What Your Spots Mean: A Step-By-Step Break Down Of Your Breakouts

Girl squeezing zits on chin
Girl squeezing zits on chin
Marco via Getty Images

Whether they're popping up on your nose, cheeks, forehead or around your mouth; zits and pimples are without a doubt the bane of our existence.

"The appearance of spots may not necessarily mean you have acne," says Dr Firas Al-Niami, Sk:n Group medical director. "At times, the location and type of spots on the face can point toward a particular diagnosis."

For example, spots on your chin and jaw could signal hormonal changes in your body (such as stress), while spots around your mouth might be a sign of a condition called peri-oral dermatitis.

Intrigued? Here's what your spots mean...

"Certain hair styling products such as oils and waxes can cause forehead acne, particularly blackheads or whiteheads (comedones)," says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist and British Skin Foundation spokesperson.

"The products themselves block pores resulting in acne.

"Forehead acne can also occur if you have a fringe. Hair will rub against the forehead skin causing irritation and potentially contributing to break-outs (acne mechanica).

"The same applies for regularly wearing hats, caps, and helmets. If your hair is oily, this may further aggravate the problem."

According to a blog by Sk:n clinics, the forehead is linked to the bladder and digestion system. "The recommended treatment for spots in this area is to drink more water and eat more whole foods," the site says.

"Think about your smart phone use," says Dr Anjali Mahto. "Touch screens contain large numbers of bacteria on their surface. Placing your phone against your cheek creates pressure that may activate your oil-producing or sebaceous glands.

"Combine this with heat generated from the phone and bacteria on the phone surface, and acne can result. In men, shaving and in-grown hairs can commonly cause acne or folliculitis in the cheek, jawline and neck area."

Sk:n Group medical director Dr Al-Niami adds that spots on the cheeks can simply be due to acne, "but if found more in the central part of the face and associated with redness, flushing and sensitive skin then it may be a condition called rosacea".

"Sometimes spots on the cheeks appear due to dietary (in particular dairy) consumption," Dr Al-Niami adds. "Though not really well-understood, again it is believed that the sebaceous glands here are more sensitive to growth-factor receptors which are stimulated by a protein found in some dairy products."

According to Sk:n clinics' blog, the cheeks are linked to the respiratory system, so smokers might be more prone to spots in this area.

"Isolated spots around the mouth can be due to a diagnosis called 'peri-oral dermatitis', particularly if an eczema-like appearance is present too," says Dr Al-Niami.

"Acne affecting the lower half of the face has often been linked to hormonal changes, particularly in women that develop spots at a later age (adult onset acne)," says Dr Anjali Mahto.

"This can often manifest as deep, red painful cysts under the skin rather than blackheads or whiteheads. However not all data backs this finding. This type of acne may also be present in those without any underlying detectable hormone imbalance."

Basically if you're stressed or ovulating, this area of your face might be prone to breakouts.

"It is believed that this is the case due to the presence of hormone-sensitive sebaceous (also known as grease) glands on that part of the face," adds Dr Al-Niami.

"Breakouts around the neck area suggest that your body is fighting an illness," says Sk:n Clinics' blog. To combat this, "it is important to rest and drink lots of fluids".

Story continues below...


Natural And Simple Acne Treatments

Dr Mahto says there are a wide variety treatment options available to help curb breakouts:

  • Cleanse your face twice a day with a face wash designed for acne-prone skin. Products that contain salicylic acid and zinc may be beneficial.
  • Exfoliate your skin weekly – this will remove the upper layer of skin cells, resulting in a brighter complexion and help reduce blackheads.
  • Try over-the-counter acne treatments such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid to apply directly onto spots.
  • Avoid heavy cosmetics and products that will block pores and choose items that are oil-free and non-comedogenic.
  • See your GP or a dermatologist if your acne fails to respond to these measures, if you notice scarring, or it is starting to affect your self-esteem.

Popular in the Community