Daily Health

How to Deal with (and Prevent) Forehead Acne

It’s safe to say that acne anywhere on the skin isn’t ideal, but there’s lots to say about acne that occurs in specific regions of the face and body. Forehead acne can be related to your current skin care practices, and can act as an indicator of how you can work to improve the daily habits that may be contributing to the problem area. 


Let's dive into what causes forehead acne, what the different types are, and what you can do to help prevent and treat it.

What are the different types of forehead acne?

Forehead acne has essentially the same root cause as acne anywhere else on your body: the pores in the forehead area can get clogged with dirt, oil, and dead skin cells, causing bacteria to grow. As a result, pores swell up and form pimples on the forehead. 

The overproduction of sebum (oil) can be a result of stress, changes in hormone levels, hygiene, skin irritation, or even a reaction to a certain medication you may be taking. 

Let’s take a deeper look into the different types of forehead acne. 

Comedones

Most people experience comedones on their forehead as a result of clogged pores from excess oil and the buildup of dead skin cells.These take the form of whiteheads and blackheads. 

Milia

Milia is commonly mistaken for acne because they come to the surface looking just like a whitehead, but they don’t actually have an opening. They occur as a result of keratin getting trapped under the skin, as opposed to excess oil and bacteria buildup. 

Hot tip: resist the temptation to pop milia yourself — you’ll do much more harm than good. Give it some time and they’ll disappear on their own.

Pustules and papules

These are the formal categorizations for whiteheads and fiery red pimples. 

Papules are irritated whiteheads and blackheads that cause irritation which damages the surrounding skin. Pustules are larger, tender bumps that have a defined circular centre filled with white or yellowish pus. 

What causes forehead acne?

What makes forehead acne different from acne anywhere else on your body? There can be a lot going on in the upper region of the face. Foreheads are exposed to many products that we use both on our faces and in our hair. Our foreheads can often be covered up by hats, and they tend to be a high-touch area for many people. 

There can be a lot of contributing factors when it comes to the specific cause(s) of a breakout on your forehead — have a read through the following list so that you can see where you might be able to improve.

Hair products 

The application of makeup and hair products (shampoo, hairspray, creams, gels, oils, etc) occurs so closely to our faces, and especially in the forehead region, that this can be a major culprit in clogging the pores on our foreheads. 

When styling your hair with gels, creams or sprays, a good habit to get into is to wipe off any excess product from your forehead and hairline once you’re done. This will ensure that the product stays in your hair and doesn’t linger on your skin all day.

If you’re not rinsing your scalp thoroughly when you wash your hair, you may also leave behind remnants of your shampoo in the hairline region which may cause breakouts. Similarly, if you’re not washing your hair often enough, oil will tend to build up in this area, with pimples soon to follow. 

These are things we have control over, so by keeping your haircare and shower routine on point, you’re being proactive in keeping your forehead acne in check — that’s a win!

Tight clothing

If you’re an athlete or partake in sports of any kind, you’ll notice that the equipment you wear/use (padding, helmets, hats, protective gear, straps, etc) can cause friction on your skin. By wearing such equipment or uniforms for prolonged periods of time when you’re sweating, you’re not letting your skin breathe. That means sweat is building up and potentially clogging your pores. 

No need to ditch the equipment entirely, though — you need it! Instead, if you wear a helmet during your activity for example, try to take breaks and air out your forehead when you can. Wicking away the sweat will help, too, when you find it’s built up.

Sweat 

Speaking of sweat while working out, when blotting away, make sure you do so when you’ve got clean hands — all you will be doing otherwise is directly applying dirt and germs onto your skin. If you’re an athlete or an avid gym-goer, you might want to consider keeping a face towel in your gym bag to stop yourself from using your hands mid-session. 

And while we’re on the subject of touching our faces, remember to keep it to a minimum. This is one of the most underrated tips when it comes to keeping a clean and clear visage — you’ll thank us later!

Makeup 

Acne caused by makeup is called acne cosmetica. It can take some time to show up, which makes it difficult to diagnose makeup as the problem. As soon as you stop using a certain product, that’s typically when it will clear up. 

When it comes to makeup removal, we know we don’t have to remind you about how important it is not to skip this step. We know you’re tired and just want to get to bed (been there), but if you do skip out, the chances of waking up with clogged pores or acne spots overnight is pretty high. For even better results, double-cleanse to prevent build up. 

If you have sensitive skin, you will want to be wary about trying new products and how often you do so. Changing things up has the potential to aggravate your skin and cause breakouts, so best practice is to stick to what you know works best, or go by the guidance of a professional.

Excess oil production from skin and hair 

With long hair or bangs, you will want to be aware of how much your hair gets in your face — excess oil can be produced within your skin from the hair and begin to build up. This is especially true if you don’t wash your hair often or if your hair gets greasy quickly — the oil simply transfers over.

Dead skin cells

As with acne anywhere else on your body, dead skin cells accumulate on your forehead and cause clogged pores and pimples. The key to avoid this is to exfoliate according to your skin type. 

If you have sensitive skin, you’ll want to use a gentler exfoliant and less often; if the exfoliant is too abrasive, you could actually do more harm. 

If you have normal to combination skin, you can use a more abrasive exfoliant anywhere from two to three times a week. Doing so will get rid of the dead skin before it has the chance to accumulate.

Bonus: bedding and pillowcases 

We spend roughly half of our time in bed while we sleep. This means our bedding can play a crucial role in our skin health. Dirt and bacteria from your skin cells will find their way into the fibres of the fabric night after night, so make sure to get your laundry done as often as you can, or at the very least, change your pillowcases often.

How can you treat forehead acne? 

Keeping up with a regular skincare routine plays a key role in managing your acne and maintaining your skin health. Besides exfoliation and cleansing, there are treatment methods available for forehead acne. Should natural remedies appeal, check in with your healthcare practitioner first. They can include (but aren’t limited to):

  • Aloe vera 
  • Tea tree oil mixed with water
  • Apple cider vinegar diluted with water
  • Zinc supplementation, on the recommendation of your doctor
  • Vitamin A for acne

In some cases, these can be more irritating than helpful, so doing a patch test first is always best to see how you might react.

In case the natural route doesn’t work as hoped, there are some over-the-counter options that you will be able to find at your local drugstore. These options may include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Salicylic acid 
  • Retinol
  • Resorcinol 

If you have more severe acne, or if you’ve exhausted all of your options so far, getting a prescription for forehead acne treatment is something you could talk to your doctor about. They might suggest:

  • Retinoids such as tretinoin 
  • Topical and/or oral antibiotics, such as doxycycline 
  • Hormonal treatment, such as combination birth control pills 

Tips for preventing forehead acne 

  • Wash your face twice daily, double-cleansing if necessary
  • Wash your hair when it gets greasy and try to keep it away from your face
  • Change out your pillow cases often 
  • Avoid the application of hair care products too close to your hairline
  • Avoid touching your face
  • Use skincare products that identify themselves as non-comedogenic
  • Exfoliate according to your skin type
  • Wash your face after profuse sweating


Think you could use a little help from a healthcare practitioner to get your forehead acne under control? Get started today with an online visit to see if prescription treatment might be right for you.

WRITTEN BY
Felix Team
Updated on:
October 8, 2021
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Sheila Wijayasinghe
Family Physician, MD, CCFP
Disclaimer

The views expressed here are those of the author and, as with the rest of the content on Active Ingredients, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider.

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