Forehead Acne – Causes, Treatment, and Prevention
It would be difficult to find a person unfamiliar with acne. It is probably the most common skin conditions worldwide. However, not everyone is affected in the same way. Since acne is primarily an aesthetic issue, people prone to face and forehead breakouts suffer the most. No wonder that many of them are asking the same question. – How to get rid of acne on the forehead?
If you are asking the same question, this article has all the answers you need.
Oily, red, inflamed, and sometimes painful skin. Spots and pus-filled bumps on the face, chest, or back. That’s a good description of acne.
The face is the most common location of acne breakouts. If you only had one acne spot in your lifetime, it was probably on your face. Right?
Around 50% of people also have acne on the back, while one in six people have breakouts on the chest.
Not all acne is the same. There are six different types. These are:
All types of acne can appear on the forehead. However, pustules and papules are the most common ones. They manifest as solid red bumps (papules) or pus-filled bumps (pustules) with a visible white or yellowish top (the collection of pus). Pimple is another common name for these two types of acne.
A combination of factors causes acne breakouts. The three most important factors are the overproduction of sebum (oily skin), clogged up pores, and bacterial infections. An increase in hormone levels during puberty is another major contributor.
We’ll say much more about the causes and treatment options later in this article. But, let’s first explain what does forehead acne means?
What does forehead acne mean?
A “perfect acne storm” begins like this:
- Your sebaceous glands start to produce excess sebum due to a change in hormonal levels, stress, or some other reason.
- Your skin pores get clogged up with extra sebum, dirt, and other contaminants such as skin creams or hair care products.
- The bacterial activity inside the clogged pores causes inflammation, redness, pain, and swelling (acne).
However, there are many potential triggers for forehead acne breakouts. Most of them have the usual origins. The question here is: What causes the overproduction of sebum and clogged-up pores on the forehead?
The answer is not simple or the same for everyone. What’s sure is that something is causing breakouts in this specific area of the face. When that is the case, we usually do not need to look very far.
If the acne appears near your hairline, chances are the cause is hidden in your hair care routine or the hair products you use.
First, you should make sure that your hair is kept clean. Check for signs of oiliness on your scalp. If it looks too oily, adjust your hair care products to your skin and hair type.
Avoid using pomades and other greasy products for your hair. Look for the word “non-comedogenic” written on the labels of hair cosmetics. It means the ingredients in those products do not clog up the pores.
That is a solution for the oiliness and the clogging-up part, but what about the bacteria? Your pillowcase, your phone, and your hands can all be sources of contamination. So, avoid touching your forehead too much and keep your stuff clean.
Stress and low sleep quality can also make acne worse. However, if only your forehead is affected, that means the cause is most likely nearby.
Types of Forehead Acne
Papules and pustules are the most problematic and the most common pimples that can have your forehead breaking out. However, all other acne types can appear on the forehead. So, to avoid confusion, let’s say something about each type.
A blackhead is an open “comedo.” It is a clogged-up pore not covered by the skin. It’s easily extractable, and it usually does not cause pain, inflammation, or redness.
The material inside a blackhead is usually a mix of sebum (oil) and keratin (dead skin cells). Most people have blackheads on the nose. Forehead blackheads are not uncommon, but they are rarely numerous and not necessarily accompanied by acne.
Whiteheads rarely cause inflammation. In appearance, they are similar to blackheads but are not always easy to extract. That’s because they have a thin layer of skin covering them on the top (a closed comedo).
The material found inside a pore is also the same in both blackheads and whiteheads. It is usually a mix of dead skin cells and oil. In the case of whiteheads, bacterial activity may be present as well.
Whiteheads can appear anywhere on the face, but they are unlikely the reason behind your forehead breaking out.
Nodules or nodular acne are the most unpopular type of pimples. They can appear anywhere on the body, including the forehead.
Nodular acne forms deep inside the skin. Often, nodules are impossible to take out and can be very painful. The swelling associated with forehead nodules can harm physical appearance and self-esteem.
Nodules got their name because they resemble knots under the skin. They are a collection of dead skin cells, sebum, and bacteria-made pus deep inside the skin.
The inflammatory process sometimes takes weeks or months to resolve. Attempting to squeeze nodular acne usually makes the inflammation worse.
Cysts usually have no connection with acne, but the resemblance can be uncanny. In most cases, cysts are tissue pockets filled with dead skin cells, cytokeratin, pus, or other fluids. They are not extractable by squeezing. Usually, cyst removal requires drainage or a small surgical procedure.
Cysts tend to grow slowly and continually. They are not painful unless infected.
Cystic acne is a type of cysts that form in the inner layers of the skin. They are usually painful and filled with pus. When touched, cystic acne feels like lumps under the skin. However, they can sometimes form swollen red bumps on the surface.
Papules are small bumps that appear on the surface of the skin. They can have different shapes and colors, ranging from pink and red to purple or brown. A single one is not larger than one centimeter.
Papules are elevated skin lesions. Their content is not visible. Sometimes many join together in one area to form a papular rash.
Not all of them appear due to acne. Almost all skin-affecting conditions, such as warts, chickenpox, psoriasis, etc., can act as triggers.
