Published on May 09, 2024

What Causes Forehead Acne? (And How To Get Rid Of It)

What Causes Forehead Acne? (And How To Get Rid Of It)

Acne often appears on the face and shoulders, including the forehead. This area, known as the T-zone, is prone to acne due to blocked glands beneath the skin’s surface. These glands get clogged with oil, bacteria, and dead skin cells.

Hormones, stress, and skin or hair products can trigger forehead breakouts. While not dangerous, forehead acne can be bothersome. Here, we explore its causes and treatments.

What Causes Forehead Acne?

If you’re wondering, “Why is my forehead breaking out,” here’s a simple answer: acne can show up anywhere on your body, but it’s common on your face. Acne vulgaris happens when small glands, called sebaceous glands, get blocked under your skin. These glands produce oil called sebum. When they get blocked by too much sebum, dead skin cells, or bacteria, they can become inflamed, forming acne. [1]

Sometimes, dirt, excess oil, and dead skin cells clog pores, letting bacteria grow inside, leading to swollen bumps known as pimples.

Many factors can cause forehead acne, and several factors increase your risk of getting acne, including:


During puberty, hormone levels surge, leading to increased oil production and, subsequently, pimples. The forehead is a common site for these breakouts due to heightened oil production.

Hormonal Changes

Increased levels of male sex hormones cause the sebaceous glands to extend and produce more oil, contributing to acne. This hormonal shift often occurs during puberty and can lead to forehead acne. [2]

  • Clothing or Makeup Irritation

Irritation from clothing or makeup chemicals can trigger forehead acne, especially in individuals with sensitive skin. Trying new makeup brands or wearing hats or headbands that rub against the skin can lead to breakouts. [3]

Human Hair and Hair Products

Not washing hair regularly, or if the hair is oily, may leave an oil deposit onto the forehead, which tends to occlude pores and cause acne. Also, hair styling products with coconut oil in their formulas, such as pomades and oils, may exacerbate acne. [4]

Skin Irritation

Acne on the forehead can either be due to skin irritation or trapped sweat due to cosmetics, tight clothes, or accessories, such as hats and headbands, among others. These objects irritate the skin.


Though the exact relationship between stress and acne is not known, researchers have associated stress with an acne outbreak. Psychological stress may augment the effects of hormonal imbalances, which are responsible for the outburst of acne.


Inadequate washing of the hair and face leads to the production of oil deposits on the forehead, resulting in blocked pores and the formation of acne.

Environmental Factors

Exposure to pollution, humidity, and excessive sunlight can irritate the skin and clog pores, worsening forehead acne. Protecting the skin from these environmental stressors can help manage acne flare-ups.

Is Forehead Acne Stress Acne?

Forehead acne can be influenced by stress, but it’s not solely categorized as stress acne. While stress can exacerbate acne by triggering hormonal changes that increase oil production, leading to clogged pores and breakouts, other factors also contribute to forehead acne.

Hormonal fluctuations during puberty or menstrual cycles, as well as genetic predispositions, play significant roles in acne development.

Forehead Acne Types

Forehead acne can take various forms, and all of them have a difference in characteristics and treatment needs.

  • Comedonal Acne (Whiteheads and Blackheads)

It is non-inflammatory and appears as either open or closed lesions on the forehead. Closed comedones are those whiteheads that are under the skin surface and appear white. [5]

Open comedones, also known as blackheads, are as a result of an opened pore; thus, the comedones are exposed to air which darkens them. They can be treated with over-the-counter products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide.

  • Nodules and Cysts

Deeper below the skin’s surface, nodules and cysts form as large, red bumps on the forehead. Nodules feel hard to the touch, while cysts are softer due to fluid-filled pockets.

If left untreated, they can result in scarring and typically require medical attention from a dermatologist for proper treatment, which may include prescription medications or procedures.

  • Papules and Pustules

Severe irritation to the pores can lead to the breakdown of pore walls, resulting in papules and pustules. Papules are elevated bumps that are often painful, lack a visible head, and may feel rough to the touch. [6] On the other hand, pustules resemble papules in appearance but contain yellowish material akin to blisters.

  • Milia

Milia are tiny, white bumps that usually appear on the forehead and other areas of the face. Milia form when keratin, a protein found in the skin, becomes trapped beneath the surface, resulting in tiny cysts.

When Does Forehead Acne Get Hormonal?

Forehead acne is often considered hormonal, as it is prompted by an imbalance of hormone levels. More often, it results from higher androgen levels. At puberty, there is an increase in the production of androgens, which stimulates excess oil production, eventually leading to clogged pores and acne. [7]

In adults, forehead acne can also result from hormonal changes caused by menstruation, pregnancy, perimenopause, or menopause. Occurrence of hormonal acne in adults can also be traced to stress, medical conditions like PCOS, or starting to use hormonal birth control. [8]

How to Get Rid of Forehead Acne

Dealing with forehead acne can be frustrating, but there are numerous effective treatment options available, ranging from home remedies to over-the-counter (OTC) medicines and prescription medications.

The choice of treatment for forehead acne depends on the severity of the acne outbreak. For many people, over-the-counter medications suffice in managing acne symptoms.

Home Remedies

Home remedies offer convenient and often effective solutions for managing forehead pimples:

  • Facial Cleansers

Over-the-counter facial cleansers play a crucial role in controlling mild acne by cleansing the skin and removing excess sebum. Washing the forehead and other affected areas one to two times daily with a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser can help prevent acne flare-ups.

