Chin Acne: How to Get Rid of Pimples On Your Jawline, According to Dermatologists

Gabriella Cetrulo

Chin acne is the worst, and it usually involves big, painful pimples that continue to pop up again and again. These types of breakouts can cause excessive pimples along the jawline that multiply seemingly overnight. (And you're not alone: Celebs from Miley Cyrus to Demi Lovato have talked publicly about dealing with breakouts.) There sometimes isn’t a straightforward explanation for why chin acne has sprouted up, but there are some variables to consider.

Chin acne is usually caused by hormones, which might make it seem like the problem is out of your control. But is it really? It turns out that educating yourself and taking the right steps toward a skincare routine specifically targeted to chin acne can go a long way. We talked to board-certified dermatologists and leading skincare experts to help us understand what causes chin acne, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.

But first, let’s start with the fundamentals.

In this article:

What is Chin Acne
Types of Chin Acne
How to Get Rid of Chin Acne

What is Chin Acne?

The chin area is incredibly susceptible to acne compared to other regions of the face. There are more sebaceous glands—the ones that produce oil—in this spot than others. This density is why we often experience acne more often here than other parts of the body, like elbows or ankles. According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases¹, acne occurs when hair follicles under the skin become clogged. These follicles are clogged with dead skin cells and sebum, an oil that keeps skin moisturized. When the balance is thrown off, pimples can appear on your chin.

Types of Chin Acne

You’ve probably noticed that some zits look different than others. There are two ways common acne tends to manifest: blackheads and whiteheads. But it does go a bit deeper than that. Here are the four main types of acne:

Fungal Acne

Also known as pityrosporum folliculitis, this form of acne occurs when there’s a yeast build-up in your follicles. Fungal acne is often very itchy and appears inflamed.

Cystic Acne

Cystic acne occurs deep under the surface of your skin as pus-filled nodules that cause surface-level inflammation. It’s important not to attempt popping this kind of acne, as it often can cause scarring. Cystic acne on the chin can be extremely painful and often sticks around for a long time, often interfering with everyday activities like eating and drinking.

Hormonal Acne

Hormonal acne is caused by an excess of sebum oil—this is a very common cause of acne on the chin area, including those pesky whiteheads. As you can guess from the name, this type of acne emerges due to an imbalance of hormones caused by stress, lack of sleep, certain skincare and haircare products, medications including birth control or testosterone treatments, and certain medical conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).

Nodular Acne

Severe and less common, nodular acne presents as both a pimple at the surface of the skin and a deeper pus-filled nodule under the skin (similar to cystic acne). This type of acne often requires medical intervention to relieve people of those painful nodules that form.

Chin Acne Causes

Hormones are typically behind cystic acne along the chin and jawline. When hormone levels surge, so does the production of sebum. Sebum is an oil, and that is what's causing the hormonal acne on your chin. Hormone production is in overdrive for teens, which is why teens are more susceptible to this type of acne. It's also common for women of all ages to have acne flare-ups throughout the month due to their menstrual cycle (and the hormonal fluctuations that come along with that).

"Women tend to break out on the lower third of the face, especially the jawline and chin, but the neck may also be involved," says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center. "This pattern, which I affectionately refer to as the 'beard of acne,' is a hormonally responsive area. Hormones stimulate oil production, which promote acne causing bacteria to grow and encourage pores to become clogged."

There are all kinds of irritants that can cause increased chin acne, ranging from habitually touching your face or resting your hand on your chin to wearing a face mask. Introducing a new skincare formula to your face without patch testing beforehand can also trigger acne breakouts. If you start to notice an increase in chin acne, don’t panic. It’s best to sit down and take account of anything new you may be wearing, eating, or applying to your face. While it won’t immediately resolve your acne, it’s best to have a solid idea of anything that may have changed in your routine.

How to Get Rid of Chin Acne

1. Use products with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.

Don't be afraid to use more than one product. "Combination therapy using medicines that address as many factors that lead to acne as possible is the best way to treat the skin. In terms of over-the-counter treatments, you can combine benzoyl peroxide with salicylic acid. Together, they kill acne-causing bacteria, open pimples, promote exfoliation, and help remove oil," says Dr. Zeichner. Products like CLEAR Daily Skin Clearing Treatment with 2.5% Benzoyl Peroxide from Paula’s Choice or Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Resurfacing Night Serum can help clear up acne.

In other words, we’re not promoting an excessive, multi-step skincare process often boasted by influencers. Dr. Zeichner suggests being strategic about what products you group together to better succeed at banishing chin acne altogether. This may take some trial and error, and not every product works for everyone. Be patient, and take note of what you’re using.

2. Keep your hands off your face (especially your chin).

If we’ve learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s that touching your face is one of the fastest ways to spread bacteria.

"From resting your hand on your chin while sitting at a desk or table to picking your skin while deep in thought, it’s important to keep your hands off this area," says esthetician and skin-care expert Renée Rouleau. "For chin and jawline breakouts, I recommend a non-drying, sulfate-free cleanser that uses salicylic and glycolic acids — salicylic acid helps keep bacteria out of the pores, and glycolic acid smoothes and fades post-breakout marks.” (Her eponymous brand's AHA/BHA Blemish Control Cleanser contains both, plus lactic acid.)

3. Keep your phone clean.

This tip goes hand in hand with not touching your face, and for good reason: "Behaviorally, anything we can do to reduce the amount of bacteria coming in contact with the skin lessens the chance of breaking out," says board-certified dermatologist Dendy Engelman. "Whether or not it's not touching your face, always wipe down your cell phone with an alcohol swab — I do it at least once a day with my phone." Don’t hesitate to grab yourself a few screen wipes for convenience or use headphones when on a phone call.

