Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Rithi Choudhury (Journalist)  on 24th Sep 2020

Dealing With Forehead Acne? You're Not Alone

Dealing With Forehead Acne

Your Hair Care Routine Could Be The Culprit

Our most hated skin condition - acne, isn’t just restricted to our cheeks and nose but shows up everywhere in our body. So why should our forehead be an exception? But is acne on your forehead (in the form of either papules, pustules, nodules, or cyst) due to a hormonal issue/bacterial infestation or simply because of product buildup from your hair care routine?

If you are not already familiar with the term ‘face mapping,’ let us give you a quick lesson while we troubleshoot your forehead acne problem

Causes For Forehead Acne 

Oily Skin: Our skin naturally produces oil called sebum for skin barrier protection and lubrication. When it comes to oily skin, there is an excess of sebum production, especially in the T-zone (forehead, nose and chin area).

Excess oil, dirt and dead skin cells fill up the pores and get oxidized, causing acne. If bacteria decide to have a party, then the clogged pores erupt into what we call pimples.

Dandruff And Oily Scalp: Dandruff is a very common reason behind forehead acne. Even though it is a scalp condition, dandruff and grease from the scalp travel to the back, hairline, and forehead, causing acne in those areas.

Hair Product Build-Up: Hair products like a deep conditioner/mask, leave-in creams, styling creams, gels, and pomades leave some residue behind even after the first wash. This residue is called product buildup over a long time, which weighs the hair down and makes the hair greasy.

Since hair is always in contact with the face and the hairline is right next to the forehead, acne results from a side effect.

Makeup: If you are sleeping with your makeup on, that might be the reason for waking up with acne the next day or the day after. Makeup clogs pores (despite the non-comedogenic claims) and therefore, must be taken off religiously before bed.

If you take off your makeup every night and still get acne, it could be because you have oily skin and are using oil-based makeup.

Scalp Hygiene: Your scalp too sweats when exposed to pollution and accumulates dirt just like our face.
While you wash your face every day, which we hope you do, washing hair is something reserved for the weekends, or it is just a once-a-week ritual for a lot of us.

But that is probably what is causing your forehead acne. Imagine not washing your face after all the sweating and pollution exposure throughout the day for six days in a week, but washing it only on the seventh day (acne festival). The sweat and grime with the natural oils travel down to your forehead and voila - bumps on the forehead.

Hormonal Fluctuation: Hormonal imbalance sometimes leads to excess sebum production, even if your skin is not oily naturally. This leads to acne on the forehead or other parts of the face and body as well. This hormonal imbalance could be during puberty, diet, or lifestyle.

Stress: Can you think of a few skin conditions not caused due to stress? While it is unclear how stress leads to acne, but it is somehow connected as cells that produce sebum have receptors for stress hormone. Now stress will not create a new case of acne, but it will sure worsen existing acne flare-ups.

Medications: Certain medications (like corticosteroids, androgenic steroids, lithium, barbiturates, etc.) have side effects, which you must have guessed is acne. This is something you cannot avoid and must consult your doctor for the same. 

Home Remedies For Forehead Acne

1. Clean Bed Linens: Change your pillow cover every other night to avoid grease and bacteria from your scalp sticking to your face.

2. Double Cleanse: Go to bed with a thoroughly cleansed face. First, use an oil-based cleanser because oil pulls oil (science), and secondly, use a foaming cleanser to wash off the oil. Remember not to have a trace of makeup as you sleep for clear skin.

3. Scalp Wash: Wash your hair every day if your scalp is sweating, especially if you work out every day. If you use sulfate-free shampoos, product buildup is likely to be a common issue. Once in a while, you need to use a shampoo with sulfates to clean your hair effectively.

Remember that not all sulfates are the same, and there are milder sulfates like sodium lauryl sulfoacetate.
If you have textured hair (curly, wavy), washing hair every day is not possible. Run water through your scalp without using shampoos to get the dirt and sweat off.

