This is why you might be experiencing acne on your jawline

Jawline acne tends to affect women more than men.

Written by
Leeza Schwarzkopf
Medically reviewed by
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While breakouts are an inevitable part of life, it can feel frustrating to experience persistent acne — especially when it feels like you've tried every product under the sun to treat it.

One key to healing and managing acne is understanding what might be causing it and tailoring your approach to suit. There are often different causes of body acne and each can respond to different treatments or require different preventative measures.

The same goes for jawline acne. In this article, we'll cover the causes of jawline acne, why these types of breakouts can specifically affect women and what treatment options may be suitable for you.

What causes acne on the jawline?

Acne, formally known as acne vulgaris, is caused by clogged pores that become infected with the bacteria that naturally live on the skin [1]. However, there are varying reasons as to why the pores on different parts of your body may be getting clogged.

We generally get acne on our face, chest and back because of an overproduction of sebum, which is the natural oil your body produces to protect and moisturise the skin [2]. This is usually caused by an increase of androgens, also known as sex hormones, during puberty. 

If excess oil is not efficiently cleared away from the skin, it can clump together with dead skin cells, clog your pores and turn into acne breakouts.

The chin is also one of the body parts where you have the most sebaceous glands (these are glands beneath the surface of the skin which produce sebum). The sebaceous glands here are also larger, making it a more acne-prone site.

What are the types of chin acne?

There are several different types of acne but three specific types that can result in breakouts on the chin include acne cosmetica, acne mechanica and comedonal acne.

Acne cosmetica refers to breakouts related to the use of skincare products. Certain products, such as sunscreen, moisturiser and foundation, may be formulated with ingredients that are more likely to combine with your natural oils and clog pores in acne-prone skin.

Mild but persistent acne in women is often attributed to acne cosmetica. Even if the breakouts are already present, comedogenic makeup and skincare products are often found to make acne worse [3].

Acne mechanica, on the other hand, describes breakouts that are formed because of physical rubbing or pressure from a piece of clothing or equipment, usually when you're sweating from physical activity or hot weather [4].

If you regularly do an activity that requires a helmet, such as cycling, the friction of the chin strap, along with your sweat, may be causing your chin acne.

And lastly, comedonal acne is a label given to breakouts that are mostly made up of comedones. These are small bumps on your skin where your pores have become blocked but are not infected, unlike pimples, which turn red and can be filled with pus. Comedones are often also known as blackheads or whiteheads.

This type of acne usually affects the chin or forehead and can be caused by humid climates, thick moisturisers, smoking (and vaping!) and the consumption of dairy products or foods high in fat or sugar [5].

What causes jawline acne in females?

Acne, particularly in adulthood, is reportedly more common in women than it is in men, and one factor that may trigger it is a hormonal disturbance [6][7].

Adult acne is the label given to breakouts that are experienced by those over the age of 25. It may be acne that developed during puberty and persisted into adulthood, or late adult onset acne which has appeared for the first time after the age of 25 [3].

Adult women, compared to teenagers, are more likely to experience moderate acne along the jawline, around the mouth and on the side of the neck [8].

The most common hormonal irregularity seen in women with jawline acne is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). One of the main characteristics of PCOS is the excess production of male sex hormones, which are present in women. Too many of these hormones can affect your ovulation but also lead to an overproduction of sebum [9].

Health professionals will generally consider evaluating your hormone levels if you have stubborn acne that is resistant to typical topical treatments, your acne only started during adulthood, it flares up according to your menstrual cycle, and is distributed across your chin and jawline. They also look for other symptoms of PCOS and high levels of insulin [10].

Is jawline acne always hormonal?

Technically, all acne is hormonal because male hormones are what drive sebum production and sebum is a key player in what congests your skin.

But, hormonal acne is often used as a shorthand term to refer to the jawline acne women experience as a result of a hormonal imbalance. Part of this labelling is also due to the fact that hormonal therapy is available for women, but that type of medication is not suitable for men with acne [11].

While irregular hormone levels, often linked to PCOS, are the most common internal cause of jawline acne in women, there is also a wide range of external influences that can be contributing to acne in this area.

Researchers have found that chronic stress can also activate excess oil production, therefore exacerbating hormonal jawline acne. Some studies also link certain foods as contributors to hormonal breakouts.

For example, one paper states that 23.33 per cent of female participants with hormonal acne frequently consumed oily foods, while another paper found that 50 per cent of adult acne patients regularly ate dairy but their consumption of fruit and vegetables was below average [3].

The link between food and acne still isn't super concrete but it is interesting context, nonetheless.

How to treat jawline acne

Incorporating a topical treatment into your skincare routine is typically considered to be a good starting point for any acne. Software's medical-grade acne treatment includes active ingredients such as azelaic acid and niacinamide help to prevent acne by reducing your skin's oiliness and the likelihood of clogged pores.

Azelaic acid, along with high strength retinoids, also helps to reduce your skin's inflammatory response and bring down any swelling or redness. If necessary, your Software health practitioner can also recommend oral antibiotics to help manage bacterial growth and infection. Our Australian clinicians will make sure that our custom acne treatment is right for you.

If your breakouts along the jawline have been diagnosed as hormonal acne, or your skin is not responding to conventional topical therapies, your healthcare provider may recommend trying hormonal therapy.

One option is oral contraceptives, which help manage hormonal fluctuations and can treat hormonal acne. This can be a practical approach for a patient who may require birth control pills, along with treatment for hormonal jaw acne.

You may also like to try over-the-counter products that contain benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which can help regulate oil production and treat the inflammation related to acne. Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash helps to unclog pores, wash away dead skin cells and clear acne-causing bacteria to help reduce the formation of zits.

Use on the affected area two to three times per week to keep acne at bay. This wash can be used across the body and target acne on the legs, butt, breasts and arms.

Managing lifestyle factors that could be worsening your acne can also prove to be helpful [13]. Given stress can play a role in acne, consider implementing strategies to reduce your stress like mindfulness and meditation as well as managing your work/life balance [13][14].

Before you make any changes to your diet or try any skincare treatments, it's always a good idea to consult with a health professional first, such as a GP, dietitian or board-certified dermatologist, so that you can put together a course of action that is well suited to your individual wellbeing.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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  1. MCLAUGHLIN, Mercedes, et al. Acne, The Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence, 2021.
  3. BANSAL, Prekshi, et al. A prospective study examining trigger factors and hormonal abnormalities in adult female acne, Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 2020.
  4. TORJENSEN, Ingrid. Skin-on-skin friction results in acne mechanica, Dermatology Times, 2019.
  7. GAGNON, Louise. Gaining control: birth control pills, spironolactone first-line treatments for hormonal acne, Dermatology Times, 2009.
  8. ROCHA, Marco A. and BAGATIN, Edileia. Adult-onset acne: prevalence, impact, and management challenges, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2018.
  9. Polycystic ovarian syndrome, CareNotes, 2019.
  10. ELSAIE, Mohamed L. Hormonal treatment of acne vulgaris: an update, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2016.
  11. BROWNSTONE, Nicholas. Meeting the Challenges of Acne in Adults: A common complaint in puberty, hormonal acne also affects skin health and quality of life for adults of all genders, driving the need for new solutions, Dermatology Times, 2022.
  12. LALIBERTE, Richard. Adult Acne, Prevention, 2016.
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