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Forehead Acne: Causes, Treatment, and More

Overview

Forehead acne often looks like solid red bumps, called papules. You might also see bumps with a collection of pus at the top, called pustules.

No matter where you spot acne, it’s important to treat it properly. Using over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription acne medicine will help the pimples clear up more quickly. Avoid picking at your acne so you don’t get a scar.

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Causes

What causes acne to form on your forehead?

No matter where acne forms on your face, the cause is the same. Oil called sebum normally lubricates and protects your skin. Sebum is produced in tiny oil glands, called sebaceous glands. Oil gets to the surface of your skin through small holes called pores.

Sometimes pores get clogged with dirt, excess oil, and dead skin cells. Bacteria grow inside, creating swollen bumps. Those bumps are pimples.

A number of factors increase oil production and make you more likely to get acne. These include:

  • hormones
  • stress
  • certain medicines

Puberty

Many people start getting acne during puberty. A surge in hormone levels increases oil production, which leads to pimples. The forehead is one of the most common locations for these early breakouts.

Read more: Hormonal acne »

Hair and hair products

Your hair can also be the source of forehead acne. If you don’t wash your hair often enough or if you have oily hair, the oil can deposit on your forehead and clog pores there.

Breakouts might also be due to the hair products you use. Pomades, oils, gels, waxes, and other hair styling and straightening products are notorious for causing acne. Often these products contain ingredients like cocoa butter or coconut oil, which leave your skin extra oily. Acne caused by hair products is called pomade acne.

Clothing or makeup irritation

Irritation from clothing or the chemicals in cosmetics can also cause forehead acne, especially if your skin is sensitive. You may get a breakout after you use a new makeup brand, or if you wear a hat or headband that irritates your skin. Touching your face often can also lead to acne. Your fingers deposit oil and bacteria onto your skin and into your pores.

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Treatment

How is forehead acne treated?

To get rid of pimples on your forehead, start with good skin care. Wash your face twice a day with a gentle cleanser. This will remove excess oil from your skin. If that doesn’t work, try an OTC acne cream that contains ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.

Natural remedies

Some natural remedies also help with mild acne. These include:

Prescription treatment

For more severe acne, see a dermatologist. You may need a prescription-strength acne treatment, such as:

  • antibiotics
  • benzoyl peroxide formulation
  • retinoids
  • combined oral contraceptives (for women)
  • anti-androgen agent

Antibiotics and retinoids come in a cream. Or, you can take them in pill form.

Your doctor also has non-drug treatments to clear up acne, such as lasers and chemical peels. Larger pimples may need to be drained.

Learn more: Acne treatment »

Is it safe to pop a pimple on your forehead?

You never want to pop a pimple on your forehead — or anywhere else on your face or body. Picking at acne introduces dirt from your fingers into your skin, which can lead to an infection. When you pop a pimple, it will take longer to heal. Popping can also leave a permanent scar.

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Associated conditions

What other conditions cause forehead breakouts?

These other conditions can also cause bumps to form on your forehead:

  • boils: red, painful lumps that grow out of infected hair follicles
  • cellulitis: a skin infection that forms around a cut or scrape
  • contact dermatitis: a skin reaction to products you use or touch, such as laundry detergent or clothing
  • folliculitis: an infection of the hair follicle
  • ringworm: a skin infection caused by fungi
  • rosacea: a skin condition that causes redness and pimples on the face

Read more: Tips for identifying boils and pimples »

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Prevention

Prevention tips

Try these tips to prevent acne on your forehead and other parts of your face:

  • Wash your face with a gentle cleanser twice a day. Rinse with warm water and gently pat dry. Don’t scrub. Rubbing can make acne worse.
  • Wash your hair often. If your hair is greasy, use a shampoo that’s labeled to treat oily hair.
  • Avoid using oils or pomade products on your hair. If you have to use them, wipe off your forehead afterward with a damp washcloth.
  • Cut your bangs, or use a hair tie to pull them up and away from your skin. Bangs can cause acne breakouts on your forehead, especially if your hair is oily.
  • Avoid wearing headbands or hats with brims that touch your forehead.
  • Keep your hands away from your skin. Every time you touch your face, you introduce bacteria that can get into your pores. If you do have to touch your forehead, wash your hands first.
  • Use makeup, cleansers, and other products labeled “noncomedogenic.” This means they won’t cause acne. Don’t use products that can irritate the skin, like cleansers that contain alcohol.
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