Causes and How to Get Rid Of Mouth Acne

acne around mouth and chin

Teenage acne is what most of us think about when talking about acne breakouts, but adult acne is equally a major concern. Women especially tend to experience acne flare-ups (hormonal acne) around mouth, chin, and jawline before menstrual periods and menopause and during pregnancy, but it’s also not uncommon to see men’s face breaking out around mouth. This article will explore the different causes and ways to get rid of acne around mouth and chin.

Acne around Mouth and Chin Meaning

Acne around mouth and chin (or perioral acne) simply means that you have clogged skin pores.

Acne breakouts erupt when hormonal shifts in the body during puberty, before menstrual, and before menopause (in women) causes excessive secretion of skin oil (sebum) inside the hair follicles.

Together with dead skin cells, the oil forms a plug in the opening of the hair follicle. Consequently, the hair follicle beneath begins to swell, culminating in acne bumps.

Acne around mouth and chin, and indeed anywhere else in the body, usually begins as whiteheads. An overgrowth of the normally harmless skin bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) in the plugs formed in the hair follicles may, however, cause further inflammation, resulting in pustules and cysts (or zits). These bacteria produce irritating chemicals.

Among the most common symptoms of mouth acne are:

  • Whiteheads. Also referred to as closed comedones.
  • Blackheads (open comedones). As the name suggests, blackheads are acne bumps or lesions with darkened tips, formed when the oil and other content in a whitehead becomes exposed to the air and oxidize.
  • Cysts. Tender, painful, pus-filled bumps that are associated with severe teenage and adult acne.
  • Redness. This occurs in the affected areas of the skin due to inflammation.
  • Oily skin. Although not always, pimples and cysts on the mouth and chin – and the whole body in general – have a tendency to be accompanied by oily skin.
  • Scars. Severe acne may leave you with scars.

Mouth Acne vs Herpes

Acne around mouth is not to be confused with herpes; if the pimples occur around the lips, they may easily be mistaken with the bumps caused by herpes (cold sores). There are some essential differences though that can help you to distinguish between lip acne and cold sores.

Firstly, acne pimples involve a hair follicle and because the lip has no hairs, bumps that occur directly on the lip or lip-line are most likely cold sores.

Secondly, herpes manifest itself in clusters of soft, fluid-filled blisters whereas perioral acne typically presents itself as standalone, firm, white or red bumps. An exception applies for cystic acne around mouth, which is characterized by tender, painful lesions, but these, too, still have a characteristic look that is different from cold sores.

Read more about the differences between lip acne and cold sores and learn how to tell that what you are dealing with is really not herpes.

Why Am I Breaking Out Around My Mouth? – Acne around Mouth Causes

Here are some of the top causes of breakouts around the mouth:

  • Lip balm. The fragrances and wax in lip balm products can clog the pores and irritate the hair follicles, leading to more sebum production. This can then cause acne around mouth.
  • Cellphone. Cellphones and other tech accessories can collect and accumulate dirt, sweat, bacteria, and oil from your face and hands and thus act as a trigger for acne bumps when they come into contact with your mouth area.
  • Toothpaste. The sodium lauryl sulfate used in toothpaste as a sudsing agent can also clog the skin pores leading to pimples breakouts around the mouth and chin.
  • Stress. Stress won’t cause new breakouts of pimples around mouth, or anywhere else on the body for that matter, but it can make already existing acne flare-ups worse, says the WebMD.
  • Certain medications. Mouth area breakouts can also occur as a side-effect of certain medications. Corticosteroids and lithium-based medications are common culprits.
  • Waxing and threading. Waxing and threading can both irritate hair follicles and create a suitable ground for bacterial action leading to inflammation and ultimately acne spots.
  • Sugar spikes in blood. Have a sweet tongue. Then it may be the underlying cause of acne breakouts around the mouth.
  • Comedogenic face creams. Thick moisturizers and skin care products, especially the petroleum-based ones and those that contain thick wax, can clog skin pores leading to a breakout of pimples around the mouth, chin, nose, and other areas of the skin.
  • Hormonal fluctuations. Any life stage (e.g. teenage, menopause, ovulation, pregnancy) or medical condition that cause testosterone (male hormone) fluctuations may be an underlying cause of mouth area breakouts.

