When it comes to dealing with acne breakouts, there are a number of reasons that a new spot or two might suddenly crop up on your face. For instance, it could be due to hormonal fluctuations (like ovulation and PMS), it could be from pore-clogging ingredients in your lip gloss or chapstick, or it could even be mechanical, like friction from a mask (“Maskne”).
However, no matter what the cause of the blemish is, we can all agree on one thing here. Having acne can absolutely stink, and we’d all do pretty much anything to prevent these breakouts from occurring in the first place. But what’s causing them, and what can be done about it?
The good news is that acne around your mouth and chin are actually largely preventable and don’t have to cramp your vibe. Even better, once you know what’s triggering them, you can start taking those necessary steps to stop them in their tracks once and for all.
Excited to learn more about the different types of acne around the mouth and chin? Ready to start taking those first steps to get rid of it? Keep reading friends, as we’ve got the inside scoop on everything to do with these types of breakouts… and we’re ready to spill all of the proven tips and secrets to help you finally achieve clear skin for good!
Types of Breakouts that Can Happen Around the Mouth
When it comes to the different types of acne that can form around your mouth, there are a few things to keep an eye out for that can signal a problem with your skin. The four most common types of acne breakouts that can occur near your mouth area and chin are whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, and cysts (or nodules). (1)
However, that said, there are a few things that may show up on your face that aren’t acne. That doesn’t mean that they’re any less serious, though, and warrant more than a little bit of intervention. But before we break those down, let’s go ahead and discuss these four types of blemishes that can occur around your mouth area.
Also known as “whiteheads,” closed comedones occur when the pore gets clogged by sebum on the surface. They generally look like raised bumps on the skin, but they’re usually non-inflammatory. Typically they don’t go away on their own, and it requires the use of an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) or topical treatment to help remove them.
These are also called “blackheads,” and they happen when both keratin and sebum clog the bore below the skin’s surface. The dark color occurs due to the oxidation of melanin. The best way to treat this kind of acne around the mouth is through either an AHA or a BHA (beta hydroxy acid). This type of acne is also regularly caused by pore-clogging ingredients in lip care, namely shea butter and coconut oil.
Not to be confused with a whitehead, a pustule is the stereotypical acne blemish that we associate with breakouts. They’re typically inflamed and have a white “cap” on them. Fortunately, these can go away on their own, but you can speed up the healing process with benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, or an AHA or BHA.
Also known as “nodules”, these are super painful, hard, and sort of pea-like in nature. They usually occur beneath the skin and can be very deep and may take weeks to heal. The best practice for these is to ice-pack several times a day and use a sulfur or benzoyl peroxide acne treatment. In severe acne cases, a cortisone shot may be necessary but that is a last resort before ice packing and spot treating.
Other Types of So-Called “Breakouts” Near the Mouth
Now that we’ve established the four types of acne around the mouth and chin, we wanted to take the time to talk about a few things that aren’t actually an acne breakout. These can be fairly serious, so it’s important to talk to your derm or GP (general physician) if you encounter any of them on your face.
- Cold sores. Caused by the herpes simplex virus (or HSV-1), these can cause itching, burning, and fluid-filled vesicles (blisters) on or near your lip. Highly contagious, you want to be very careful if you find one of these lesions on your face. (2)
- Perioral dermatitis. More common in women than in men, perioral dermatitis is characterized by scaly patches and raised, painful bumps around your mouth. While the exact cause is unknown, it’s believed that overuse of topical steroids can cause it. (3) Some people with sensitive skin may also benefit from switching to a more natural toothpaste.
- Allergic reactions. Not to be confused with perioral dermatitis, contact dermatitis generally occurs when you come in contact with a known allergen. It can cause raised bumps, itching, and irritation near your mouth and on your chin. (4)
- Hand, foot, and mouth disease. While this usually occurs in children under the age of five years, anyone can contract hand, foot, and mouth disease. It’s extremely contagious and not only will you find red bumps near and in your mouth, but as the name implies, also on your hands and feet. (5)
- MRSA. Short for “methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus,” this is something that you definitely do not want to mess around with if it shows up near your mouth or chin. If left untreated, it can lead to pneumonia, sepsis, and even organ failure. (6) If you have an ongoing infection anywhere on your body that seems impossible to heal, go get tested for MRSA.
The lesson here? Sure, that blemish on your face can look like acne, but it’s important to never self-diagnose if you’re ever in doubt. If you ask us, we strongly believe that it’s always a better idea to speak to your doctor about it, just to make sure that’s not something much more serious.
What Can Contribute to Acne Around the Mouth?
Now that you know the more common types of acne breakouts that can occur around the mouth and on the chin (as well as a few things that might not be acne), it’s now time to break down what can cause these breakouts. If you’ve been wondering what causes acne around the mouth and chin, brace yourself, friends – as their etiology just might surprise you!
