Acne is a skin disorder that occurs when pores get clogged by oil (sebum) and dead skin cells.

Acne around the mouth might develop from recurring pressure on the skin near the mouth, such as from daily cell phone use or a musical instrument.

Cosmetics or other facial products, like toothpaste, lip balm, or shaving cream, might also be to blame. Hormones and genetics also play a role.

Keep reading to learn what causes acne around the mouth, and how you can treat and prevent it.

The most common places to see breakouts is on the face, along the T-shaped zone that starts at your forehead and extends down your nose to your chin. This is because there’s a greater concentration of sebaceous glands (the glands that secrete sebum) on both the forehead and the chin.

Acne may be more likely to occur near the mouth if the skin in this area is irritated or frequently touched. Here are a few common culprits of acne near the mouth:

Helmet straps

A chin strap on a helmet could easily clog the pores near your mouth. If you wear a sports helmet with a chin strap, make sure it’s not too tight. You can gently cleanse your face and chin after wearing a chin strap.

Musical instruments

Any musical instrument that rests on the chin, such as the violin, or that constantly touches the area around the mouth, like a flute, can result in clogged pores and acne near the mouth.


Your shaving cream or shaving oil might clog pores or irritate sensitive skin, leading to acne.

Lip balm

Your daily care regimen could be to blame for clogged and irritated pores near the mouth. Oily or greasy lip balm may be a common offender.

Wax in lip balms can clog pores if the lip balm spreads off your lips and onto your skin. Fragrances can also irritate the skin.

Cell phone use

Anything coming into contact with your chin can block pores. If you rest your cell phone on your chin while you talk, it could be causing your mouth or chin acne.


Hormones known as androgens stimulate the production of sebum, which clogs pores and leads to acne.

Hormonal acne is classically thought to occur on the jawline and chin. However, recent research suggests the hormone-acne connection may not be as reliable as once thought, at least in women.

Hormonal fluctuations may be the result of:

Let’s face it, acne can be very bothersome. If you’re worried about your acne, see a dermatologist.

A dermatologist will work with you to find a treatment or a combination of a few different treatments that work for you.

In general, acne near the mouth will respond to the same treatments you’d use to treat acne on other parts of the face.

These may include:

  • over-the-counter medications, such as acne creams, cleansers, and gels that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid
  • prescription oral or topical antibiotics
  • prescription topical creams, such as retinoic acid or prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide
  • specific birth control pills (combined oral contraceptives)
  • isotretinoin (Accutane)
  • light therapy and chemical peels

A healthy skin care regimen can help prevent acne. This includes the following:

  • Cleanse your skin twice daily with a gentle or mild cleanser.
  • If you use makeup, make sure it’s labeled as “noncomedogenic” (not pore-clogging).
  • Avoid touching your face.
  • Don’t pick at pimples.
  • Shower after exercise.
  • Avoid getting excess lip balm on your skin when you apply it to your lips.
  • Keep oily hair products off the face.
  • Wash your face after playing an instrument that touches your face.
  • Only use oil-free, noncomedogenic products on the face.

Sometimes blemishes near or around the mouth aren’t acne. A few other skin disorders can cause what resembles pimples near the mouth. Have a healthcare provider take a look.

Cold sores

Cold sores, which occur on the lips and mouth, look similar to pimples. They have very different causes and treatment. Herpes simplex type 1 (HSV-1) typically causes cold sores.

Unlike pimples, cold sore blisters are full of fluid. They’re usually painful to the touch and may also burn or itch. They eventually dry out and scab, and then fall off.

Perioral dermatitis

Another skin condition that could resemble acne is perioral dermatitis. Perioral dermatitis is an inflammatory rash that affects the skin near the mouth. It’s exact cause isn’t yet known, but some possible triggers are:

  • topical steroids
  • bacterial or fungal infections
  • sunscreen
  • birth control pills
  • fluoridated toothpaste
  • certain cosmetic ingredients

Perioral dermatitis appears as a scaly or red, bumpy rash surrounding the mouth that may be mistaken as acne. However, with perioral dermatitis, there may also be clear fluid discharge and some itching and burning.

If you notice that your acne isn’t responding to treatment, resembles a rash, or is painful, itchy, or burning, see a healthcare provider for a diagnosis and treatment.

You can successfully treat acne with a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.

For acne that’s concentrated on the chin, jawline, or above the lips, make sure you’re avoiding products that could irritate that area, such as scented lip balms and oily products.

Always wash your face with a mild or gentle cleanser after playing an instrument that touches your face or wearing a helmet with a chin strap.