all depends on what type of touching we're talking about. There are things your hands can do that will make acne worse.

Picking at the skin, squeezing blemishes, and scratching off scabs will definitely make acne look worse. When you pop a pimple or pick at a blemish scab, you're creating more inflammation and damaging your skin.

So, in this case, a hands-off approach is absolutely the best bet. But picking at the skin is very different than merely touching your face.

Touching Your Face Isn't Necessarily Helpful, Though

This isn't to say you you're now free to start touching and rubbing at the skin with abandon. Your hands aren't always the cleanest things in the whole world, so you may not want to be touching your face a ton anyway.

It's also a good idea to wash your hands before touching your face, even if it's not to reduce acne. Hands can harbor germs. Touching your mouth, nose, or eyes with dirty hands can spread things like cold and flu viruses.

And if you're a bonafide picker, it probably is best for you not touch your face at all. Once you feel a pimple, it's hard to fight the urge to pick at it, isn't it? In this case, it is so much easier to avoid temptation altogether by not touching the face in the first place.

Other Things Touching Your Face Can Trigger a Breakout

Although touching your face with your hands isn't a huge acne-causing trigger, some things touching your face can actually make acne worse. These are items like sweatbands, hats, football helmets and the like.

It's more about the friction, though than spreading bacteria. Acne that is caused by friction is called acne mechanica.

So, you might not want to spend a lot of time with your face resting in your hands for just that reason, too. If you do this a lot (like every day during a boring class period) you may notice an increase in breakouts in that area.

Again, this is more from constant pressure on the skin, not from a mere touch. And, for a lot of people, even lots of resting cheeks on hands doesn't affect acne one way or another.

Not Touching Your Face Won't Clear Up Acne, But a Good Treatment Product Will

But even if you were to never, ever touch your face from this point on, you'd still have acne. Because acne isn't caused by simply touching your face, acne can't be "cured" by not touching your face. Not touching your face won't stop acne.

If you want to see real improvement in your skin, you need to get on an acne treatment regimen. This may be over-the-counter products, but it might mean prescription medications too. A good daily skincare routine, a proven acne medication, consistent treatment and a bit of time will do the most to banish those breakouts, regardless of whether you are touching your face or not.

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3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. TeensHealth from Nemours. Can I prevent acne? Reviewed June 2014

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association. 10 skin care habits that can worsen acne.

  3. Mazhar M, Simpson M, Marathe K. Inner thigh friction as a cause of acne mechanica. Pediatr Dermatol. 2019;36(4):546-547. doi:10.1111/pde.13817