Acne around Mouth Pictures

The pictures included below show patients with breakouts around the mouth area ranging from mild bumps (whiteheads) to severe pimples and cystic acne flare-up on the mouth and chin:

acne around mouth picture 4
Acne cysts in the mouth area
acne around mouth 5
Mouth and chin breakout
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Mild acne in the mouth area

Hormonal Acne around Mouth in Women

Women experience adult acne breakouts more than men and it is thought that this has to do with their hormonal fluctuations. According to Stuart Kaplan, MD., a dermatologist based in Beverly Hills, “About a third of women will get adult acne, usually in their early 30s, even if they didn’t have breakouts when they were younger”.

Dr. Kaplan says that estrogen levels decline at a faster rate than testosterone from the late 20s onwards. Higher levels of testosterone (male hormones, even in women) increase oil production, often leading to clogging of hair follicles. This may be a precursor to breakouts of hormonal acne around mouth and chin and indeed anywhere else in the body.

PCOS is also associated with higher levels of testosterone in women and may also be an underlying cause of hormonal acne.

Hormonal fluctuation associated with menstrual periods is also a common underlying factor for hormonal acne in women.

You will know you are dealing with hormonal acne if the condition exhibits the following qualities:

  • It occurs at specific times of the month, i.e. during ovulation, just before menstrual periods, or at the beginning of your periods.
  • It tends to manifest to show up in the form of cysts; painful, inflamed, pus-filled, sac-like bumps. Hormonal acne may as well present in the form of whiteheads, particularly on the lip, and sometimes small pimples.
  • Hormonal acne tends to occur in the mouth area first, i.e. around the sides of the mouth, on the chin, below the nose, and in some instances along the jawline. As the breakout progresses in severity, the pimples and cysts (zits) often spread to the cheeks, forehead, and in some instances the shoulders, buttocks, back.
  • You will also know you are dealing with a case of hormonal acne around mouth if it either improves or gets worse when treated with birth control methods.

Acne around Mouth and Chin in Men

Although adult acne tends to affect women more due to hormonal fluctuations associated with menstrual periods, ovulation etc., men are not spared either. Any man can get acne flare-ups around the mouth but men who use steroids are at an even higher risk because it causes them to have excessive testosterone. Hormonal acne aside, men can also get perioral breakouts due to any of the factors highlighted above.

If you are a man suffering from breakouts around the mouth area, the following steps may help:

  1. Don’t shave with active acne breakout. If you have an active breakout in the mouth area, forego shaving until it clears to avoid further irritation of the hair follicles. This can cause more severe acne especially cystic acne.
  2. Shave properly. Improper shaving is one of the main cause of chin acne in men. Once the cysts have cleared and you are good to shave, use a sharp, good quality razor and shave in the direction of hair growth.
  3. Don’t touch the bumps. Avoid picking at and touching the acne pimples, cysts (zits), or whiteheads.
  4. Look for SLS-free toothpaste and shave creams. Ensure that your toothpaste and after-shave cream is free of Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) as it is known to be a common cause of breakouts in the mouth area in men and women alike.
  5. See a dermatologist if necessary. If the above home remedies for acne around mouth don’t seem to help the breakout, seek the attention of a dermatologist. Those zits around the mouth may benefit from treatment with topical or prescription medications.

Baby Acne around Mouth

Worried about baby acne in the mouth area? You are not alone.

Although acne typically begins from teenage onwards, babies can as well be affected by pimples breakouts in their first few weeks of their life. According to NHS choices, it is not clear what causes baby acne, but it is thought to result from the exchange of hormones between the baby and the mother.

Use of oily moisturizers and baby skin care products could also be a cause of baby acne. Baby acne usually appears on the cheeks, nose, and forehead according to the WebMD but it can appear anywhere else on the skin including the chest and back.