#1 Cause of Acne on the Mouth: Lip Products with Pore-Clogging Ingredients
While it’s totally understandable to want to keep your lips nice and moisturized, your lip balm might be the culprit for your breakouts. Comedogenic ingredients like coconut oil, lanolin, and algae can find their way into your balms, leading to unwanted blemishes near your mouth. What you can do to prevent this from happening is to switch to a non-comedogenic moisturizer for your lips.
#2: Ongoing Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies
Did you know that there’s a connection between vitamin D and acne? Research has shown that certain vitamin and mineral deficiencies can be to blame for an acne breakout. For instance, being extremely low in vitamin A, D or zinc can trigger acne. It is critical to note, though, that over supplementing with vitamin D and zinc may raise testosterone and could also cause a flare in hormonal acne- so more isn’t better. Dosage of about 80-150% RDV is the sweet spot for Vitamin D. We can’t stress that enough.! A diet rich in fresh fruits and veggies can help get those levels up in a balanced way. (7 & 8)
#3: Hormonal Imbalances and Fluctuations
When it comes to acne, the majority of it can be traced back to your hormones (particularly male hormones, or androgens). Your endocrine system is very delicate, and if anything should throw it out of whack, it’s a one-way ticket to Zitsville. Taking a hormonal acne supplement, though, can help restore that balance and keep those blemishes at bay. (9)
#4: Your Cell Phone Usage Habits
We don’t want to gross you out here, but your cell phone is pretty dang disgusting. We’re talking “filthier than a toilet seat” levels of yuck here, and studies have shown that it’s seriously teeming with bacteria like S. aureus and E. coli. If you’re going to take that call, please give your phone a wipe-down with a spritz of rubbing alcohol first! (10)
#5: Not Washing Your Pillowcase Enough
Most of us are pretty good about washing our faces morning and night, but if you’re not keeping your pillowcase clean, then you’re just going to reintroduce those very same acne-causing bacteria back into it. It’s recommended that you wash it at least once a week, if not sooner, to keep those sloughed-off skin cells and germs off your face.
#6: Touching Your Face Frequently
On average, our hands make it to our faces around twenty-three times per hour. And let’s be real here: where exactly have those hands been, and when was the last time you washed them? While breaking this habit can be tricky, we strongly recommend washing your hands every time they come in contact with something questionable in the meantime. (11) It’s also important to check the ingredients of your hand lotion (those are rarely acne-safe). Whatever lotion you put on your hands will be in contact with your face, so be aware of that.
The Takeaway: Steps to Take
If you’ve been struggling with breakouts, don’t despair. And if you’re wondering how to get rid of acne around the mouth, treating it is much easier than you might realize – and it doesn't mean that you’re a bad or a dirty person for being one of the unlucky ones who do struggle with acne. It just means that you’re more sensitive to hormonal changes and pore-clogging ingredients than other people.
The first step in getting clear skin is to have a solid skincare regimen in place. This means washing your face with a gentle face exfoliator or cleanser, using the right combination of serums and toners afterward, and always following up with an non-pore-clogging sunscreen if you’re going to be facing the light of day. (Pro tip: even if you’re not going outside, it’s still a good idea to use sunblock on the daily.)
It also means that you may need to take a harder look at your lifestyle to see if it’s to blame for your recurring breakouts. If you use heavy creams, touch your face a lot, or have any issues with your monthly cycle, that may warrant some adjustments to help improve things.
Fortunately, all of them are super actionable and very easy so don’t fret about having to undergo a major overhaul to see results. But by making these small changes, and being more proactive about how you treat your skin from the inside out, you can finally start to notice the radiant, clear skin you’ve always wanted.
Source 1: Acne Vulgaris - StatPearls https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK459173/
Source 2: Cold sores: Overview https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525782/
Source 3: Perioral Dermatitis - StatPearls https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK525968/
Source 4: Allergic Contact Dermatitis - StatPearls https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK532866
Source 5: Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease https://www.cdc.gov/hand-foot-mouth/index.html
Source 6: Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus - StatPearls https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482221/
Source 7: Association between Vitamin D Level and Acne, and Correlation with Disease Severity: A Meta-Analysis https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34348293/
Source 8: Acne Vulgaris and Intake of Selected Dietary Nutrients—A Summary of Information https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8226785/
Source 9: Hormonal treatment of acne vulgaris: an update https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5015761/
Source 10: Mobile phones represent a pathway for microbial transmission: A scoping review https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7187827/
Source 11: Face touching: a frequent habit that has implications for hand hygiene https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25637115/
Source 12: HIRSUTISM: EVALUATION AND TREATMENT https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2856356/