This type of acne appears commonly on the forehead. Often in large numbers. They cause redness and can seriously affect physical appearance. The affected areas of the forehead can feel sore and tender.
Pustules are probably the most common type of acne that appears on the forehead. We can describe them as “classic” pimples. They look like elevated bumps filled with pus and other material, such as dead skin cells.
Pustules can be very big. The skin around them usually looks red and inflamed. On the other hand, the central part of the pimple clearly shows the material located inside.
This type of acne is often a result of changes in hormonal levels. That’s why teenagers and young adults frequently have pustules.
What causes forehead acne?
The causes for acne formation are the same anywhere on the body.
The process starts with sebum production. The oily substance that lubricates the skin generates in tiny organs called sebaceous glands. It comes to the surface of the skin through pores. But, sometimes, it gets stuck inside them.
The reasons why sebum gets stuck inside the pore is:
- There is too much of it (overproduction)
- The pore is clogged-up by dirt and dead skin cells.
- All of the above combined
Next, bacteria take the stage. They thrive in this clogged-up environment. Inflammation, redness, swelling, pain, and pus are all consequences of bacterial activity.
The root of the acne problem is in too much sebum. Therefore, we need to look at the factors that contribute to its overproduction. These factors are:
- Hormonal changes. – Sebum production increases when hormone levels are unstable. That’s why teenagers tend to have acne during puberty.
- Hygiene – unwashed hair and facial skin leave oil deposits to build up and help the pores clog up.
- Stress – Higher stress levels seem to have a connection with the increase in sebum production. That connection is a subject of ongoing research.
- Skincare and hair care products – many cosmetic products can contribute to acne breakouts. The greasy ones such as pomades, waxes, and oils are especially harmful.
- Skin irritation – skin irritated by makeup, aggressive ingredients in cosmetics, frequent rubbing, or over-washing can react by producing extra sebum.
- Medications – some medications can have acne as a side effect. Lithium, anticonvulsants, barbiturates, and certain steroids fall into this group.
Treatment Options for Acne Breakouts on Forehead
Don’t pop a pimple, regardless of its location. No matter how tempting it may be, popping opens the door to infections and slows down the healing process. Also, when you pop pimples, you increase the risk of having permanent scars on your forehead.
So, if you are asking yourself: How to get rid of pimples on the forehead? – Popping is not the right answer. Here are some well-proven treatment options.
Proper skincare is valuable in the treatment of acne. Soaps, lotions, gels, and creams intended to treat acne usually contain salicylic acid.
You also need to keep your hair and skin clean and use the right skincare products that suit your skin type. However, this will mostly stop your forehead from breaking out in the future, but it will do little for existing acne. Therefore, skincare falls into the prevention category, and we will discuss it more later on in this article.
Some people like to try home remedies for acne which include green tea extracts, zinc supplements, aloe vera, tea tree oil, apple cider vinegar, CBD oil, etc. One should always remember that not all natural treatments are safe.The natural DIY applications can sometimes cause allergic reactions, irritation of skin and thus worsen the situation. So, a visit to a dermatologist for proper treatment and skin care is the best bet.
We can divide acne treatment into two groups:
1. Prescription drug treatments
If you see a dermatologist for your forehead acne problem, they might suggest some of the following prescription medications:
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Combined birth control pills (for women)
- Anti-androgen agents
Anti-acne prescription medications usually come in the form of creams, gels, or pills.
2. Non-drug treatments
Aesthetic medicine can also help with acne. Chemical peels, laser therapy, and pimple-drainage are among the most popular non-drug treatments for forehead acne.
Studies show that a low-glycemic diet can prevent acne outbreaks. That means kicking out most sugary and processed foods, such as sodas, juices, bread, pasta, snacks, cereals, etc.
Acne can be persistent and difficult to treat. So, the best thing you can do is try and prevent the breakouts. Some tips can help you fend off acne from your forehead:
- Keep your hair clean – Washing your hair often is the best way to keep excessive sebum production under control. If you have a greasy scalp and hair, use oily hair products and keep the hair care regimen simple. With oily hair, less often means more.
- Wash your face regularly – Use lukewarm water to rinse your face two times a day (not too often). Wash the skin gently with a cleanser for oily skin without scrubbing, and tap dry.
- Do not expose yourself much to the sun.
- Bangs, headbands, and hats are a big no-no. Anything that touches your forehead can only make the acne worse.
- Stop touching your face with your fingers. In that way, you will reduce the risk of transferring unwanted dirt and bacteria to your pores.
- Use only non-comedogenic products on your skin to avoid clogging up the pores. Do not use cosmetics that contain alcohol and other skin irritants.
The Final Word
For most people, acne is more of a psychological than a physical health problem. That’s because they can rarely cause complications but are highly likely to affect self-esteem and the desire for social interaction. The effect of this skin condition is especially harmful during puberty. At this time, having forehead acne, for example, can influence how a young person’s character and social skills develop. Because of that, the prevention and treatment of forehead acne are so important.
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Dr. Rosmy Barrios is a medical doctor and the current Head of the Regenerative Aesthetics department at IM Clinic in Belgrade, Serbia.