Acne on the forehead is a common concern for many. The T-zone, which covers the forehead, nose, and chin, is a hot spot for pimples. But you can make those unsightly little bumps go away. All you need is an understanding of how and why forehead acne occurs, basic knowledge of how to prevent flares, and a targeted treatment plan.
Why am I breaking out on my forehead?
Forehead acne develops in the same way as acne on other parts of the body. Sebaceous glands located under the skin produce a natural oil called sebum. The sebum travels to the skin’s surface through tiny openings called pores. As excess oil, dirt, and dead skin cells accumulate on the skin, they sometimes block these pores, and acne bacteria begin to breed inside. The bacteria cause the skin to swell and form pimples.
Now that you know how forehead acne arises, let us dive into the reasons why the area above the brows is so acne-prone.
- Excess oil: Hormonal fluctuations around puberty are often responsible for pushing up sebum levels and causing early breakouts on the forehead. You might also struggle with a pimply T-zone if you live in a hot and humid region or if one of your parents had acne. (Discover why teens are so prone to acne.)
Hair and hair products: Thick and greasy hair styling products like oils
, pomades, gels, and waxes can leave their mark on your forehead. These zits even have their own special name: pomade acne. But hair products alone are not to blame. Natural oils from your hair could also trigger acne along the hairline.
- Hygiene: Skipping out on cleansing your face and hair may result in oil deposits that plug the pores along your forehead, creating breeding grounds for acne bacteria. Another common culprit is sweat. If you don’t wash off the perspiration immediately, sweat can increase the oil levels in the pores and worsen your acne.
- Skin irritants: Hats, headbands, and even your bike helmet could be aggravating your acne. Consider replacing these accessories if the fit is tight or the material irritates your skin. Another common irritant is makeup. If your acne flare coincides with the use of new cosmetics, your makeup could be the culprit.
- Hormonal changes: There’s a reason acne peaks during puberty and at different phases of the menstrual cycle. Blame fluctuating hormone levels. A spike in certain androgen hormones triggers the overproduction of sebum. Too much sebum clogs the pores, creating the perfect environment for acne bacteria to proliferate.
- Medication: Some types of medication do a number on your skin. Acne is a common side effect if you are taking steroids, lithium, or anti-convulsant drugs. If you recently shifted to new birth control pills, they could be the reason for the blemishes popping up on your forehead.
- Stress: Are work pressures and personal obligations leaving you stressed and anxious? Have you been burning the midnight oil? Is the high-stress lifestyle affecting your diet? The effects may show up on your skin as well. While some people end up with dry skin and a dull complexion, others experience nasty blemishes like acne.
- Dandruff: If your breakouts are limited to the forehead area, check if you have dandruff. A dry scalp, itchiness, and white flakes may signal a dandruff problem. What does this have to do with forehead acne? When dandruff flakes fall on your forehead and along the hairline, they could lead to zits. (Here’s what you need to know about the link between dandruff and acne.)
- Other factors: Not every blemish is acne, but they may present with similar signs. An infected hair follicle may resemble a pimple. The redness and bumps of rosacea are often mistaken for acne. An allergy or sensitivity to certain substances may also lead to acne-like breakouts.
Where your acne appears could offer hints about what the causes might be. Read our guide on acne face mapping to gauge what’s really behind your breakouts.
How do I manage my forehead acne?
Acne on the forehead usually appears in the form of pimples. You may notice small inflamed bumps (papules) or bumps containing white or yellow pus at the tip (pustules). Some people experience nodular or cystic acne on the forehead, but this is not too common.
Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments and home remedies should help you tackle mild-to-moderate flares. If that doesn’t work, you can always consult your dermatologist.
- Choose your OTC weapons.
If you are picking out products for a forehead acne survival kit, upgrade your knowledge of acne-fighting ingredients first.
Some of the standard acne-fighting ingredients are salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and tea tree oil. You will find these in a range of OTC acne-care products, right from cleansers and lotions to soaps, serums, and spot treatments.
