Enjoy a life free from forehead acne with these tips

There are a few main culprits that can cause acne.

Written by
Sarah Stivens
Medically reviewed by
min read
Table of contents

So many of us have had that moment in the mirror — you pin back your bangs, or lean in close and... bam. Tiny (or not so tiny) bumps and blemishes all over your forehead.

The queen of the T-zone, she can be fickle at the best of times. Introduce some funky hair products or makeup into the situation, and it can pop off (no pun intended).

You might be tempted to make a run for the closest hat shop or revisit your bandana era, but sit tight. Let's explore how to enjoy a life free from forehead acne ‚Äî without having to invest in a new fedora!

What causes pimples on the forehead?

Similar to acne breakouts on other parts of the body, like the chest, arms, neck and back, there might be a number of reasons forehead pimples are showing up.

Unfortunately, acne isn't something we always get to say goodbye to at our high school graduation — some adults can still be dealing with acne into their 30s... or even their 50s [1]. But where does it come from?

In a nutshell, there are a few main culprits that can cause acne, including your hormone levels or a hormonal imbalance, family history, certain medications, health conditions, and even the hair products or skincare you use.

And because the T-zone has a bunch of oil glands, your forehead is one of the places where acne can really run rampant [2].

One last tidbit: according to peer-reviewed studies, stress can cause acne. Stress can affect your immune system, which can in turn affect your skin. Higher stress levels have been linked to more severe acne — this might be something to consider when it comes to treating your forehead acne [11].

Just like there are different causes of forehead pimples, there are also different types of pimples that can appear above your brows [3]. Knowing which type you have will help you find the best treatment, so let's get into it!

What type of acne can show up on the forehead?

When we think of acne, we usually think of red bumps on the skin and that's about it. But the term acne refers to more than just these typical blemishes [3]. It includes:


Those pesky, sometimes hard to see, spots that usually hang out near the edges of your nose. Blackheads are blocked pores that have become clogged with dead skin cells and excess oil [6].

When the light hits your pore, it can look like it's full of dirt ‚Äî it's actually your clogged hair follicle. Blackheads are super common, and can definitely pop up on your forehead [6].

Whatever you do, don't try to squeeze them out yourself! You could create scarring, or even get more bacteria inside the pore. Not worth it, we promise.


While blackheads occur with open pores, whiteheads happen when an irritated pore closes over dead skin and oil. Then you end up with small bumps on the skin that have yellow or white tips or 'heads'.

Again, it's pretty common to find whiteheads on your forehead. No popping these guys either, we mean it!

Papules, pustules, cysts, and nodules

Try and say that five times twice! Don't be fooled by their fancy names, all these pests are also really common. Papules are the small red bumps you probably associate with the word 'pimple' [8].

Pustules are, you guessed it, those volcano-type bumps that have pus inside them and can be incredibly tempting to squeeze. But, where possible, please don't pop the pimple! Popping a zit can lead to further inflammation and in some cases, can cause acne scarring.

Cysts and nodules are the type of acne that lives far deeper underneath your skin — those solid red bumps that can be painful. Cysts might have a head on them, but nodules usually don't. These guys are more often linked to severe acne, and can cause scarring.

Before we go into finding the right treatment options for each acne type, let's take one last look at what else might be behind your breakouts.

How do hormones affect forehead acne?

If we're trying to really point the finger, hormones and an oily substance called sebum are probably the ones that take most of the blame when it comes to acne triggers.

Hormonal imbalances, changes to your hormones (including puberty), menstrual cycle, or menopause can all cause breakouts [4].

Certain hormones cause pores to enlarge and in turn, create more sebum. Bacteria then mix with the sebum, which irritates your skin, and acne happens [4]. The most annoying trio ever.

What other conditions can cause forehead breakouts?

Alright, you got us. There are a couple more ways a forehead pimple breakout can happen, and they even have fancy names: acne cosmetica and acne mechanica.

Acne mechanica

It isn't caused by paying a huge bill at your local mechanic (though this might fall under the stress acne category) [5]. Instead, it refers to acne as a result of friction with your skin.

That favourite headband of yours? That cute beanie your nan knitted last winter? Might actually be causing acne. Stuff rubbing against/trapping oil on your skin = pimples on the forehead. Who knew! [5]

Acne cosmetica

Is pretty much what it sounds like — pimples caused by certain cosmetics or skincare products. This type of acne usually shows up as heaps of tiny bumps on the face and can be a delayed reaction to something you've used on your skin [9].

Lastly, you may have already heard of something called pomade acne — a type of acne cosmetica. You guessed it: forehead pimples can definitely be caused by certain hair products. Especially if they contain a lot of oil [10].

Some resources suggest trying to avoid hair products that contain lanolin, petrolatum, vegetable oils or lauryl alcohol — all of which might worsen pomade acne [5]. All of this is really individual to your skin type — if you suspect a certain ingredient or product is making your acne worse, speak to your GP or dermatologist.

By now you're definitely across the different types of acne that can appear on your forehead. Time to dig into the most important part: how to treat forehead pimples, and how to prevent them from returning.

How to get rid of forehead acne

Treating acne is very much a game of figuring out the cause, and matching your treatment plan accordingly. E.g. if you're getting heaps of blackheads, you'll need a treatment that (gently) unclogs your pores. A good skincare routine goes a long way.

There are lots of treatments on the market (it can get kinda overwhelming!). The most common are over-the-counter acne options: topical treatments like creams, washes, spot treatments, etc.

This is the stuff you might find in your supermarket or chemist [4]. These products usually contain ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and other pimple-fighting pals.

For more persistent acne some people might need prescription medication, like oral antibiotics, to clear things up. These types of treatments should always be supervised by your dermatologist or GP [4].

If you want to take the stress out of finding a solution, check out Software's customised acne treatment, which medical-grade ingredients like prescription retinoids, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid.

You'll be linked with a skincare expert who can walk you through a personalised plan to treat acne. No more staring vacantly at the supermarket shelves for hours!

Is there a way to prevent forehead acne?

Now that you've got your forehead back to its calmer, un-blotchy self, you want to keep it that way. Your wish is our command.

First, you'll want to think about the above triggers we mentioned – do you need to avoid wearing headbands? Rethink your hairstyling routine? When was the last time you washed your makeup brushes?

Once you've thought through some of these changes, it can also be good to revisit the basics:

Stick to oil-free cosmetics and skincare products

This should help calm down any excess oil production, and reduce acne in the process. We've all heard about keeping our skin hydrated, but over-hydrated skin can cause pimples [5]. Swap out oily/heavy foundations for something lighter.

Wash your skin regularly

But not too regularly, and not with products that are too harsh for your skin. Washing your skin twice a day with a gentle cleanser should be more than enough — any more than this can create skin irritation and more acne in the long run [5].

Avoid harsh skin treatments

Look, we know following the latest TikTok trends can be exciting. But before you write laser treatment in your diary, or start googling chemical peels, maybe hold off. You might actually prevent acne by not putting your skin through the wringer [5].

Think about your crowning glory

Your hair can play a huge part in forehead spots. If you have naturally oily hair, it might need to be kept in a style that doesn't rest on your forehead [5]. And if you're a total haircare fiend, it could be time to check the ingredient label — make sure you're not adding oil or other stuff that can clog pores.

Resist the temptation to squeeze

We know all about the weird satisfaction it brings you, but you could be risking infection or a permanent scar.

If you've done all these things, tried a few treatments and nothing seems to be working, it might be worth getting a check-up. Some conditions can look a lot like acne but need more specialised treatment.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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