4. Scalp Exfoliation: Exfoliate the scalp once a month to remove dead skin cells and any product residue. For scalp exfoliation, shampoo your hair and then part them section by section and scrub with your fingertips. Alternatively, you can also use a brush designed for the purpose.

If exfoliating your scalp is difficult on your own, go to a salon where a professional can perform it for you.

5. Aloe Vera Gel: Aloe Vera gel is a versatile product nature has bestowed us upon us. Applying aloe gel on the face and scalp will not just help with acne but also nourishment.

Use either the natural gel from fresh aloe leaves after removing the yellow sap (which irritates the skin). If you do not have an aloe plant at home, use a store-bought one. Although, check out additional ingredients on the bottle to gauge if they cause skin irritation or not.

Aloe gel is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and rich in antioxidants, which means it will calm and soothe your existing inflammation and help clean them. No wonder it is the first ingredient in all our Minimalist Serums.  

Over The Counter Treatment

1. Salicylic Acid: Salicylic Acid is a favorite among dermatologists when it comes to treating acne. While it does not help kill acne-causing bacteria, it helps unclog the pores (being a Beta Hydroxy Acid, an exfoliant) and removing excess oil from the skin.

If you are starting out with salicylic acid, use a 1% concentration, but if you have been using salicylic acid (in wash off forms), then a 2% concentration, which is the maximum strength, will help.

However, salicylic acid can be drying. Therefore, be mindful of using it as a spot treatment on only the acne-prone area and following up with a non-comedogenic/oil-free moisturizer.

When using SA in wash-off forms, face washes massage the product into the affected areas, let it sit for 1-2 minutes, and wash off. 

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum
Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

Salicylic Acid 2% Face Serum

₹ 545

When to use: PM

Frequency: Alternate days

View details

2. Azelaic Acid: Azelaic Acid is another excellent ingredient to fight acne. It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. The best part about azelaic acid is that it is mild enough to be used even for sensitive skin. But always do a patch test before trying any new product for sensitive skin.

3. Niacinamide: Niacinamide (a derivative of Vitamin B3) is a versatile skincare ingredient. It helps control oil and skin repairs skin along with a plethora of other skin benefits. It is a milder alternative for those who cannot tolerate retinoids.

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4. Topical Retinoids: Retinoids are derivatives of Vitamin A. They come in OTC (over the counter) variants and prescription-only variants. They are a gold-standard skincare ingredient and extremely useful for treating acne, promoting cell turnover, and its anti-aging properties.

While you can use OTC retinoids like retinol, adapalene on the affected areas, they are less effective than prescription-strength retinoids like tretinoin.. It is always advisable to consult a dermatologist before starting retinoids, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.

When using retinoids, some common side effects include peeling and purging. These side effects should go away once the skin gets used to the ingredient. If not, discontinue use.

Always use retinoids at night time, on top of a moisturizer to avoid peeling, and religiously wear sunscreen the next morning because the newly revealed skin cells are susceptible to sun damage.

5. Benzoyl Peroxide: Benzoyl Peroxide, like Salicylic acid, is a common ingredient prescribed by dermatologists for treating acne. It is antibacterial and therefore gets the job done. 

However, your skin type will determine the appropriate concentration you should use. Consult your derm about the concentration you should be using. But most wash-off and leave-on forms come in 2.5%, 5% and 10% concentration. 

Face Mapping: What Does Location Of Your Acne Indicate?

In simple words, face mapping is a technique of determining underlying body ailments/conditions by the location of blemishes on the face. The idea behind face mapping is that each blemish on different parts of the face indicates a deeper issue. 

Acne On Forehead
  • Acne On Forehead: Digestion issues, stress, insufficient sleep.
  • Acne On Cheeks: Bacteria, unhygienic practices, comedogenic face creams, medications, stomach ailments, respiratory issues.
  • Acne On Chin & Jawline: Hormonal imbalance, stress.
  • Acne On Temples: Kidney or bladder infection, medications.
  • Acne Between Eyebrows: Liver issues, excess toxin accumulation.
  • Acne On The Nose: Heart ailments.
  • Acne Around The Mouth: Stomach and colon ulcers.