What causes acne on your temples?

Everything you need to know about those pesky pimples that pop up on your temples.

Written by
Sophie Overett
Medically reviewed by
min read
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If you’re reading this, you probably know the feeling — a tenderness at your temple, an irritation to the side of an eyebrow, a tiny bump that turns into a lump that turns into a white-headed volcano on the side of your face.

And, the appearance of temple pimples always magically coincides with that presentation or job interview or date or party, or even just lunch with mum, who you know is going to bring it up.

Pimples are the sort of thing we pray will vanish with puberty, but the reality is there are a lot of other causes of acne than just the rush of adolescent hormones, which means saying goodbye to your teens won’t necessarily see the end of pesky pimples. And, in some cases, you can still experience acne on your chest, back, neck, arms and breasts long after you're a teenager.

So, how do you treat acne? What is the best way to manage pimples on your temples? And how do you take care of your skin in a way that keeps it healthy and us feeling confident?

What is acne?

In a 2017 article published in The Medical Journal of Australia, acne is defined as "a chronic inflammatory disease of the pilosebaceous unit resulting from androgen-induced increased sebum production; altered keratinisation; bacterial colonisation of hair follicles on the face, neck, chest and back by Propionibacterium acnes, and an inflammatory response in the skin. The exact way these processes interact and the order in which they occur in the pathogenesis of acne is still unclear."

Phew! Dropping the medical jargon, this basically means that experts aren't sure about the specifics of acne causes because everyone's body is so different but they do know that it's a perfect storm of hormones, bacteria and inflammation.

What causes acne and pimples on your temple?

When we talk about acne, we’re talking about a disease that has a lot of variations.

You might have chronic acne, severe acne, or only have it occasionally, you might only get it when you get your period, or in summer, or when you’re stressed, or when you eat certain foods, or you might get it for a combination of reasons.

It’s hard to know the exact cause because everyone is a specific blend of genes, environments and circumstances that could trigger an acne breakout. That said, there are a few common causes of acne — particularly those temple pimples that can feel particularly visible.

These include:


A hormonal imbalance is often the cause of acne. These imbalances lead to an increase in sebum, which is the oil created from the sebaceous glands in the middle layer of your skin, which can interact with bacteria and dead skin cells to clog your pores which — you guessed it — creates pimples.

So how do you avoid a hormonal imbalance and in turn, hormonal acne? We wish it was an easy question to answer.

Hormonal imbalances are caused by a lot of things, some you can control like lack of sleep, stress or the type of skincare you use, and some you can kind of control like your period and the type of birth control you use.

Others are totally out of your control like genes, early pregnancy, using hormone treatments while transitioning, and pre-existing health conditions.

You might not always be able to control the cause in that sense, but there are definitely ways you can address the pimples themselves, which we’ll get to in a second.

Cosmetics and makeup brushes

Don’t worry, this isn’t the bit where we tell you to throw away your favourite palettes — makeup itself doesn’t cause acne, but sometimes some of the ingredients in them can.

Research from 2021 found that algae extract, benzaldehyde (and other added fragrances), silicones (commonly found in primers, deodorants, sunscreen and hair products like dry shampoo), coconut and avocado oil, isopropyl and isostearate are all ingredients that can clog pores and increase the risk of acne.

While your makeup can be a culprit in clogged pores, never underestimate the impact of your sponges, brushes and washcloths too.

These can be breeding grounds for bacteria that can have a damaging impact on your skin, and washing these regularly is crucial to keeping your skin fresh, clean and healthy.

It's recommended that you wash your foundation brushes at least once a week and other brushes at least fortnightly.

Phone screens

If you think your brushes are bad, wait until you get a load of your mobile phone screen.

Just think of everything you do with it — catch the bus, check recipes mid-cooking with cake batter crusting up in your nail beds, text at the bar, and doom scroll in the bathroom — your phone screen can be a breeding ground for bacteria, which can work against you in the fight against acne on your temples.

And, even if you use earphones to answer calls, therefore avoiding contact with the phone and your face, think about how often you touch the screen and then touch your face and temples.

To avoid spreading bacteria from your phone to your face, try to regularly clean your phone with alcohol wipes and maybe leave it behind the next time you're heading to the bathroom.

Treating acne on your temples

There are a lot of ways to treat severe acne and other skin problems in a way that goes beyond a healthy diet and washing your face.

