Whether you are a teenager or an adult, acne can be a difficult skin condition to manage. It is one of the most common skin conditions, but one that can lead to emotional distress, especially when it is severe. Acne on the forehead, in particular, can be a stubborn area to deal with.
In general, acne is caused by pores in the skin that become clogged by bacteria and dead skin cells, and then trapped by oils produced by the skin called sebum. Sebum production is known to increase with shifts in hormones and in times of stress. Genetics also play a large role in sebum production. The results of research into other causes of acne, like diet and hygiene are unclear, but have the potential to indirectly influence breakouts and are important for prevention.
INDENTED AREA with fact names: Acne vulgaris (the medical name) can manifest in different forms.
- Comedones = basic blackheads and whiteheads (most likely to be seen on the forehead)
- Papules = inflamed comedones
- Pustules = pus-filled
- Nodules are deeply inflamed acne underneath the skin.
- Cysts are the deepest inflammatory type of acne – and are the most common to scar.
Note: It is possible to have different types of acne at the same time.
Hormonal shifts:- Androgens, typically thought of as the male hormones, are generally responsible for excessive oil production on the skin. In puberty, androgens increase in both girls and boys, which is why acne tends to be a large issue for teenagers. In women, the menstrual cycle can cause acne to breakout on the forehead, because the increase or decrease in women’s hormones influence androgen levels.
Stress:- Research shows that excess cortisol, which is the hormone released in times of stress, can lead to acne breakouts on the forehead. This is because cortisol causes the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum. When your body is under stress also known as the flight, fight, or freeze response, it is gearing up to prepare for danger. One of the things that your body thinks it may need is increased sweating to be able to run (flight) or take action (fight).
Genetics:- There hasn’t been a gene located that is directly responsible for acne, however, it is common for acne to be seen in families. There may be a hereditary tendency to overproduce sebum, which, as we know, can lead to acne. Over-production of dead skin cells may also be a hereditary tendency that can promote forehead pimples. Additionally, some are genetically predisposed to producing excess androgen.
The following may contribute to breakouts:-
Hair and hair products:- Hair, when oily, and hair products themselves, have the potential to become trapped within pores or clog pores with dirt. Bangs, especially when there is build up of oil or hair product, has the potential to lead to forehead pimples.
Makeup:- Similar to the above, oily makeup has the potential to lead to acne by trapping bacteria and dead skin cells in pores.
Hats or helmets:- Hats or helmets tend to have dirt hiding within them, and they also trap dirt in. This could lead to bacteria growth and potential for that bacteria to clog forehead pores.
Pillows:- Pillows are another source of potential pore clogging material. If your skin is making contact with a pillow, the transfer of bacteria onto the skin is likely to occur.
Destressing and Relaxation:- When we de-stress, we reduce cortisol within the body. Finding ways to relax can help fight acne breakouts. Some suggestions for relaxation include meditation, mindfulness, walking (especially in nature), and concentrated efforts to relax large muscle groups. It is also suggested to find ways to limit stressful experiences, if possible.
Healthy Eating and Lifestyle:- Although research is unclear about the influence of food on acne, a healthy diet can lead to overall health and wellness and can help mediate effects of stress. Exercise, although sweat inducing, does decrease levels of cortisol by mediating the stress response.
Hygiene and Skin Routines:- Taking good care of your skin and hair can prevent breakouts. In addition to skin treatments, ensuring that your daily skin routine includes cleansing is important, and that hair is cleaned regularly or pulled off the forehead.
Whether you have deeply inflamed forehead acne, or small pimples on the forehead, the potential for emotional distress caused by acne is huge. This can be a vicious cycle – because as we start to respond with stress to our acne, that stress further contributes to it. It can, however, be a manageable condition that your dermatologist is happy to help you with!