4. Exfoliate your skin regularly.

It's not just something to ward off wrinkles or fine lines — exfoliation is an essential step in keeping skin looking clear and avoiding breakouts long-term. "You can get chemical exfoliation through retinoids, physically using like a Clarisonic or an exfoliating brush, or with a very gentle physical exfoliant," says Dr. Zeichner. We love Caudalie's Deep Cleansing Exfoliator as a gentle option, or Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant. But no matter which form you use, be sure not to overdo it. Anywhere from three to five times a week should be enough to keep skin soft and smooth without damaging the barrier.

5. Adjust your diet.

You already know that greasy foods or chocolate can sometimes cause your face to flare up, and for some, dairy might be another culprit. "Your skin acts as an excretory system to eliminate substances that don’t agree with your body," says Renée. "When you ingest more dairy than your body can digest, it can be excreted through cystic acne on the chin and jawline."

Renée suggests taking a step back and examining your eating habits so you can attempt to pinpoint the culprit foods behind chin acne. Try eliminating certain food groups (like dairy) and documenting how each one affects the condition of your skin. Daily intake of certain foods can affect the natural balance of your skin and cause inflammation, which actually speeds up the formation of cysts. "The best way to determine if your acne is directly related to your intake of dairy is to completely cut dairy out of your diet for three weeks," Renée recommends.

If during that time you don't experience any more chin breakouts, you just might have found the root cause. She adds that you don't have to eliminate foods from your diet forever. "Slowly introduce [the food] back into your diet, and if you start breaking out again, that's your body's tolerance level," she explains.

6. Try blue LED light therapy.

You can also treat your current acne while preventing future acne with LED lights. "Blue LED light is awesome for killing bacteria underneath the skin, so even an at-home acne device works great," Joanna says. The Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask uses blue light to kill bacteria and red light to fight signs of inflammation. And, even better, it's available at the drugstore and doesn't come with a hefty price tag.

7. Incorporate sonic cleansing into your routine.

Another big key to preventing cyst formation along the chin is to focus on proper lymphatic drainage, which ensures liquids beneath the skin don't get trapped, or build up. The easiest way to do this is by incorporating sonic cleansing into your routine. A face brush, like the Clarisonic Cleansing Device, helps stimulate the cells and promote proper circulation—plus it encourages gentle exfoliation.

8. Apply ice to painful acne.

If you find yourself in pain thanks to your acne (hey, that cystic acne is no joke), you can reduce the pain by applying ice wrapped in a clean cloth for five minutes or less. There's no need to apply pressure—just rest your ice pack on the affected area and chill. Not only will this help calm down the pain, but it will also bring down the redness.

9. Talk to a dermatologist and consider prescription-strength topical treatments.

Sometimes it takes a prescription-strength product to get the job done. "If your face is not improving after a few weeks, visit your dermatologist for a prescription. In terms of topicals, you may be instructed to use benzoyl peroxide (at an Rx strength), topical antibiotics, topical retinoids (like Tazorac, or Retin-A), or topical dapsone, like Aczone. Another popular retinoid, Differin, is a formerly prescription-only formula that is now available at a drugstore price point. They also may want you to try oral antibiotics, hormonal therapies, or, in severe cases, Isotretinoin," says Dr. Zeichner.

Most people know Isotretinoin by the name brand, Acctuane. The prescription medication can treat severe acne and is only available via prescription. Some people commonly experience certain side effects including dryness in the skin, lips, eyes, and mouth. Researchers are still working to find out if depression and gastrointestinal issues are associated with Isotretinoin, though some people report those symptoms, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA)².

"Oral antibiotics directly kill acne-causing bacteria and can help reduce inflammation in the skin. They work while you are taking them and oftentimes for a few months after discontinuing, but the acne can recur. I rarely give out an oral antibiotic by itself—instead, I have patients use a topical acne medication at the same time and continue to use the topicals as maintenance after discontinuing the oral antibiotic," continues Dr. Zeichner.

In addition to antibiotics, your dermatologist can talk to you about other treatment options, including cortisone shots, certain birth control pills, chemical peels, and laser therapy.

It seems like a lot to consider, but knowing that there's help available is, well, a big help. Oh, also? You'll like the sound of this: "Chin acne is treatable, and we can prevent the development of permanent scars with early, appropriate action," Dr. Zeichner reassures. Hormones have nothing on that.

10. Avoid certain makeup products

While most people try to cover up chin acne and other pimples on their face with makeup, there are some products that can cause more damage. While attempting to remedy the breakout on your face, with the wrong ingredients, you could be inadvertently creating a vicious cycle by using products that clog your pores and create more blemishes.

The AADA recommends³ reading the ingredients list on makeup products and choosing items that have phrases including “oil-free” and “non-comedogenic.” It’s also important to always cleanse your face and remove your makeup before going to bed, including mascara and other eye products. Clean your brushes and sponges to ensure that bacteria is not repeatedly being placed on your face.

Meet the Experts

  • Dr. Joshua Zeichner is the director of cosmetic and clinical research at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. He specializes in treating acne and rosacea, giving patients care options to help their skin. Dr. Zeichner has won multiple awards and has taken part in extensive clinical research.

  • Renée Rouleau is a skincare specialist and celebrity aesthetician who has her own skincare line that focuses on specific skin types. Her products are categorized into nine different skin types that give clients a more personalized experience.

  • Dendy Engelman is a board-certified dermatologic surgeon at Shafer Clinic Fifth Avenue in New York City. Dr. Engelman serves as the Director of Dermatologic Surgery at New York Medical College.

Sources

  1. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. What is Acne? Definition & Types

  2. American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA). Isotretinoin: The truth about side effects

  3. American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA). I Have Acne! Is It Okay To Wear Makeup?


Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue