- Acne occurs when pores become blocked by a buildup of dead cells, oil, dirt and bacteria.
- Acne around the mouth is caused by hormones, frequent touching and cosmetic products.
- This condition can be treated with over the counter or prescription medication, and home remedies.
Acne is a skin condition that develops when dead skin cells, bacteria and sebum (the skin’s natural oil), become trapped in the pores of the skin. It appears as whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, nodules and cysts. Acne around the mouth can effectively be treated with a combination of medication and an anti-acne skin care routine.
What Causes Acne Breakouts Around the Mouth?
While acne can develop on any area of the face, there are several reasons why they appear around the mouth.
Frequently touching the area around the mouth with your fingers or an object such as a cell phone can trigger breakouts by introducing excess oil, dirt and bacteria to the skin.
Acne can also be caused by cosmetic products that clog pores including makeup, skin care products, shaving cream, toothpaste or lip balm. Poor hygiene may also play a role.
Hormonal acne is triggered when the body produces an excess of androgen, a hormone that stimulates oil production in your skin. It typically occurs on the lower third of the face, including around the mouth and on the jawline. It can present as any form of acne and usually flares up temporarily, followed by a period of clear skin, as androgen levels rise and fall.
Men experience hormonal acne as testosterone levels fluctuate in the body, with heightened amounts of the hormone correlating with breakouts.
What Does Acne Around the Mouth Mean?
Acne that occasionally crops up and resolves is common and not likely a sign of any underlying condition. However, chronic acne around the mouth may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in women or elevated testosterone in men.
If your acne resembles a rash around the mouth or nose, it may be perioral dermatitis, an inflammatory rash. Consult a doctor to determine a course of treatment.
How to Get Rid of Acne Around the Mouth
Acne around the mouth can be addressed with over-the-counter (OTC) products and, if necessary, prescription medication. To treat active acne, use products containing ingredients that dry out excess sebum and kill blemish-causing bacteria.
Best over-the-counter treatments
Salicylic acid (SA) is a common anti-acne active ingredient that works in multiple ways to treat and prevent blemishes.
SA is oil-soluble, meaning it dissolves in oil and can therefore easily penetrate pores clogged with sebum. As a desmolytic, it also softens the proteins that bind skin cells together; this helps break up the contents of clogged pores and encourages exfoliation.
Salicylic acid is available in a large range of skin care products. Apply a concentrated product such as a serum or gel directly to the affected area.
If you wear makeup, a foundation or concealer containing salicylic acid can cover blemishes around the mouth while simultaneously delivering this active ingredient to the area.
Another widely used acne treatment is benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria by releasing oxygen into clogged pores. It does not cause bacterial resistance, meaning that bacteria do not become immune to it after repeated use. Benzoyl peroxide helps dry out acne lesions and is effective for both inflammatory and noninflammatory acne.
Benzoyl peroxide is available in lotion or gel formulas in concentrations ranging from 2.5%–10%. This treatment is applied to areas of active acne and left overnight. Because benzoyl peroxide can irritate the skin, it is advisable to start by using it in a low concentration two or three times per week to determine your skin’s tolerance.
More severe cases of acne are treated with prescription medication. These medications fall into four categories: antibacterials, antibiotics, retinoids and hormone therapies.
Antibacterial treatments include high concentrations of benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid, an antimicrobial that exfoliates the skin to unblock clogged pores while reducing inflammation. You may be prescribed an oral antibiotic such as tetracycline for a short period of time.
Retinoids increase skin cell turnover rate, boost collagen and elastin production and improve the ability of other medication to penetrate the skin. Retinoids can improve the overall health and quality of your skin to reduce the occurrence of further flare-ups.
Retinoids commonly prescribed for acne include Accutane (isotretinoin) and retinoic acid. You may be prescribed topical retinoids or an oral medication, which is considered more effective.
For women with recurring acne around the mouth and jawline, a combined oral contraceptive can be an effective treatment. This type of medication rebalances hormone levels in the body over the course of the menstrual cycle to address the root cause of the problem.
Natural Treatments for Pimples Around the Mouth
Several natural remedies have been proven effective at treating acne by addressing excess sebum and killing bacteria.
Tea tree oil is an antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory that has been shown to reduce acne lesions. It can easily be applied around the mouth with a dampened cotton ball. Tea tree oil is also an active ingredient in products such as cleansers and toners.
Witch hazel has anti-inflammatory and astringent properties. The tannins in the plant help remove excess oil and tighten pores to prevent the recurrence of acne. To use as a toner, apply witch hazel extract directly to acne with a dampened cotton pad or opt for a commercial product.
A few lifestyle habits can help prevent the recurrence of acne around the mouth.
Wash your face twice a day with a mild cleanser to prevent the buildup of sebum, dead skin cells and pollutants that cause the development of pimples and blemishes. If you have very oily skin, incorporate an astringent toner and/or a cleanser containing salicylic acid into your skin care routine.
Use only noncomedogenic makeup and skin care products. Avoid touching your face and do not pick at or pop blemishes; your fingers can transfer oil and bacteria to your skin and cause further blemishes.
Acne breakouts around the mouth can appear in many forms including whiteheads, blackheads and cysts. It is most often due to hormonal fluctuations in teenagers of both sexes and adult women. External factors include cosmetic products or frequently touching the mouth area.
Standard OTC acne treatments such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can effectively treat acne around the mouth for many people. These products can be supplemented by home remedies such as witch hazel or tea tree oil.
If acne recurs, consult a dermatologist who can prescribe stronger medication in the form of antibiotics, antibacterials or retinoids. Additionally, combined oral contraceptives can be an effective treatment for women with hormonal acne.
Prevent acne around the mouth by practicing good hygiene. Wash your face twice a day with a mild cleanser, avoid touching your skin or popping pimples, and use only noncomedogenic products.
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