Addressing oil production across your T-zone (or entire face!), staying in tune with bodily changes and hormone levels, and treating your skin gently and kindly is a way to reduce acne breakouts before they get the chance to begin.

Here's how to tackle acne treatments...

Over-the-counter products

Sometimes though, you can be living your best life and that stubborn acne just won't budge. In this case, there are plenty of over-the-counter skincare products out there to help you get those oil glands under control and get rid of your acne.

If you're not across the benefits of salicylic acid for acne-prone skin, you're in for a treat. Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) that exfoliates and unclogs blocked pores, clears away acne-causing bacteria and reduces the formation of blackheads.

Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash is a gentle exfoliator designed to slough away dead skin cells, target inflamed acne and clear debris and trapped oils in the pores. It's the perfect addition to your skincare routine, especially if you're regularly dealing with pesky breakouts.

The Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash can be used on the face, across the temples and on other areas of the body where breakouts occur. Use it two to three times a week to dissolve clogged pores, which in turn, will lead to fewer breakouts, while also helping to heal active inflamed breakouts far quicker.

It's important to remember that when you're starting to try out new products, there's a bit of trial and error involved, particularly if you're new to exploring skincare products.

If you have sensitive skin or are unsure if you have hormonal acne or inflammatory acne, sometimes the best step you can take is to talk to a medical professional.

Document yourself

Paying closer attention to what you put in and on your body, as well as what comes out and off it, is something we should all be doing, especially when we’re looking to create a real change.

Before you start mixing and matching products, it can be good to take some photos of your skin and create a skincare journal where you can record things like how much water you drank, how much sleep you got, where you’re at in your cycle if you have one, and what products you’ve used on your skin that day.

This can be a concrete way to keep track of progress (or the lack thereof) and feel the change we might not always see.

As a part of that, it can also be a good thing to explore face mapping.

Spot treatments

When these breakouts appear, it can be tempting to pick or squeeze them. While it might feel temporarily satisfying, it does increase the chance of acne scarring.

That's when a spot treatment comes in handy.

Not only do Software's AHA/BHA Pimple Patches prevent you from picking at your breakouts, but these handy spot treatment stickers work to remove dead skin cells and unclog the affected pore, control acne-causing bacteria and dry out excess oil in the zit.

Simply pop on a pimple patch, leave it for two hours and soon you'll be greeted with visibly clearer and less inflamed skin.

Acne face mapping

Face mapping has its roots in ancient practices like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine, and it postulates that the health of the skin on your face is linked to underlying issues, primarily in major organ systems in the body.

For example, it suggests that the cause of forehead acne is linked to your digestive system, so you might need to look at your diet, while pimples on your chin are more likely to be about your reproductive system.

A part of documenting yourself can include face mapping. In this practice, pimples along your temples are connected to the kidneys and bladder, meaning the issue is seen to be a result of dehydration or inflammation in that part of your body.

While there is little scientific research that supports face mapping, responding to this ancient practice by drinking more water to help dehydration isn't a bad thing.

Clinical strength treatments

With so many products on the market, talking to a health practitioner who specialises in the world of acne can be a huge help. Software offers medical-grade treatments for acne that our local practitioners tailor to your personal skin needs and goals.

Simply complete our online consult and a Software practitioner will recommend a formula that has been developed by dermatologists, which is then compounded for you. You'll have access to ongoing support from your practitioner as you use your treatment, which means you can change or update your formula at any time.

Your personal formula could include a combination of medical-grade retinoids, niacinamide or hyaluronic acid to treat these pesky breakouts, focusing on the problem area of your temples.

Start your skincare journey today, and say goodbye to those temple pimples for good!

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  1. Ghani, H, Rahman, R, Liu, K, Cubelli, S. An Investigation of Makeup Ingredients and Their Effects on Acne Cosmetica with Dermatologic Practice Recommendations in The National Society for Cutaneous Medicine Journal, 2021. https://jofskin.org/index.php/skin/article/view/1289/pdf
  2. Harris, V, Cooper, A, Modern Management of Acne, The Medical Journal of Australia, 2017. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2017/206/1/modern-management-acne
  3. Jeffries, M, Two Types of Face Mapping to Improve Skin Health, https://drmichellejeffries.com/face-mapping/
  4.  Tan, A. U, Schlosser, B.J, Paller, A.S, A Review of Diagnosis and Treatment of Acne in Adult Female Patients, International Journal of Women's Dermatol, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986265/
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