Forehead Acne (Pimples) Causes, Pictures, Treatment

Acne is a common skin problem. It affects as many as 4 out of 5 Americans at some point in their lives. Estimates are that as much as 20% of these acne sufferers will experience severe scarring. There is no cure for acne. It is a complex multifactorial condition and therefore treatment has to be individualized to some extent depending on the patient. Acne usually resolves on its own it time but proper treatment and management is important to prevent complications like permanent scarring.

What is forehead acne?

Forehead acne is acne that affects the brow. It typically presents with pimples. Usually forehead acne occurs with acne that affects the rest of the face while sometimes it is an extension of scalp acne. There are instances where acne only affects the forehead and no other part of the face, scalp or regions where acne typically occurs on the body.  Although acne is often seen as a transient condition that can exist anywhere from a few weeks to several years, severe scarring that may arise can last a lifetime.

The lesions that are seen in acne can vary from small whiteheads and blackheads to large cysts under the skin. However, acne is not the only skin condition that may be occur on the forehead. The symptoms may overlap with other skin conditions that causes a forehead rash. Overall acne is a complex condition with multiple factors at play. Treatment that targets just one factor may not be effective on its own and therefore several treatments for acne may be combined.

Causes of Forehead Acne

The skin has many tiny sebaceous glands (oil-producing glands) which releases oil (sebum) to moisturize the skin. The oil production is usually balanced in healthy skin to ensure that skin does not become too dry or too oily. The pilosebaceous unit contains the sebaceous gland, its duct and hair follicle. These are sometimes tiny hairs that are not easily visible. Acne affects this pilosebaceous unit which can become infected and inflamed.

Acne is not caused by a single factor. There is an interplay of multiple factors. Genetics are believed to be the most important risk fact. People with a family history of acne have a greater chance of developing acne. Just as important is the excess production of skin oil (sebum) which is often a consequence of hormonal changes. Androgens (male hormones) are known to increase sebum production and changes in these hormone levels occur during and after puberty.

The dead skin cells also accumulate and eventually combine with the excess oil it can. Ultimately it plugs follicles. This is then complicated by the colonization of the follicles with the Propionibacterium acnes bacteria. The skin releases chemicals which then promotes inflammation.  Collectively all these factors lead to the skin lessons seeing acne. The face, scalp, chest, back and shoulders are most affected because of the higher concentration of oil-producing glands in the skin at these regions.

However, with forehead acne there are also other factors that may exacerbate the condition. Oil from the hair, both natural and artificial (from hair care products), can make contact with the skin on the forehead. The hair, bacteria on it as well as chemical irritants may exacerbate the skin inflammation. The use of hats, head bands, head scarves and hair pieces may further complicate the condition especially if it comes in direct contact with the forehead.

Signs and Symptoms

Acne presents with skin lesions which can vary to some extent depending on the severity of condition. Itching of the skin, painful lesions, oily skin and redness are some of the accompanying symptoms.

  • Whiteheads (open comedones) and blackheads (closed comedones) are plugged pores usually without inflammation which may precede pimples (papules).
  • Small red pimples (papules) and pus-filled pimples (pustules).
  • Large solid nodules that lie under the skin surface and is painful.
  • Pus-filled cysts  lies beneath the surface of the skin.

There are usually no other symptoms. However, in about 20% of cases there is severe scarring. It is more likely to occur in people who use harsh skin treatments for acne, who pick the pimples and with deeper lesions like cysts.

Pictures of Severe Acne

Picture of forehead acne.

Picture of face acne.

Sourced from

Forehead Acne Treatment

Although the various factors that contribute to acne is known there is still no cure for the condition. However, acne is treatable. With proper management it is less likely to lead to scarring. Acne is mainly treated topically (surface skin treatments) but in severe or prolonged cases systemic treatment with oral medication may be necessary. Some of these drugs have severe side effects and the benefits have to be weighed against the harmful effects before medication is used.

Topical applications and oral medication have one or more of the following effects:

  • Dries the skin.
  • Prevents clogging of the follicles.
  • Destroys bacteria on the skin surface.
  • Alters the hormone levels.
  • Reduces inflammation of the skin.
  • Shrinks pores and helps skin cells shed.

Read more on treatment for severe acne.

How to clear acne

Medicated skin applications and other treatments are not always necessary for treating acne. Mild cases can be effectively managed conservatively with lifestyle measures. It is important to understand that diet does not play a role in managing acne. Avoiding chocolates or greasy foods will not stop or reduce acne.

  • Wash the face and forehead thoroughly several times in the day. A mild soap will suffice but antibacterial soaps have both a drying effect and destroy bacteria on the skin surface.
  • Avoid oily skin applications including sunscreens with a high oil content. Many of these applications have a low oil variety.
  • Do not wear cosmetics like makeup as far as possible. If necessary, it should be used for very short periods of time and thoroughly removed. Do not use makeup daily if acne is a problem.
  • Ensure that hair does not make contact with the forehead when acne is a problem. Also minimize the use of hair care and styling products.
  • Never pinch or squeeze pimples. Any sort of picking should be invited and this includes touching the area with the fingers for no specific reason.

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