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  • Your dermatology provider prescribes your formula

  • Apply nightly for happy, healthy skin

How to treat acne bumps on your forehead

Banishing pimples on your forehead might be as simple as changing your hair products.

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Curology Team
Sep 22, 2022 · 8 min read

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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.
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What happens when hair follicles are filled with sebum and dead skin cells below the skin’s surface? Acne! Acne can occur on different parts of the body, including the forehead. For many, the forehead is one of the first places to experience breakouts. But acne-like bumps on your forehead might be caused by something other than acne. Here, we’ll show you how to treat acne bumps on your forehead and what you can do to help stop these pimples from forming. 

Getting to know acne on the forehead

Some of the most common little bumps to appear on your forehead are acne. But other skin conditions can also have acne-like symptoms, including milia, rosacea, and folliculitis. Milia causes what often appears to be whiteheads, but they’re actually small cysts containing keratin.¹ Rosacea is a chronic skin disease, often causing persistent redness or frequent flushing on the nose and cheeks, but it can also affect other areas, including the forehead and chin. Some rosacea sufferers also experience acne-like lesions. Folliculitis forms when there’s inflammation or an infection of the hair follicles. It typically shows up as white or red bumps. 

Pimples—on your forehead or other parts of your body—resulting in part from inflammation. Here are medical terms used to describe the different types of acne lesions:²

  • Comedones appear when dead skin cells and sebum become trapped inside pores. Whiteheads are also referred to as closed comedones, and blackheads are referred to as open comedones. 

  • Papules form when clogged pores become inflamed or irritated. 

  • Pustules are inflamed acne lesions filled with pus. 

  • Nodules occur more profoundly in the skin. Nodular acne is often hard to the touch and painful. 

  • Cystic acne on the forehead can occur, just as it can on other areas of the face. Cystic acne lesions are pus-filled pockets deep under the skin’s surface. Sometimes a dermatology provider will inject a dilute cortisone medication called Kenalog to help shrink a cyst.

  • Fungal acne is not technically acne, but rather a type of folliculitis that often presents as small uniform acne bumps on the forehead. Fungal acne can also appear on other areas of the face, in addition to the hairline, chest, and back.³ It’s caused by pityrosporum, a naturally occurring fungus on the skin. You can learn more about fungal acne here

Why do I have acne on my forehead?

What causes forehead acne? It can be a number of things, including stress, products, and hormones. That goes for acne anywhere on the body, not just the forehead. Let’s take a closer look at some common factors to help you get an idea of the potential causes of your acne.

  • Hormonal fluctuations can occur throughout the lifetime, including during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. "Hormonal pattern" acne is typically considered to be on the lower third of the face, but hormonal changes can certainly contribute to acne on the forehead as well. 

  • Stress can release hormones that can lead to breakouts.⁴ Some research suggests that stress upsets your gut microbiota, which can also contribute to acne.⁵ 

  • Medications can aggravate acne and certain birth control pills. Other systemic medications have also been linked to drug-induced acne including corticosteroids, vitamin B-12, and anticonvulsants.⁶ 

  • Hair products with comedogenic ingredients can contribute to forehead acne. Check along your hairline. If you’re breaking out and don’t wear a hat, headband, or helmet, your hair products might be to blame. Here’s a list of ingredients to avoid.

  • Diets that include high glycemic index foods (such as sugars and refined carbohydrates) have been linked to an increase in acne lesions.⁷ Conversely, diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in fatty fish, may positively affect acne.⁸

What can I do about it?

Everyone’s skin is different and may react differently to treatments. So, there isn't just one best product for forehead acne. You might have to try a few to see what works for you. Our advice is not to mix and match products with different active ingredients unless instructed by a dermatology provider. Try an acne product containing just one or a formulation first to see how your skin responds before considering additional products. Here’s a list of ingredients to getting you started:

  • Azelaic acid acts as an exfoliant to help remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and other debris to treat and help prevent acne. 

  • Topical antibiotics like clindamycin are used to treat inflammatory acne. 

  • Topical retinoids treat acne and help prevent it from returning. Retinoids are available over the counter (like adapalene) or by prescription, like tretinoin and tazarotene, from your dermatology provider.

  • Benzoyl peroxide fights bacteria associated with acne. This ingredient is common in many facial cleansers and leave-on topical acne treatments. 

  • Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in facial cleansers, creams, lotions, and gels. Beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) reduces acne lesions by exfoliating deeper into the pores to remove dead skin cells. The acne body wash by Curology uses 2% salicylic acid to treat your body acne and is gentle enough to use daily.

  • Zinc pyrithione is especially helpful for fungal acne. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It works by helping to prevent acne-causing bacteria and fungi from gaining a stronghold.⁹  

What if I pop a pimple?

Popping a pimple on your forehead—or anywhere else on your body—is usually not a good idea. It opens the skin, possibly exposing it to bacteria that can cause an infection. It’s rare but a risk nonetheless. Pimple popping can also lead to skin discoloration or scarring.

When you pop a pimple, you can unintentionally push oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells deeper into your pores.¹⁰ This goes for picking at your pimples, too. If left alone, pimples will heal. In the meantime, try one of these concealers for acne-prone skin.  

