Updated 2/18/16. What does it mean when breakouts appear on the chin or the cheeks versus the forehead or hairline? While it’s always challenging to precisely determine the reason for any blemish, the location of your breakouts may very well be an indication of the cause.
Chin and jawline. Consuming too much dairy can cause blemishes for many people, particularly cystic acne (hard, painful bumps deep under the skin that linger for weeks) in this area. In Chinese medicine, breakouts around the chin and jaw line are representational of reproductive and hormonal systems. Also, since our dairy cows in the U.S. are given growth hormones, the body may use this area to remove the excess hormones. There are a greater number of sebaceous glands in the face, and since hormones are fat soluble, the body will use these glands as an avenue of excretion.
Solution: Apply Anti-Cyst Treatment when cystic bumps appear to get them to heal quickly. This acne product gives exceptional results when used as soon as a painful blemish appears. Also, try cutting out dairy completely for three weeks to see if cystic blemishes diminish.
Cheek area. Acidic foods, those with a low pH like tomatoes, salsa, and citrus fruits, despite being high in antioxidants, are considered inflammatory foods for the face. Since skin is more vascular in the cheeks (example, rosy cheeks found in fair skin types) the skin can be more reactive and foods that are acidic can cause inflammation, leading to irritation and breakouts.
Solution: Consider cutting out these foods for three weeks and see if it helps.
Sides of the face. Some people have made it their nightly ritual to slather on a rich hand cream or oil to nourish their dry hands and keep their cuticles looking moist. But what you may not realize is that while those rich oils may do wonders for the hands, they can wreak havoc for the skin if you sleep with your hands pressed on the sides of your face. A second reason for breakouts and bumps on the sides of the face or ears could be a condition called ‘acne cosmetica’ which is a blockage of the pores from ingredients found in liquid foundation makeup—especially when worn in hot, humid climates. (Read more about acne cosmetica.)
Solution: Skip the hand cream at night (or wear cotton gloves) if you think you sleep on your side. Consider experimenting with different types of makeup (or ideally a mineral powder) to see if you get improvement.
Forehead. Tight-fitting hats and visors (like those worn during exercise) can create an occlusive barrier on the skin where sweat can accumulate and bacteria can grow in the pores, which can lead to bumps and breakouts.
Solution: When removing the hat, be sure to wash with a good anti-bacterial cleanser like AHA/BHA Deep Pore Cleanser with salicylic acid. I’ve also read some things through the years that for some, sugary foods may cause breakouts on the forehead (and possibly all over the face), so that’s something to consider, too.
Hairline. Hair conditioner may be the cause of hairline breakouts. Hair conditioner ingredients, in order for it to attach to the hair follicle and smooth the cuticles, need to be processed and combined with heavy oil-soluble ingredients, since hair is somewhat water repellent. These ingredients may be occlusive and block the pores.
Solution: After rinsing your hair conditioner out, wash your face afterwards and really concentrate on cleansing this area well to remove any residue. Also, be conscious of not getting leave-in hair conditioner or hair styling products onto the skin. When you get out of the shower, be sure to wipe the skin really good with an alcohol-free toner for your skin type to ensure the skin is clean.
Tops of cheekbones. This area is where the sun’s rays will naturally gravitate to on the face, since cheekbones are raised and the sun will see them the most. Prolonged sun exposure and damage can make the oil glands atrophy, causing them to not work the way they used to, as well as becoming enlarged. Large pores will cause them to get clogged easier and more bacteria can grow, resulting in small breakouts.
Solution: Wear a zinc oxide-based, lightweight, non-pore clogging sunscreen like Daily Protection SPF 30 faithfully and reapply during the day by dusting on an SPF-infused mineral powder.
One recommendation is make for my clients is to have them track their every move with a calendar to see if there is a pattern when new breakouts appear. You can read more about how to do that here. While every skin is different and the cause of breakouts vary due to one’s own body chemistry, these are definitely things you’ll want to consider in your quest for clearer, healthier skin with fewer breakouts.
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Celebrity Esthetician & Skincare Expert
As an esthetician trained in cosmetic chemistry, Renée Rouleau has spent 30 years researching skin, educating her audience, and building an award-winning line of products. Trusted by celebrities, editors, bloggers, and skincare obsessives around the globe, her vast real-world knowledge and constant research are why Marie Claire calls her “the most passionate skin practitioner we know.”