- Forehead acne occurs when the pores of the skin get clogged with dirt, excess oil or dead cells, resulting in bacteria growth.
- There are many factors that can contribute to, or worsen, forehead acne. These include hormones, diet, hygiene, clothing and beauty products.
- Forehead acne can be effectively treated using over-the-counter or prescription medications, as well as home remedies.
- A good skincare routine and simple lifestyle changes can help prevent forehead acne.
Forehead acne is a skin condition that most commonly affects adolescents but can occur at any stage of life. It is often caused by excess oil production, which tends to cause breakouts around the T-zone, including the forehead, nose and chin. Other contributing factors include hormones, diet, clothing and hygiene.
Many people who suffer from forehead acne experience frustration, embarrassment and low self-esteem. The good news is, there are several solutions to treat and prevent forehead acne –many of which can be done from home, affordably and without a prescription.
Causes Behind Forehead Acne & Pimples
No matter where acne forms on your face, the underlying cause is the same. Your pores are connected to glands that produce oil, called sebum. Sebum protects and lubricates skin, coming to the surface via hair follicles and exiting through the pores. However, if pores are blocked by dirt or dead skin, or if skin produces excess sebum, a ‘plug’ is created in the hair follicle. This results in bacteria growth and inflammation, which leads to pimples. Pimples on the forehead are a symptom of acne, while acne is a disease.
Forehead acne, in particular, can develop due to hygiene and lifestyle factors. These include wearing makeup or hats, or excessively touching the skin. Hormones and diet can also contribute to the formation of forehead acne.
Hormones can increase the amount of sebum your skin produces. As hormones fluctuate most during puberty, adolescents are most likely to suffer from forehead acne. In adulthood, women are more widely affected than men.
Many women experience forehead breakouts in the lead up to menstruation, as estrogen levels rise. Similarly, during menopause, soaring testosterone levels can send sebaceous glands into overdrive. Other conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome and increased androgen levels can also cause forehead acne in women.
For men, forehead acne can be caused by high testosterone levels, which over-stimulate oil glands and lead to clogged pores.
Diet and digestive issues
While the causes of forehead acne vary, studies have shown a relationship between diet and acne. Foods that are heavily processed can trigger inflammation and disturb gut pathogens. This has a systemic effect that can manifest in pimples on the forehead.
The foods most commonly associated with inflammation and acne include:
- Milk and dairy products
- Refined carbohydrates
- Refined sugars
- Fast foods
These foods have a high glycemic load and are known to elevate insulin levels. Insulin stimulates the secretion of androgens and can cause an increase in sebum production.
Hats and clothing
Acne mechanica is a type of acne that is caused by heat, sweat, pressure or friction to the skin. This is a common cause of forehead acne for people who wear hats, helmets or headbands. Sportspeople are particularly prone to acne mechanica, as are people who wear protective headwear for long periods at work.
Irritation from cosmetics and hair products
Some ingredients in makeup can clog pores and lead to forehead breakouts. Even hair styling products, such as gels, waxes or hair sprays, can cause forehead pimples by trapping bacteria in pores. This is called pomade acne.
Best Treatments for Forehead Acne
There are many different treatments for forehead acne. While over-the-counter treatments are widely effective, prescription medications may be necessary in more severe cases. Natural home remedies can also be helpful in reducing redness and inflammation.
When choosing an over-the-counter treatment such as a face cleanser, cream or gel, look for products with active ingredients.
The active ingredients best known for treating facial and forehead acne include:
- Salicylic acid
- Adapalene (Differen)
- Benzoyl peroxide
Salicylic acid is most commonly found in cleansers. It clears pores by removing excess oil that causes forehead pimples.
Adapalene is a retinoid, derived from vitamin A. It regulates cell growth and helps prevent clogged pores.
Benzoyl peroxide unblocks pores, kills bacteria and dries out pimples. It is typically found in lotions or gels.
To help your skin adjust to the treatments, start with lower strength products. This can help prevent redness and dry skin on the forehead. If needed, you can slowly increase the strength of products and how often you use them over the course of several weeks.
Prescription treatments for forehead acne
If over-the-counter treatments aren’t effective, a dermatologist or doctor may prescribe one of the following medications:
- High-strength retinoids
- Contraceptive pills
- Anti-androgen agents
While corticosteroids reduce inflammation and antibiotics target bacteria, birth-control pills and anti-androgens help regulate hormonal imbalances that can cause acne. A dermatologist or doctor will be able to recommend the best treatment for your unique case.
