Forehead acne is one of the strangest and annoying places to get pimples. Forehead breakouts can happen to anyone, you don’t need ‘acne-prone skin’ to join the club. Acne will form whenever pores get blocked.
Forehead acne develops when the skin irritation turns into clogged pores. It is caused by the same things that cause ‘normal acne’ with a few added triggers. These include hair care products, wearing hats, caps and accessories and not using the right kind of skincare. The good news is it’s usually an easy one to fix.
What causes forehead acne?
Forehead acne differs slightly from normal acne.
Fun fact normal acne is known as acne vulgaris – just in case you have heard that term before, it is nothing scary. Vulgaris is Latin for ‘common’.
Let’s take a quick refresher on how acne forms in the first place.
How Does Acne Form?
Forehead acne forms when a pore, more correctly known as a pilosebaceous unit (PSU) gets clogged up. A PSU contains a sebaceous gland – which secretes sebum, a hair follicle and a tiny muscle.
The usual culprits that clog the PSU are:
- Excess sebum
- Dead skin cells
- Fungus and
- Environmental dirt
The clogged pore then becomes acne. There are lots of different types of acne.
The most common ones that form on the forehead are:
Comedonal Acne: More commonly known as blackheads and whiteheads.
A closed comedone – This is where the pimple is still under the skin so the top of it appears white. This is called a whitehead. If the pimple breaks through the skin it oxidised in the air and the top turns black – this is called a blackhead. These are the most common type of acne on the forehead.
Pustules and papules: These are raised inflamed and red bumps. If they are under the skin they are called papules and if they have a white centre they are called pustules.
The other type of forehead bumps you can see are not real acne but Milia.
Milia are a lot smaller than acne and they form when keratin and sebum get trapped. They are usually flat and have yellowish to grey tiny heads.
Milia will improve when you treat your forehead acne. This is because they respond to ance treatment. You do not need to treat milia differently from acne. Just like acne, it is a bad idea to squeeze or try to ‘pop’ milia. It is a very bad idea to squeeze acne.
Cystic acne and inflamed acne are not very common on the forehead. You’re more likely to see this type of acne on the cheeks, chin and jawline.
Excess oil production can start the formation of acne by creating the perfect environment or bacteria and fungus to flourish. Sebum production is triggered by hormones, which is why acne usually starts at puberty.
When it comes to forehead acne there are some uniques triggers.
Fashion and Acessoires
You may think you do not ‘accessorise your forehead’ that often.
But you need to be aware that hats, caps, headbands and scarfs can cause forehead breakouts. Helmets and headgear required for some sports can also cause a specific type of acne called mechanical acne.
Mechanical acne happens when heat and friction cause skin irritation. This irritation can lead to inflammation and clog pores.
If you have forehead acne and wear headgear or caps a lot you might need to consider ways you can reduce wearing them until your acne clears up.
Hair Care Product
There is a type of acne called acne cosmetica. This is acne caused by your haircare or skincare products. Many products such as waxes, hair gels, balms and oils can cause forehead pimples. This is because they can clog pores with the product.
It is usually an oil-based product that is causing this type of acne. Try using oil-free, or non-comedogenic products.
Hormones can influence acne because they can increase sebum production. The skin secretes sebum to keep our skin moist and supple and to protect it from invaders. Puberty starts to ramp up hormone production and as a result, it can also increase sebum production. This is why acne starts as puberty sets in. Many women tend to experience breakouts around the time of their monthly cycles.
There are other causes of acne. Stress, which raises cortisol can also cause breakouts. Certain medications including lithium, barbiturates, and steroids can all aggravate and influence acne.
How do you get rid of forehead acne for good.
Now we know the possible causes of forehead acne, what is the best way to get rid of it
The first place to start is with your skincare routine and tailor it to your skin type and acne concerns.
If you have forehead acne an oily skin then use a face wash with salicylic acid also known as BHA.
Add a serum after cleansing that contains azelaic acid and you might want to include a vitamin C product as well.
Finish with a non-comedogenic moisturizer and in the day time wear a lightweight broad-spectrum SPF 30 Sunscreen.
You should exfoliate your forehead 3 – 4 times a week with a chemical exfoliant such as glycolic acid or other AHA exfoliants.
