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Image of a woman represnting Acne keloidalis nuchae

Acne on forehead - What causes it and how can it be treated?

Medically reviewed by
Dr. Fatma Al Shamsi from Derma Art Clinic

Acne on the forehead can hit at any time in life. Whilst it is often associated with teens, 80 per cent of people are affected by acne at some point in their lives.

For people who are concerned by their forehead acne and want to get rid of it, solutions can include prescribed medications, natural remedies and even surgery.

But what are the causes and what’s the best type of treatment for you?

What is acne?

Acne, or acne vulgaris as it’s medically known, is a common skin condition that causes painful spots.

It flares up when the small glands attached to the tiny hair follicles that cover our skin begin to produce too much of the oily substance sebum. This then blocks the follicles when it mixes with the dead skin cells that we all naturally generate.

Some people are more prone to acne, especially on their forehead, cheeks, and chin. It’s usually a combination of:

  • Whiteheads and blackheads.
  • Papules and pimples (pustules) – painful, or pus-filled, lumps.
  • Cystic lesions and nodules – painful spots under the skin.
Arab woman wearing a hijab and smiling to represent Acne keloidalis nuchae

Why do I have acne on my forehead?

Acne on the forehead can be caused by several factors, including:

Genetics

If one or both of your parents suffered acne you may have inherited it. Acne is known to run in families.

Hormone changes

A hormone change can cause acne on the forehead. This often happens in puberty but might also happen at another life stage such as during pregnancy or menopause.

Lifestyle

Being stressed releases a hormone called cortisol, which can boost sebum production and make your skin oilier. A lack of sleep can have the same effect.

A big misconception is that a poor diet can cause acne. So far, no research suggests that any foods cause acne, though a poor diet can contribute to overall poor health, both mentally and physically, which isn’t good for your skin – or you.

Other possible reasons for acne on your forehead

There are many other possible forehead acne causes. These can include:

  • Skin irritation – headwear or hair that touch the forehead can carry bacteria and make you sweat. Also, friction and warmth from cycling helmets or wearing a hard hat for work can be contributing factors.
  • Touching your face – your hands carry a large number of bacteria, so you should try and avoid touching your face and rubbing your forehead throughout the day.
  • Medication – some medications can change the balance of hormones, which affects oil production. The most common culprit of this is the contraceptive pill, which, perversely, can also help ease acne symptoms.
  • Face and hair products – some products simply aren’t good for our skin. If you have sensitive skin on your forehead, you should avoid heavy and perfumed products, which can clog pores. Rich moisturisers and serums can all contribute to making acne worse if you already have it. Look for non-comedogenic skincare to help keep pores clear.
Image of a woman to represent Acne keloidalis nuchae

How you might treat acne on your forehead?

For most people, acne on your forehead will come and go of its own accord. But if you want to do something about it, there are a few things you can try.

Topical creams

Retinoids and benzoyl peroxide creams can help unclog pores and should be used as initial treatments. They can occasionally lead to some unwanted short-term side-effects such as irritation and dryness.

Steroid injections

Steroid, or cortisone, injections are typically for moderate to severe cases of acne. This powerful anti-inflammatory is injected under the skin and can reduce symptoms. But this type of treatment isn’t a permanent solution and should only really be used for one-off occasions, such as important events.

Chemical peels

Chemical peels can be used as a treatment for acne on the forehead and face and to reduce scarring. Peels accelerate the production of new cells, giving the skin a clean and fresh look.

Medication

There are a few different types of medication you can try to help reduce acne, such as the contraceptive pill or Roaccutane.

Lights and lasers

Carbon peel with QS lasers, photodynamic lasers such as blue light therapy, red LED light therapy all help reduce inflammation and skin barrier damage. Laser treatment, such as laser skin resurfacing, is best used to treat acne scarring. Like peels, it removes the top layer of skin to encourage new cell growth which can help to fade scarring. However, results can take some time to appear, and it may not work for everyone.

Microneedling

Microneedling is an incredibly effective and increasingly popular rejuvenating treatment that can help those of us left with scarring from their acne. RF Microneedling increases effectiveness further by combining radiofrequency with the treatment.

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