As prescription medications are often slow-acting, it may take weeks or months before you see improvement. However, with professional help, virtually all forehead acne can be cleared.
A word about forehead acne scars
Scars from forehead acne will fade over time. However, the following professional procedures may reduce or erase scarring:
Home Remedies for Forehead Acne
Forehead acne can be treated at home by applying one of the following ingredients directly to the affected area with a clean cotton pad:
- Aloe vera
- Raw honey
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
- Tea tree oil (mix a few drops with water)
- Apple cider vinegar (dilute with three parts water)
A zinc supplement, taken orally, can also improve the condition of skin and relieve redness and irritation.
Overnight face mask for forehead acne
For a natural treatment, an overnight face mask of honey and cinnamon may help heal forehead acne.
Honey has strong anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, which reduce redness and relieve discomfort. Cinnamon is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and full of powerful anti-oxidants. It helps clear acne by drying out skin and supporting blood flow.
- 3 tbsp raw, organic honey
- 1 tbsp cinnamon
- Combine honey and cinnamon in a bowl to form a paste
- Apply the mixture in a thin layer to the affected area on your forehead
- Leave overnight or for a minimum of 1-2 hours
- Rinse off with warm water and follow with your usual skincare routine
- Repeat as often as needed until forehead acne improves
When used together, honey and cinnamon can kill bacteria that inflames pores. This can help sooth forehead acne. However, there is no research on the combined effect of honey and cinnamon in face masks.
How to Prevent Forehead Acne
Forehead acne is not only treatable, it’s preventable in many cases. Simple hygiene and lifestyle practices can help prevent forehead acne and keep your skin clear:
- Wash your face gently twice a day with a cleanser for acne-prone skin. Avoid scrubbing as this can aggravate acne.
- Eat a diet rich in whole, natural foods including fruit, vegetables, probiotics, green tea, omega-3 fats and dietary fibre to reduce inflammation.
- Avoid touching your face with your hands (and wash your hands thoroughly before applying skincare or makeup) to prevent transfer of bacteria to skin.
- Avoid wearing hats and headwear that come into contact with your forehead. If headwear is required, make sure it’s washed regularly.
- Wash your hair often and keep it away from your face. If your hair is oily, avoid hairstyles with bangs.
- Minimize contact between hair styling products and the skin on your forehead.
- Look for non-comedogenic makeup and skincare that won’t clog pores.
Skincare routine to prevent forehead acne
A good daily skincare routine can help prevent forehead acne by removing excess oil and keeping pores clear. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as cleanse, treat and protect.
- Cleanse gently with an appropriate cleanser
- Treat with over-the-counter or prescription solutions, including gels or creams
- Protect with sunscreen during the day and an oil-free moisturizer at night
Other Conditions That May Cause Forehead Breakouts
Aside from pimples, there are other types of blemishes that can occur on the forehead:
Whiteheads and blackheads are non-inflammatory blemishes. They aren’t painful and don’t cause scarring. These conditions can usually be treated with over-the-counter solutions or home remedies.
Nodules and cysts are inflammatory blemishes that form deep beneath the skin. These are more severe, painful forms of acne that can lead to complications like scarring. Unlike forehead pimples which usually respond to over-the-counter remedies, nodules and cysts often require prescription medication.
There are many treatments for forehead acne, including over-the-counter solutions, prescription medications and natural home remedies. While some trial and error may be required to find the most effective solution, almost all forms of forehead acne are treatable.
Forehead acne can also be prevented by following a good skincare routine, eating a healthy diet, and minimizing contact between the skin and irritants like makeup, hair products and clothing.
- Choi, C.W., Choi, J.W., Park, K.C., & Youn, S.W. (2011) Facial sebum affects the development of acne, especially the distribution of inflammatory acne. onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1468-3083.2011.04384.x
- Decker, A., & Graber, E. M. (2012). Over-the-counter Acne Treatments: A Review. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366450/
- Kucharska, A., Szmurlo, A. & Sinska, B. (2016). Significance of diet in untreated acne vulgaris
- Burris, J., Rietkerk. W, & Woolf, K. (2013). Acne: The role of medical nutrition therapy ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23438493
- Bowe, W., & Logan, A. (2011) Acne vulgaris, probiotics and the gut-brain-skin axis – back to the future? ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3038963/