Don’t use harsh scrubs as these can cause more irritation to your skin.
You can also use deep cleansing and detoxifying clay masks 1 – 2 times per week.
Acne can be tricky to get rid of. Get professional support from a dermatologist is a good idea if the acne doesn’t clear up within 6 weeks of starting active treatment.
You might need to use more specialised treatment for your acne. This includes retinoids such as Differin, Accutane or Tretinoin. Your dermatologist may also recommend laser treatments or in-office chemical peels.
There are many options and help is available. Acne can affect your self-confidence. If you feel depressed, anxious or lonely because of your forehead acne or any acne, then speak to your doctor.
How long does it take for forehead acne to go away?
This will depend on the severity and type of acne, as well as the type of treatment.
But, the good news is that forehead acne is very responsive to treatment.
Once you remove irritating headgear and stop using oil-based hair care products you will start to see improvements in as little as a week. Also introducing a good skincare routine that addresses your type of acne will help significantly.
Most forehead acne will clear up in 2 – 4 weeks. If you keep up with a skincare routine tailored for your acne and don’t use comedogenic haircare, forehead acne should disappear.
Some of these treatments mentioned here have side effects. These will need to used under the supervision of a doctor/dermatologist. Both oral and topical retinoic acid is great for acne but they do need monitoring. Especially when being treated over a lengthened period of time.
What product ingredients are good for forehead acne?
The choice of ingredients for treating acne is vast.
The best places to start are with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Both of these are available over the counter (OTC) and are proven to effective at treating acne.
Azelaic acid has solid science supporting its use for the treatment of acne and as a bonus, it is very stable so will not cause side effects or purging.
Vitamin C is a worthy addition to your skincare routine even if acne is not an issue for your skin. It is a potent antioxidant and improves skin tone and texture and can help diminish dark spots and acne scars
Kojic acid is good for mild acne and good for stopping the formation of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that often happens with acne.
Niacinamide is also an ingredient that is becoming the darling of the skincare world. There is lots of studies done on niacinamide and it is effective at the treatment of acne. It also has benefits for hyperpigmentation and dark spot and acne scar prevention.
The gold standard for acne treatment however is retinol and its derivates. Retinol is vitamin A and is one of the few ingredients that all dermatologist would recommend for the treatment of acne. It not only is a rockstar acne treatment but has a host of other skin benefits.
The best form of retinol to treat acne is the most potent which is known as retinoic acid. These are only available on prescription in most countries. This is because they can cause severe irritation, skin purging and inflammation.
There are also natural botanical ingredients that have shown to be helpful in the treatment of acne. These tend to be more suited to mild to moderate form of acne.
They are still worthy of mentioning here for anyone who prefers a less aggressive approach but still wants to clear up their acne.
Bakuchiol is touted as a natural alternative to retinol. While it does have research backing up some of the claims it is relatively new to skincare so there is not a lot of studies around this ingredient. It is gentle and if you find retinols to irritating for your skin then it is a good choice.
Rosehip oil has many antioxidant and healing properties that help acne. It may seem odd that we are recommending a face oil, after telling you that oily products are bad for forehead acne. Rosehip oil is a non-comedogenic oil. Meaning it won’t clog pores. In fact rosehip oil closely mimics the chemical form of your own sebum. This means it blends with your natural oils and is able to penetrate into the skin where it can kill bacteria and balance sebum production.
Final Thoughts On Forehead Acne
Forehead acne is very common and usually easy to get rid of.
Make sure you are not using headgear or fashion that is causing mechanical friction and irritation. Stop using hair care products that contain comedogenic or oils that clog pores. Start using a good skincare routine that addresses your skin type and acne concerns. Exfoliate your skin 3 – 4 times a week with chemical exfoliators. Add in some of the good ingredients mentioned above to treat acne. Remember if your acne persists, gets worse or is making you sad or depressed seek help.
Most acne is highly responsive to treatment and there is help out there. Please see your doctor if acne is making you want to isolate yourself.
And of course, wear sunscreen SPF 30 broad-spectrum every day. Also, stay out of the sun as much as possible, and drink more water. These small things can make dramatic improvements to your skin.