Acne around the Mouth – Causes & Best Treatments

Millions of people around the world suffer from adult acne. Although acne and its formation isn’t entirely researched and understood as of yet, there are a number cases when dermatologists understand the why’s and how’s, and actually have the means to prevent it.

Most of the times, acne is the result of using wrong cosmetic and skincare products, excess oil, bacteria, environmental debris, and poor eating habits, and in some cases – hormonal disbalance. Depending on the individual case and chemistry of each person, the combination of those symptoms can have various effects and result in different forms of acne like whiteheads, blackheads, painful cysts, etc.

The good news is that the vast majority of cases can be treated, and while the effectiveness of the treatment varies, it’s generally significant. Today, we will be taking a detailed look at acne that forms specifically around the mouth, what leads to it, how to treat it and how to prevent it.

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What causes acne around the mouth?

While acne around the mouth, chin and jawline is attributed to hormonal issues (for instance, the menstrual cycle, birth control medication, actual child birth, etc.) there are many other causes for it.

The area around the mouth is subjected to deal with the outside environment more than any other part of the face, which, combined with carelessness and various habits, can lead to their formation. For example, sleeping on dirty pillowcases, touching this area with hands/leaning on hands, eating excess spicy food and lip balm choice are all very common examples.

Acne can also be caused by allergic reactions to cosmetic/skincare products that you use, or the food that you eat. Another reason is that the skin’s area around mouth, chin and jaw have more oil follicles compared to the rest of the face.

For men, acne around the mouth is commonly caused by hair follicles that grow into the skin. In those cases, be careful not to shave and damage the cyst as it will make matters worse. Additionally, do not squeeze and pop those cysts – you’ll only increase the chance of them leaving a scar behind after they are gone.


What is Hormonal Acne & How to tell it apart from the rest?

Acne around mouth

Hormonal Acne (image credit)

Usually, hormonal acne are located deep underneath the skin, in the form of big and painful cysts which are sensitive to touch. They tend to leave scars and cause sharp pain when you try to pop them.

Furthermore, they don’t respond to most treatments methods (containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and other ingredients in most skincare cleansers) primarily due to the fact that they aren’t formed due to bacteria and pore clogging, but rather, some reaction happening inside your body.

The other types of acne formed due to reasons like dirt, excess oil, bacteria and wrong cosmetic products are usually in the form of whiteheads and blackheads which are less painful, easier to deal with and are located at the top layer right at the surface of the skin.

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The Physiological Mechanism of Hormonal Pimples around the Mouth

If the acne is indeed caused by hormonal issues, it is mainly tied to oil production of the skin. Under normal circumstances, the oil flows in medium amounts and lubricates the skin just enough to keep it from dryness.

However, when the oil production is increased, the excess oil comes into contact with environmental debris located on the surface of the skin and clogs pores as a result. The clogged pores create a favorable atmosphere for bacteria to breed, which eventually results in inflammation. The greater the inflammation, the bigger, redder and the more painful the pimps will be.

In the vast majority of cases, hormonal acne forms because there is an oil production problem and this is the reason that most skincare products are helpless against it. Skincare products may help by some amount, but the problem will never go away unless it’s fixed from the inside.


The Causes of Increased Oil Secretion

Skin with and without acne around mouth

(image credit)


The prime cause of increased oil secretion are male sex hormones called androgens, with testosterone being the most active of all of them. DHEA-S – another androgen – is also important and plays a role in oil secretion. The effect is worsened when female sex hormones – estrogens, which balance the male hormones – start to crumble.

Usually, high testosterone levels in women is attributed to diabetes, insulin resistance or polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Treating those conditions can result in full clearing of acne.

Other times, when the above conditions aren’t present, women might experience high testosterone levels during their menstrual cycle and get hormonal acne when nearing their period.

Like testosterone, DHEA-S, which is a stress hormone, can increase oil secretion. Whenever you’re under a lot of stress, be it due to work, emotions, lack of sleep, under feeding or any other issue causing your body increased discomfort, it may be forced to produce high levels of DHEA-S to deal with the stress, which can increase oil secretion and lead to hormonal acne formation.


Does Estrogen & Hormones Cause Acne Around The Jaw

Estrogen – the female sex hormone – plays a vital role in combating acne and preserving the hormonal balance. It sets off the high testosterone levels in blood and it’s also contained in skin receptors, meaning that it acts as a natural soothing and calming ingredient in acne sites.

When the estrogen levels fall, breakouts start taking head. This usually happens at the start of the menstrual cycle, which is why many women breakout during that time of the month. Menopause is another reason that causes estrogen levels to crumble, which can be the reason for acne formation for adults, even if you had perfectly clear skin before.

Progesterone – another naturally occurring hormone – can be another reason for acne formation. In high doses it can act as an inflammatory agent, which leads to breakouts. Progesterone levels usually increase when nearing the menstrual cycle, causing acne. Combined with low estrogen levels, the acne can get even more severe.

Finally, synthetic progesterone, which is found in birth control pills, may also cause breakouts around the mouth. Depending on your body’s individual chemistry, some pills might work perfectly fine, while other cause you to breakout. If you’re using birth control pills, try to change the brand and look for another type of synthetic progesterone that is different from the one you used previously and see if it helps.