Some people turn to retinol-infused products to deep-clean pores, stimulate collagen production, and lighten acne scars. However, it may cause some irritation and stinging. It also leaves your skin prone to damage from the sun. So, when using retinol, it is best to use it at night and be generous with sunscreen.
If you’re unsure about which product to use, try Clearica Anti-Acne Cleanser and Clearica Anti-Acne Cream. Both are gentle on all skin types, free of alcohol and parabens, and specially formulated to fight acne. Powered by plant-based ingredients, these acne-fighters work synergistically to minimize the signs, symptoms, and spread of acne.
- Raid the pantry for acne care.
You could look for acne solutions in the kitchen, fridge, or garden. Just be warned that do-it-yourself (DIY) home remedies tend not to be very powerful. You may go through some trial and error to find a forehead acne home remedy that works for you.
Aloe vera gel, from a tube or a fresh leaf, is helpful for soothing the pain and irritation of pimples. Also helpful is apple cider vinegar. Dilute it in some water and apply to the forehead for quick relief. You could also dilute tea tree oil in a carrier oil and use it as a spot treatment for the blemishes on your forehead.
(Here are more DIY remedies to ease your acne problem.)
- Take a dermatologist’s advice.
If you have nodular and cystic acne on the forehead or other treatments don’t seem to be working, consult a professional. The dermatologist may prescribe topical or oral medication to treat your acne. They could also offer tips on how to minimise acne scars.
A doctor could also suggest in-office procedures to ease your acne issues. Procedures like chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser therapy may help improve skin texture and health. However, don’t just jump in to try them all out. You could end up doing more harm than good.
It’s better to leave the decision to a medical expert. Your dermatologist will inspect your complexion and the severity of your acne before recommending the way forward.
(When to see a doctor for your acne problem.)
Fine-tune your skincare routine to beat forehead acne
If you are serious about keeping the forehead clear of blemishes, commit to a skincare routine that you can follow every day. Here are pointers to get you started.
- Cleanse, tone, and moisturise (CTM) daily
- Exfoliate the gunk away
- Attack the acne directly
Take steps to prevent forehead acne
Getting the blemishes to disappear takes discipline and patience. It is unrealistic to expect overnight results. But you can adopt measures to prevent the pimples from forming in the first place. Here are some tips to keep new breakouts away.
- Eliminate the irritants:
Start with simple steps like shampooing your hair regularly and finding substitutes for hair products that trigger pimples. Resolve also to use cosmetics that are non-comedogenic and alcohol-free. Cutting out these offenders could help clear up your forehead.
- Try the hands-off approach
In other words, don’t pop that pimple on your forehead. Touching the affected area won’t make the zits go away faster. By running your fingers over the forehead, you actually risk spreading the bacteria and worsening your symptoms.
- Remove makeup before bedtime.
Even if you apply only non-comedogenic makeup, it is important to remove every trace before turning in for the night. Leaving the makeup on through the night will only clog up the pores and leave you prone to fresh acne.
- Change bedlinen frequently.
Your pillowcases and bedsheets attract dust and grime the longer you use them. When you lie down on dirty bedlinen, dirt and bacteria could transfer to your skin. This would aggravate any pore blockages and trigger acne.
- Wipe down your phone.
That trusty smartphone is something you cannot live without. But it is also home to dirt and bacteria that could transfer to your face. So, do your skin a favour and remember to wipe down the smartphone thoroughly every single day.
- Wash off any perspiration.
If the weather is warm or you’ve just ended a gym session, take a moment to rinse the sweat off your face. Letting the perspiration dry on your face is a bad idea. You may be left with stubborn pore blockages and the risk of new pimples.
Acne on the forehead is quite common, and milder flares can be managed at home with the help of OTC products. However, severe nodulocystic acne may need a dermatologist’s intervention. Do your skin a favour and zero in on a treatment plan right away. While you may not see instant results, continued care will send those forehead pimples packing. Just wait and watch!
Disclaimer: This page is for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a recommendation or for diagnostic purposes. Please consult your dermatologist or doctor before acting on any of the information provided here.