How to Determine Why You're Breaking Out Based on Where Breakouts Happen
Acne can be erratic and stubborn. Even if you have the most dedicated skincare regimen, blemishes often still find a way to rear their ugly heads, and this can be a persistent issue well beyond your teenage years. But there is good news: If you pay attention to where you're breaking out, you can potentially pinpoint the root cause—that means you might be able to lessen the severity of future blemishes.
Most breakouts can be attributed to hormones, genetics, and our environment, says dermatologist Sandra Lee. And according to Ayurveda, the ancient Indian holistic healing science, our external appearance is merely a reflection of our internal health, notes Amy Engel, the co-founder of Taza Ayurveda. "Our daily diet and lifestyle choices have a holistic impact, with imbalances on the inside leading to issues on the outside," she explains. "Stress, too little sleep, and poor diet are just a few examples of behaviors that can generate internal imbalances that weaken our immunity and enable the bacteria present in our body to negatively affect our skin." Here, both Dr. Lee and Engel decode what your acne is trying to tell you, based on where it is located on your face.
Ayurveda maintains that breakouts on the forehead are related to the nervous and digestive system, and can indicate excess stress and overindulgence in sugars and fats, Engel says. She recommends practicing calming activities like yoga and eliminating processed sugars and unhealthy fats from your diet. You can also try adding a probiotic supplement into your diet if digestive symptoms don't improve.
Dr. Lee adds that the forehead is a common area for breakouts because it is part of the T-zone, the area of the face with the highest concentration of sebaceous glands (the structures in our skin responsible for producing sebum, or oil). "Hormones can make us oilier during certain times of the month, which can also explain an increase in breakouts in areas with more sebaceous glands, like the forehead," Dr. Lee says. This is also a common area to get pomade acne, she says: If you have bangs or put a lot of product on your hair, it could clog the pores on your forehead. "Be sure you're using topical products that are non-comedogenic, meaning they are minimally occlusive and don't promote the development of blackheads," she advises.
"Acne on the cheeks is often tied to genetics, but it can also be caused by everyday habits like having a phone pressed against your cheek, or touching your face often when your hands aren't clean," Dr. Lee notes. Make sure anything that touches your face is clean—including your pillowcase and sheets. And never go to bed without washing your face.
The nose is part of the T-zone, so it has a higher density of oil glands than most of the skin on your face, Dr. Lee says. "When oil is mixed with dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria, blackheads, whiteheads, and sebaceous filaments are usually the first to pop up," she explains. "They're very common in the nose area. The best way to treat them is by using an exfoliating face wash that will help unclog pores and break down sebum, like products with salicylic acid and retinol."
Chin and Jawline
Breakouts on the chin and jawline can signify yeast overgrowth in the gut, Engel says. With these types of breakouts, cleaning up a sugar-filled diet can help, but hormones are most often the culprit: "Pimples along the chin and jaw area usually reveal a fluctuation in hormones, which can over-stimulate the oil glands and clog pores," Dr. Lee says. "Men tend to get acne mainly during these teenage years when hormones are spiking. However, women can continue to get breakouts in adulthood because of fluctuating hormone levels during menstrual cycles."
She adds that people with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) have increased hormone levels, and also experience more breakouts in this area of the face. Stay consistent with your skincare routine to minimize blemishes, and spot treat with a product containing benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or tea tree oil.