Healthy habits for skin

You can minimize the risk of experiencing sudden forehead acne by making some subtle lifestyle changes. You don’t have to tackle the whole list—just choose two and see if you notice a difference! 

  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser and rinse with warm water. Pat dry with a soft towel or microfiber cloth. Avoid rubbing, which can make acne worse.

  • Use non-comedogenic ingredients. Avoid things like coconut oil or pomade products on your hair which can clog pores. Remember to check your hairline for breakouts.   

  • Avoid wearing headbands or hats with brims that rub against your forehead. These can cause friction and irritation that can lead to blemishes.

acne on forehead
  • Avoid touching acne-prone areas of your skin with your hands. Of all the places on the face, many people touch their mouth and forehead the most, often without even realizing it, like when you’re eating or brushing your hair out of your eyes.

  • If you have longer hair, grow or style it so that it doesn’t drape on your forehead. This is really a double-edged sword—the oil in your hair may contribute to acne, and bangs draping over your forehead can hide it. Your best bet if you have long hair is to pull your hair back.

  • Maintaining a healthy diet can be helpful for acne. For some people, certain foods, like dairy and foods with high sugar content, can contribute to acne. While research isn’t conclusive about the “best” diet for the skin, a well-rounded and healthy diet helps keep your body functioning optimally. And that will have a positive outcome on your skin.¹¹ 

Curology can help treat forehead acne

A key to treating forehead acne is knowing what kind of acne you’re dealing with. Take the guesswork out of the process and sign up for Curology to get expert guidance from a licensed dermatology provider. We believe in service first—we’re not out to just sell you another product. Our team of dermatology providers has more than 1000 years of combined experience. And treating, preventing, and educating about acne is our specialty.

Get your personalized skincare routine with Curology

Subject to consultation. 30-day trial. Just cover $4.95 in S&H.
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Signing up is easy. Answer a few questions and snap a few selfies, and if Curology is right for you, you’ll be prescribed a personalized prescription formula plus a personalized skincare routine to address and treat your acne skin concerns. You’ve got this. We’re here when you have questions, need advice, or want to change things up. 

Your first month’s on us. Just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping and handling. Your prescription formula and other products you need to round out your skincare routine will be shipped right to your door.

FAQs

Why do I have acne on my forehead?

Some of the factors include Hormonal fluctuations that can occur throughout the lifetime, including during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, also, Stress can release hormones that can lead to breakouts. Some research suggests that stress upsets your gut microbiota, which can also contribute to acne, Medications can aggravate acne, like certain birth control pills, Hair products with comedogenic ingredients can contribute to forehead acne, and, Diets that include high glycemic index foods have been linked to an increase in acne lesions.

What can I do about it?

Everyone’s skin is different and may react differently to treatments. So, there isn't just one best product for forehead acne. Here’s a list of ingredients to getting you started:

  • Azelaic acid acts as an exfoliant to help remove dead skin cells, excess oil, and other debris to treat and help prevent acne. 

  • Topical antibiotics like clindamycin are used to treat inflammatory acne. 

  • Topical retinoids treat acne and help prevent it from returning.

  • Benzoyl peroxide fights bacteria associated with acne.

  • Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in facial cleansers, creams, lotions, and gels. A beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) reduces acne lesions by exfoliating deeper into the pores to remove dead skin cells.

  • Zinc pyrithione is especially helpful for fungal acne. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties.

What if I pop a pimple?

Popping a pimple on your forehead—or anywhere else on your body—is usually not a good idea. It opens the skin, possibly exposing it to bacteria that can cause an infection. It’s rare but a risk nonetheless. Pimple popping can also lead to skin discoloration or scarring.

• • •

P.S. We did the homework so you don’t have to:

  1. Gupta, M. What is milium? DermNet NZ. (2009).

  2. Oakley, A. et al. Acne Vulgaris. DermNet NZ. (2014).

  3. Cohen, P. R., et al. Malassezia (Pityrosporum) Folliculitis Incognito: Malessezia-associated Folliculitis Masked by Topical Corticosteroid Therapy. Cureus. (2020).

  4. Zari, S., et al. The Association Between Stress and Acne Among Female Medical Students in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology. (2017, December 5).

  5. Lee, Y.B., et al. Potential Role of the Microbiome in Acne: A Comprehensive Review.Journal of Clinical Medicine. (2019, July).

  6. Pontello, Jr., R., et al. Drug-induced Acne and Rose Pearl: Similarities. Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia. (2013, November/December).

  7. Mahmood, S.N., et al., Diet and Acne Update: Carbohydrates Emerge as the Main Culprit. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (2014, April).

  8. Baldwin, H., et al. Effects of Diet on Acne and Its Response to Treatment.American Journal of Clinical Dermatology. (2021, January).

  9. Schwartz, J.R.. Zinc pyrithione: A topical antimicrobial with complex pharmaceutics.Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. (2016).

  10. American Academy of dermatology. Pimple Popping: Why only a dermatologist should do it. Ibid.

  11. Centofanti, D., et al. Diet and skin. Aesthetic Medicine. (October - December 2019).

* Subject to consultation. Subscription is required. Results may vary.

• • •
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.
Curology Team Avatar

Curology Team

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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