As regards how to get rid of baby acne around mouth, your best bet is time. Baby acne typically clears up on its own without necessitating treatment. It is often claimed that if your baby keeps getting pimples around the mouth or any other part of the skin, it is indicative of higher risk of teenage acne but the WebMD disagrees with this claim saying that “Baby acne has nothing to do with whether your child will have acne problems as a teenager.”

Read more: Home Remedies for Baby Acne

How to Get Rid Of Acne around Mouth and Chin – Mouth Acne Treatment

If your face is breaking out around the mouth there is good news for you; mouth acne pimples and cysts can be cleared effectively and in so doing, you help to prevent the formation of acne scars.

Note however that it is unlikely that the mouth breakout will go away overnight; it takes consistent treatment with home remedies and over the counter acne treatment products to see results. With that said, below are some of the ways in which you can treat and get rid of acne around mouth more relatively faster:

  1. Stop using lip balm for a while. You may find that this simple step helps to get rid of the zits around your mouth.
  2. Switch to unflavored, fragrance-free lip balm that contains pure wax.
  3. Wipe your cell phone frequently with phone soap or alcohol (or Clorox) wipes.
  4. Try using an SLS-free toothpaste. A good example is Sensodyne ProNamel Mint Essence
  5. Avoid sleeping with the makeup on. Use a high-quality facial cleanser such as Cerave, Cetaphil, etc. to cleanse your face every night.
  6. Opt for oil-free (water-based) facial moisturizers. Oil-based and thick moisturizing lotions and creams can clog the skin pores and cause pimples in the mouth area.
  7. Spot-treat with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Over the counter acne treatment products that contain salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide are usually effective and are recommended for treatment of pimples on the mouth and chin. This is especially helpful for severe cases of cystic acne (zits); it will also minimize the risk of scars formation.
  8. Apply topical retinoids such as Retin-A, Differin, and Tazorac. Treatment with these vitamin A-derivatives that are available both over-the-counter and by prescription may also help to unclog the skin pores and thus get rid of acne around mouth and chin.
  9. Apply lemon juice. Citrus fruits are rich in Alpha Hydroxyl acids are often effective home remedies for perioral acne. Simply dab fresh lemon juice on the mouth area and then apply a water-based moisturizer twice daily.
  10. Try steam treatment. Lean over a basin of how water and then drape a heavy towel over your head for 20 minutes 2-3 times per week. This may help to open the clogged skin pores and thus flush out the clogging bacteria, dead skin cells, and dirt.
  11. See a dermatologist. If you keep getting pimples around mouth or have a severe breakout that does not respond to these home remedies for acne around mouth and chin, even with consistent use, then it is time to see a dermatologist. There are chances that you are dealing with other dermal conditions e.g. dermatitis, itching, etc.

Little Bumps around Mouth (Perioral Dermatitis)

If you have small, red, raised acne-like “pimples” around the mouth that don’t seem to improve with consistent use of the acne treatment medications and home remedies highlighted above, chances are that you are dealing with perioral dermatitis.

Like mouth acne, perioral dermatitis causes redness, little bumps, skin peeling, and sometimes mild itching and burning sensation in the nose area extending towards the lips and chin. As the American Academy of Dermatology says, perioral dermatitis is more common in women aged between 20 and 45 years, but men may as well suffer from it and so can children.

The exact cause of Perioral dermatitis is not known but it is suspected fluoride-containing toothpastes, occlusive moisturizers, and other skincare products, and cortisone creams may be causative factors. Factors such as excessive sunlight, heat, and wind are also thought to worsen the condition.

Perioral dermatitis is easily confused with mouth acne. Try switching to non-fluoridated and if using a cortisone cream on the mouth area, stop using it for a while and see if that helps. If those little bumps around mouth still persist, talk to your dermatologist.

Do you have a home remedy for acne around mouth that you think we have left out? Share with the community in the comments section.