Understanding Forehead Acne and Treating It Effectively

Published June 24th, 2021 by Angel Rivera
Fact Checked by
Camille Freking
Medically Reviewed:
Chris Riley

Forehead acne appears on your forehead and is marked by small, red bumps or papules and is important to treat just like acne in other areas of your face or body. Find out what forehead acne is and the different treatments, including both prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines. You’ll find product links available at most pharmacies and online that you may want to try if you are struggling with forehead acne.

What is forehead acne?

The forehead is a sensitive area of the skin that can also suffer from acne breakouts just like in other areas of your face and body. A breakout occurs when pores become clogged from excess oil, dirt, or dead skin cells. When you touch or rub your forehead, you can introduce bacteria to your forehead causing acne.

When forehead acne occurs, it often looks like a small group of papules, or red bumps that form around the hairline and on the forehead. Sometimes forehead acne can also lead to more severe breakouts on the forehead itself. If you have been experiencing these types of symptoms for over two weeks, you may be dealing with forehead acne. Even something as simple as wearing a hat or headband can cause forehead acne. 

It is always best to see your dermatologist or doctor regarding what treatments and preventative measures work best for you.

What are the different types of forehead acne? 

Forehead acne is a type of acne that can happen in different ways. It may be caused by something like seborrhea or seborrheic dermatitis which is more common if you have oily skin. Comedonal acne usually develops on the forehead and chin. Mechanical acne (also known as acne mechanica) is forehead acne from friction or pressure on the skin. Pomade acne is caused by thick and greasy hair products when they touch the forehead. 


Seborrheic dermatitis mainly affects the scalp, but can show up in other oily areas like your face and forehead. The condition creates a red, itchy rash and white scales. 

Comedonal Acne

This type of acne makes an appearance on the forehead and chin. The spots look like small, flesh-colored acne papules. They can appear as blackheads or whiteheads. 

Mechanical Acne

This type of acne shows up as lesions caused by friction from an item like a hat or helmet rubbing against the skin. It also can be caused by heat and is common in athletes and students. When you sweat, the oil can act as an irritant when working in hot temperatures. If you are already prone to acne breakouts, then mechanical acne is also common. The appearance of small papules that can become inflamed is an identifier. 

Pomade Acne

Pomade acne is bump-like acne on the forehead that develops as a result of applying oil-based hair products. The product migrates to the scalp and creates acne along the forehead, hairline, and temples. The acne can clog pores causing whiteheads and blackheads. 

How do you prevent forehead acne?

The best treatment for forehead acne is prevention! There are many things you can do to prevent forehead acne and we will cover a few of the most common preventative measures. 

To prevent forehead acne you should:

  • Avoid touching your forehead with your hands as doing this will deposit oils on the surface of the skin which can lead to breakouts. 
  • Wash your forehead (or any other part of your body that may develop acne) daily using a clean towel or washcloth to remove the soap, water, dirt, and oil. 
  • Wear loose, breathable clothing and avoid tight-fitting clothing. If you can, avoid wearing hats, helmets, and headbands. 
  • Do not get your head too close to certain equipment at work that produces smoke and oils or causes excessive sweating.
  • Use an exfoliator twice weekly and apply a retinoid cream daily if necessary to prevent oil production by the hair follicles. 

You should also limit how often you wash your face because overwashing may irritate pores breaking down their protective outer layer allowing bacteria easier access into pores and causing more oil production and breakout formation. When washing your face, be sure not to scrub your skin harshly. 

What is the best treatment for forehead acne?

The best treatment for forehead acne varies, depending on what is the cause and how severe it is. Given that forehead acne shares many similarities with other types of breakouts, there are two ways for you to handle a breakout at home: with over-the-counter treatments or with prescription medications.

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Treatments can include antibiotics (to reduce bacterial infection), topical retinoids (which help unclog pores), and benzoyl peroxide (a common ingredient in over-the-counter face washes that helps prevent bacteria from thriving). Any medication used to fight forehead acne should be applied only after consulting your doctor because some medications might have undesirable side effects when applied to the forehead. 

For some people their forehead acne will clear up with topical treatments like benzoyl peroxide without additional intervention. For others, you may need to make lifestyle changes or see a dermatologist for more aggressive treatment options like isotretinoin tablets or tetracycline pills.

The most common type of forehead acne is comedonal forehead acne and it usually responds well to topical over-the-counter treatments. Benzoyl peroxide can help remove excess oil from pores preventing pimples from forming.  

Inflammatory cystic lesions, a result of a clogged sebaceous gland, may require oral antibiotics through a prescription.

The most popular prescriptions for forehead acne are isotretinoin and tetracyclines. These medications can have significant side effects like dry skin, peeling, redness, and inflammation of the lips or eyes that need to be managed with a doctor’s care.

If you determine that your forehead acne may be caused by hormones, then the best treatment might be hormonal contraceptives for women or a topical medication like spironolactone cream for both men and women. 

If you are not sure how to address forehead acne, consult your dermatologist about different treatment options that work for various types of forehead acne including comedonal forehead acne, inflammatory cystic lesions, or other complications such as scarring from previous bouts of inflammation and redness.

Where can I find treatments? 

If you have forehead acne then understanding what type it falls under will help determine which treatments are best for your forehead acne. Comedonal forehead acne may be a result of excess oil production or clogged pores where there is no pus. Inflammatory cystic lesions are typically caused by inflammation and pimple formation from bacteria which leads to redness in the area that is not infected with pus.

Different types of forehead acne require different treatments, so understanding what type you have will help find the right treatment that works best for you. You may find an over-the-counter topical treatment from a local pharmacy works well, or you may need to see your dermatologist for a more aggressive acne treatment. 

You should be able to find acne treatments at your local pharmacy like Walmart, RiteAid, CVS, and Walgreens, and online pharmacies like Hims, Hers and NavaMD. Please see the links below. 

Hims - A men's health clinic that treats skin conditions such as acne. 100% online, customized treatment plans available.

Hers - A women's health clinic that treats skin conditions such as acne. "Treat acne without an in-person dermatologist visit", 4.5 star review rated. 

NavaMD - Personalized prescription services for all skin conditions, including Acne.  

We have given you a basic understanding of the causes of forehead acne, how to prevent it, and how to treat it. Please consult your physician or pharmacist on the best option for you. 


Seborrhea: What Is It and How to Treat It - American Family Physicians

Seborrheic Dermatitis - Mayo Clinic

What is causing my Acne? - UAB

Adult Acne Understanding - Harvard Medical

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