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Forehead acne: what’s up with that?

The causes of pimples on the forehead.

Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar
by Stephanie Papanikolas
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 3 min read
Woman's reflection in mirror (only showing eyes)
Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar
by Stephanie Papanikolas
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 3 min read
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Dear fellow acne sufferer, if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you’ve probably face-mapped yourself into a corner: the forehead. Forehead bumps are often caused by the same things that cause acne on the face. Even still, acne on the forehead means it’s time to assess and readjust our daily routines to break accidental acne-causing habits and replace them with acne treatments.

What causes pimples on the forehead?

If you’re suffering from forehead acne, it may be caused by a common culprit: sodium lauryl sulfate. Sulfates are a common foaming ingredient added to shampoos and conditioners, and they’re known to clog pores.

What does fungal acne look like?

If you’re sweaty — either because you work out, or you live in a part of the country that is regularly hot and humid — it might (indirectly) cause more acne on the forehead. The sweat itself doesn’t cause acne, but the moisture can help acne-causing microbes thrive. And if there’s also friction and occlusion caused by wearing headgear, like a hat or helmet, it can make acne even worse.

A fungus among us

Small bumps on the forehead can often be caused by pityrosporum, a type of fungus. Pityrosporum (aka malassezia) is a regular guest on our skin, but too much can be related to seborrheic dermatitis (i.e., dandruff). While one doesn’t cause the other, both acne and dandruff are made worse by this fungus. Fortunately, dandruff is easily treatable with zinc pyrithione — more on that later!

Treatments for forehead acne

If you’re suffering from pimples on your forehead, don’t panic — there are a few easy things you can try to improve the condition:

  1. Wash your hair with sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner. A zinc pyrithione soap or shampoo can help acne along the forehead/hairline, and an over-the-counter ketoconazole shampoo (1%) will help with a flaky, greasy scalp.

  2. Avoid touching breakout-prone areas of your face. Frequent face-touching increases the chances of transporting bacteria and other contaminants that can make acne worse.

  3. Cleanse daily with a gentle facial cleanser for acne-prone skin. You should cleanse your forehead after you work up a sweat, or in the morning/night.

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Don’t overthink it

One more thing you can do to help improve your acne is to minimize your stress, and my daily go-to for self-care is my skincare. Focus on cleansing, moisturizing, and treating acne with a simple 3-step skincare routine. Curology’s dermatology providers will examine your skin and prescribe you a custom cream formulated for your unique skin concerns. Sign up for a free 30-day trial and just pay $4.95 to cover shipping and handling on just the custom cream or the complete 3-step kit. Subject to consultation. Subscription required.

• • •
Our medical review process:We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Stephanie Papanikolas Avatar

Stephanie Papanikolas

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