Acne vs. Imitations

At times, acne around the mouth might not be what it looks like at a glance. In many cases, it is confused with rash called perioral dermatitis. The rash is composed of many tiny, red (it can be slightly red or strongly red depending on the severity of the case) blisters that usually appear under the nose, over upper lip, over the jaw, mouth corners and cheeks.

For men, the confusion can be especially vivid due to the dermatitis developing under facial hair/beard and being poorly visible. The condition is primarily caused by exposing the around the mouth area to allergens or irritants. Depending on the case, various types of food, snacks, smoking or the environment can act as an allergen that’s causing it.

The main characteristic sign of perioral dermatitis is that it’s very itchy, whereas the acne pimps are generally painless until u touch and/or squeeze them.

How to Prevent Acne around the Mouth

There are many potential reasons for acne around the mouth to develop, besides hormonal issues. For instance, allergies, dirty pillowcases and touching that area of your face a lot can cause it. To avoid this, be very careful about your face. Do not touch your cheeks, mouth or chin without need (e.g. resting your face inside palms, sleeping on your arms, absent-mindedly stroking the skin, etc.) and always make sure that your hands are clean if you really need to touch your face, and this absolutely includes makeup removal procedures.

Washing your hands with warm water and hypoallergenic, antibacterial soaps is the way to go before doing anything with your skin and makeup, however, if you’re outside and there is no bathroom available, wet wipes can also do the trick. Try to get hypoallergenic, antibacterial wipes, preferably with aloe vera or cucumber extracts, since those carry tons of beneficial properties for the skin.

Also, make sure to change your pillowcases at least once a week and avoid clothing that touches and/or irritates the mouth area like scarves and turtlenecks.

Additionally, pay attention to the skincare products that you use, and eliminate products that include pore clogging and comedogenic ingredients, harsh chemicals, fragrances or skin irritants. Natural ingredients might work slower compared to chemicals, but at least most of them are safe for many skin types.

Whenever shopping for skincare products, make sure to take your skin type and individual chemistry into account – needless to say, even natural ingredients can act as allergens for some people, yet be harmless for others. Listen to what your skin is telling you: if something clearly doesn’t work, stop using it even if thousands of others report that very product to be highly effective.

Finally, take the time and think about your diet – if you have noticed that some types of foods may be causing you to breakout, eliminate those from your diet for at least two weeks and see what comes out of that.

How to Naturally Get Rid of Acne around the Mouth (Could take some time)

Acne around the mouth can be tough to deal with but it’s not impossible. Follow the simple rules below, and watch this video on how to treat hormonal acne:

  1. First and foremost, make sure to identify the type of acne and whether the redness is actually acne in the first place. Follow the above mentioned instructions to identify the acne type based on location, appearance and clinical symptoms (pain, itchiness, etc.). Also, remember that perioral dermatitis is very common and can be mistaken for acne easily.
  2. In case your acne is caused by allergic reactions, you’ll need to identify the allergen and eliminate it for good. For that, try changing your toothpaste, makeup and skincare products and stay away from spicy food for a while. Keep an eye on the acne – if it gets better, you’re on the right track.
  3. In case of pore clogging and inflammation caused by environmental dirt, try keeping the pillowcases clean, avoid touching your face whenever you can, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly before makeup removal and keep wet wipes (preferably antiseptic ones) close by.
  4. In case of hormonal acne, a more complex approach will be required. While the reasons stated in this article for the development of hormonal acne are very common, there is a chance that your specific case may be unrelated to the majority of reasons. In that case, switching to physical activities and healthy diet, along with a few lifestyle changes, is your best shot.

Here is a short list:

  • Make sure to include some kind of physical activity in your everyday life – the more the better. It doesn’t matter whether it’s swimming, running, hitting the gym or even at home exercising – just get something going.
  • Change your diet. Try sticking to low carb diet, since that’s the one that includes the most fruits and veggies into the routine. Also, it goes well with leading an active lifestyle so you might as well get the convenience as a bonus. Here is a great, detailed guide on low carb diet.
  • Develop your own skincare routine. The idea is that there is a high chance that your skin may be impervious to common types of treatments and skincare products. This is why you will have to undergo a (long) phase of trial-and-error of choosing skincare products and understanding what works for your case.
  • Be consistent and do not ever let acne get the better of you! OK, this one sounds like simple, motivational talk, but I can’t stress just how important it actually is. Stressing over acne is the last thing you want in your life. Besides the constant thinking, feeling shy, ashamed and a dozen other similar things you know all too well about, the actual stress can make your acne worse, since it may weaken your immune system. Do not let that happen.

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Have you experienced acne around the mouth before? What did you do to get rid of it? Do you know about any techniques not mentioned in this article? Share your knowledge with us in the comments!

Acne around the Mouth – Causes & Best Treatments
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Jonathan Clark

An individual with more than 15 years of experience in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industry. The last 5 years i have been specializing in acne treatment and analyzed more than 100 products.

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