This is what can cause those annoying pimples around the mouth

How to treat these pesky zits.

Written by
Marni Dixit
Medically reviewed by
min read
Table of contents

While acne tends to occur in both women and men during our teenage years and will usually disappear as we age, it can sometimes persist until you're well into your 30s or 40s. Interestingly, acne — formally known as acne vulgaris — is seen more commonly in adult women than in men, with almost twice as many women seeking help for acne than men [1].

Another annoying fact about acne is that can pop up across the body — from your chest, back and arms to your temples and neck. And, then there are those pesky zits that pop up around your mouth.

Acne is a skin condition that's caused when dead skin cells, bacteria and sebum (the skin's natural oil) are trapped in the skin's pores. It may result in whiteheads, blackheads, pustules (pimples), nodules and cysts. The good thing is, however, it can be treated with skincare or medication.

So, if you often find yourself getting adult acne breakouts around your mouth, we're here to help! Let's look at what causes it and how you can treat acne.

What causes acne around the mouth?

You may develop pimples around your mouth for many reasons, including external or hormonal reasons, though the exact cause is actually unknown.

You're likely to see chin acne and mouth acne if you are often touching these areas and introducing excess oil, dirt and bacteria, which can trigger a breakout.

This can also occur when you use your phone, if you haven't changed your sheets in a while, or if your makeup and skincare are clogging your pores — this could be things like foundation, shaving cream, toothpaste or lip balm. It could even be something like helmet straps if you play a sport or ride a bike!

In some cases, acne can become a vicious cycle as we often want to cover up breakouts or oily skin with makeup, but we may end up further clogging pores and making mouth breakouts worse.

According to peer-reviewed studies, research has found cosmetics can trigger acne in 62% of cases, so it's important to choose non-comedogenic products that won't clog your pores and in turn, help manage acne [2].

Hormonal acne also often occurs in the lower third of the face, around the jawline, mouth and chin. You'll likely see that you have periods of clear skin and flare-ups as the body produces excess androgen, the hormone that stimulates oil production in your skin.

While hormonal acne can occur in both men and women, it is seen more in women due to the continual fluctuation of hormones when going during the menstrual cycle, pregnancy and menopause.

Women with PCOS will also likely see breakouts more often. Up to 85% of adult women will report a worsening of their breakouts in the days before they get their period [3]. Premenstrual acne flare-ups are also more likely to occur in women over the age of 30. Men will see hormonal acne as testosterone levels fluctuate.

Is acne around the mouth and chin more common in women?

Acne around the mouth and chin is more common in women because their hormone levels change during their menstrual cycles and again during pregnancy or menopause. It could also be due to incorrect skincare or cosmetic products that may clog pores.

Teenagers — specifically teenage boys — will often experience acne breakouts during growth spurts due to hormone changes.

Types of breakouts around the mouth

You can experience different types of acne breakouts around the mouth, with blackheads and whiteheads usually treatable with over-the-counter products.

However, papules, pustules, cysts and nodules tend to cause the most discomfort and may require prescription medication. Here's how they differ:


These are closed comedones, usually small spots or bumps, with a circular white centre with a red halo. Whiteheads generally don't cause acne scarring.


These are open comedones and will appear as dark spots that may be slightly raised. While the skin around a blackhead will appear normal, the centre is darker.

The colour difference is due to trapped dirt. A blackhead starts as a whitehead, but they have opened, widened, and darkened after exposure to air.


These are bumps under the skin's surface and appear raised, solid and tender, with the skin surrounding it also inflamed. Papules have no visible centre, unlike whiteheads.

Pustules (pimples)

Pustules will usually look like they're larger and more inflamed whiteheads. They are larger, tender bumps with a defined centre filled with white or yellow pus.


These are hard, inflamed lumps deep within the skin. Similar to papules, they don't have heads.

Nodules are a severe form of acne and can cause scarring. They are caused by clogged pores that become infected and swell beneath the skin's surface.


These are large, painful, red or white lumps that are deep in the skin. However, unlike a nodule, they are filled with pus. Cysts are the most severe type of acne, and you should seek professional medical advice if this is the type of acne you regularly experience.

What do pimples around your mouth mean?

While acne around the mouth is often linked to fluctuations in hormones, some researchers have challenged this idea, suggesting there isn't any concrete evidence to suggest these changes are causing breakouts [4].

Breakouts around the mouth could be caused by anything from increased sensitivity of the oil glands to your hormone levels. In fact, Ancient Chinese acne face mapping believes that mouth breakouts are linked with hormonal fluctuations.

However, as mentioned above, it can also be using comedogenic products that clog your pores, touching your face and spreading bacteria or sleeping on a pillowcase for too long.

How do I get rid of pimples around my mouth?

Acne around the mouth should respond to the same acne treatments you would use to treat acne elsewhere on the face. You can try over-the-counter products or prescription treatments depending on the severity of your acne.

Ingredients that are commonly used in acne treatment include:

  • Azelaic acid: This kills microorganisms on your skin and reduces swelling. Azelaic acid is a natural acid found in various grains.
  • Benzoyl peroxide: This is a well-known ingredient for fighting acne and works by reducing acne-causing bacteria and drying out the skin.
  • Retinoids (vitamin A derivatives): Retinoids can help reduce the production of oil on your skin while also having anti-inflammatory properties that can help reduce the redness and swelling associated with inflamed acne.
  • Salicylic acid: Another popular ingredient, salicylic acid works by exfoliating the skin, clearing away acne-causing bacteria and helping to regulate oil production.

Software's personalised prescription acne treatment uses medical-grade ingredients to treat acne for good thanks to the power of prescription retinoids, niacinamide, azelaic acid and hyaluronic acid. Simply complete our 100% text-based consult with an Australian doctor and they'll create a personalised prescription formula just for you.

From here, your formula will be compounded and delivered straight to your door — there's no need to make any appointments. Plus, you can access ongoing, follow-up support from your doctor as you use your treatments. You can officially say goodbye to those annoying mouth pimples.

If you're wanting to explore your options, you might also want to consider Software's Acne Kit, which contains all of the non-prescription skincare heroes you need to fight acne. Inside the kit, you'll find the Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash, the Ceramide Repair Balm, the AHA/BHA Pimple Patches (which also help to stop you from popping the pimples) and the Acne Supplement to target acne at all stages.

The Software Acne Kit also pairs perfectly with any personalised formulas you may receive after your online consultation with a Software professional, but always make sure to chat with them first for advice.

If your pimples don't go away with these ingredients, there are also in-clinic treatments you can try. These include:

  • Chemical peels: These remove layers of skin and reduce pimples.
  • Laser skin resurfacing: If your skin produces too much oil, this reduces the amount of oil your sebaceous glands produce.
  • Microdermabrasion: This removes the top layers of your skin and frees any clogged pores that could lead to pimples.

Can you prevent acne around the mouth and chin?

One of the best ways to prevent breakouts around the mouth and chin is to keep the skin clean and avoid touching your face if you haven't washed your hands as this is a common way that acne-causing bacteria can be transferred, causing breakouts.

Changing your sheets and pillowcases regularly is also important to help prevent bacteria from coming into contact with the face.

Of course, another way to prevent acne around the mouth and chin is to maintain a good daily skincare routine that improves your skin long-term and gets rid of any bacteria before pimples can form. And, for professional advice, consider chatting with one of our Software doctors today for personalised advice.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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