Opting for a cleanser specifically formulated for acne-prone skin can enhance effectiveness without causing irritation.

  • Aloe Vera

It is useful for the treatment of mild forms of acne, predominantly inflammatory acne. [9] Application of this gel in the form of a thin layer on the forehead helps in subduing the inflammation and speeding up the healing process. Its anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial qualities make it a favorite for easing up symptoms of acne.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide

This is one of the most common over-the-counter topicals, best recognized for reducing acne-causing bacteria and inhibiting sebum production. [10] Creams and lotions are preparations that are easy to apply and are often advised for one to three applications daily.

  • Tea Tree Oil

Recent research suggests that tea tree oil, commonly found in products like tea tree oil gel, can effectively treat mild to moderate acne. [11] Its natural antimicrobial properties make it a suitable alternative for individuals seeking a gentler approach to acne treatment.

  • Salicylic Acid

It acts by opening up blocked follicles and reducing redness and inflammation in the skin that is affected by acne. Salicylic acid is sold in cream preparation or as an active ingredient in several market over-the-counter products, including facial washes, cleaners, and body scrubs. [12]

  • Azelaic Acid

It is a topical medication that reduces acne-causing bacteria and inflammation. It comes in numerous strengths by various manufacturers and in countless over-the-counter formulations for the treatment of acne.

Prescription Treatment

For severe acne, consult a dermatologist who can provide prescription-strength treatments. [13] Options may include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Retinoids
  • Benzoyl peroxide formulations
  • Corticosteroids
  • Birth control pills (for women)
  • Anti-androgen agents

Additionally, dermatologists offer non-drug treatments like lasers and chemical peels to clear acne. In some cases, larger pimples may need to be drained.

How to Prevent Forehead Acne

Treat forehead acne by maintaining good personal hygiene practices. The following tips will be helpful:

  • Wash your face daily (at least twice) with a gentle cleanser, avoiding harsh scrubbing.
  • Avoid tight hats and tight clothing that covers the forehead.
  • Wash your hair frequently, especially if it tends to be oily.
  • Consider cutting bangs or pulling them away from your forehead.
  • Avoid using harsh skin products and aim at the non-comedogenic type.
  • Wash your face after sweating or physical exercise.
  • Continually wash your hands to prevent bacteria from spreading to the skin.
  • Minimize sun exposure and use sunscreen when necessary.
  • Avoid touching your face to prevent introducing bacteria into your pores.


Forehead acne is common, especially during puberty, and can result from factors like pore-clogging products, skin irritation, stress, hormonal changes, and certain medications. Home remedies and over-the-counter treatments can often manage mild to moderate cases.

However, severe acne may require prescription medications from a doctor. If acne impacts your well-being, consider seeking help from professionals like UVTREAT, who can provide tailored solutions and connect you with a dermatologist. Effective treatments exist even for chronic and severe cases of acne.

  1. Watson, Stephanie . “Forehead Acne: Causes and Treatments.” Healthline, 20 Sept. 2018,  Accessed 15 May 2024.
  2. “Acne: Who Gets and Causes.”,
  3. Dorwart , Laura . “What Causes Acne on the Forehead?” Verywell Health,  Accessed 15 May 2024.
  4. “Are Your Hair Care Products Causing Breakouts?”,
  5. Nall, Rachel. “Comedonal Acne: Pictures, Treatment, and Remedies.”, 7 Feb. 2020,
  6. “Acne Papules: Vs. Pustules & Symptoms, Causes & Treatment.” Cleveland Clinic,
  7. Zeichner, Joshua A., et al. “Emerging Issues in Adult Female Acne.” The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, vol. 10, no. 1, 1 Jan. 2017, pp. 37–46,
  8. “Adult Acne.”,
  9. Zhong, Hongyu . Efficacy of a New Non-Drug Acne Therapy: Aloe Vera Gel Combined with Ultrasound and Soft Mask for the Treatment of Mild to Severe Facial Acne. 2021,
  10. “About Benzoyl Peroxide.”, 21 Oct. 2022,
  11. Malhi, Harsimran Kaur, et al. “Tea Tree Oil Gel for Mild to Moderate Acne; a 12 Week Uncontrolled, Open-Label Phase II Pilot Study.” The Australasian Journal of Dermatology, vol. 58, no. 3, 1 Aug. 2017, pp. 205–210,,
  12. Frothingham, Scott. “Salicylic Acid for Acne: Benefits, Dosages, and Side Effects.” Healthline, 17 Aug. 2022,
  13. Nancy Garrick, Deputy Director. “Acne.” National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 1 Sept. 2016,



  • Forehead acne can stem from various factors, including pore-clogging hair products, skin irritation from hats or makeup, stress, hormonal changes, and certain medications. Home remedies and over-the-counter treatments can often alleviate mild to moderate acne.
  • Popping a pimple is not a good idea as it can introduce dirt into the skin, leading to infection and extending the healing process. Additionally, popping pimples can result in permanent scarring.
  • Natural ingredients like neem, tea tree oil, rosemary, and turmeric possess antimicrobial properties that can combat acne-causing bacteria. Incorporating these constituents into your skincare routine may reduce the frequency of breakouts and expedite the healing of existing pimples.
  • Forehead pimples typically last between three and seven days. While most pimples resolve on their own within this timeframe, deep pimples may take longer to heal, sometimes persisting for a few weeks or more.
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