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Acne Around The Mouth : Causes and Preventions


Why Do Pimples Form Around The Mouth?

The area around the mouth is commonly affected by adult acne, which typically emerges in one's 20s or later. Adult acne tends to reappear in the same location, making it more challenging to treat compared to adolescent acne. Hormonal imbalances, stress, lifestyle factors, and improper skincare practices contribute to the development of this type of acne.

The presence of sex hormones greatly influences the area around the mouth, as seen with the growth of beards in men during puberty. Shaving can cause irritation to perioral skin, resulting in acne around the mouth. In women, gynecological disorders, temperature sensitivity, and menstruation can disrupt the balance of female sex hormones, leading to perioral acne.

Poor gastrointestinal health, high stress levels, and fatigue can activate hormones like cortisol, which stimulate the secretion of male hormones, resulting in increased acne formation around the mouth.

Furthermore, individuals with thicker facial hair are more prone to developing acne due to their larger, more easily clogged pores.

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Causes Of Acne Around The Mouth

As mentioned earlier, acne around the mouth is caused by a combination of several factors. Here, we will explain each of them:

1. Gastrointestinal disorders

There are many gastrointestinal disorders but the common ones that are neglected by the general population includes irregular eating habits such as binge eating. There are emerging evidence to suggest that dietary factors can influence acne development due to its effect on gut microbiome. Although specific pathophysiology is yet to be fully understood, there is some evidence to suggest high glycemic index and high dairy content disturbs the balance between beneficial and pathogenic organisms. This may in turn trigger acne development.

An illustration of microbiome activity in the gut and miniature scientists and doctors examining it

2. Mechanical friction

Compared to other parts of the body, the perioral skin is thinner and drier. Its dynamic movements during eating and talking made it more prone to mechanical forces.

This friction can cause thickening of the keratin around the pores, leading to the growth of bacteria, which in turn causes acne to form.

This is especially evident for those that wear mask as the combination of mechanical friction as well as pooling of bacterial on the mask predisposes these individuals to acne. Maskne is now a popular term to describe such phenomenon.

3. Hormonal imbalance

Acne development is strongly influenced by sex hormones. Both men and women are susceptible to the effects of sex hormones around the mouth.

High levels of male hormones (androgens) contribute to acne formation by thickening keratin, narrowing pores, and increasing sebum production. Excessive sebum provides nutrients for acne-causing bacteria, leading to the formation of pimples.

In women, an increase in progesterone, a female hormone similar to androgens, can disrupt skin cell turnover and elevate sebum production. This hormonal imbalance makes it easier for pimples to appear around the mouth, especially when progesterone dominance occurs over estrogen.

Hormonal fluctuations during the menstrual cycle, such as an increase in progesterone before menstruation, can trigger acne breakouts around the mouth. Individuals who consistently experience such acne before their periods may be affected by hormonal acne.

Furthermore, both men and women can experience hormonal imbalance due to stress or an unhealthy lifestyle, which can disrupt the autonomic nervous system and contribute to the development of pimples around the mouth.

4. Shaving

Using a razor to shave puts a heavy burden on the skin as the blade directly touches the skin and damages keratin. After shaving, the skin is prone to infection and dryness due to a poorer skin barrier function, which can easily lead to acne if we don't take proper care of our skin.

Additionally if we manage the razor in not taken care of in a hygienic manner, bacteria can grow on the blade, and when used for shaving, the bacteria can enter the pores and cause acne to form. Failure to moisturize after shaving can also cause other skin problems.

A man using a disposable razor to shave his chin area

Measures To Prevent Acne Around The Mouth

To prevent acne around the mouth from worsening, it is important to know and take proper care of the skin. Some ways to prevent acne from occurring around the mouth include:

1. Maintaining a well-balanced diet

It is important to be conscious to consume foods that do not irritate the gastrointestinal tract and avoid binge eating and consuming unbalanced meals. In addition, it is important to actively consume foods rich in vitamins, minerals, proteins, and other nutrients that support the function of the skin as these nutrients cannot be produced naturally in the body.

If it is difficult to obtain nutrients from your diet, such as if you eat out a lot or are a picky eater, it is a good idea to supplement your diet with multivitamins and other supplements to provide your skin with the nutrients it needs.

2. Washing your face gently

Washing the face too many times or scrubbing too hard can lead to acne.

Avoid using brushes or scrubbing products as they tend to damage the skin. Instead, try to wash your face gently with well-lathering elastic foam.

When washing the face, cover the entire face in a lathered cleanser. To prevent your skin from drying out, apply the lather to areas with more sebum, such as the forehead and nose first, and rinse the area around the mouth, which has less sebum last, for a total of about 20 to 30 seconds.

3. Moisturising

Dry skin not only leads to moisture loss but also compromises the skin's barrier function, making it more susceptible to various irritants, including UV rays, friction, and bacteria, which can contribute to acne formation. If left untreated, dry skin can also give rise to other skin problems such as eczema and dermatitis.

To effectively address dry skin, relying solely on lotion for moisturization is insufficient. Since the skin is particularly sensitive when dry, applying a light oil film on top of moisturized skin helps to retain moisture and prevent acne. However, it is important to choose lightweight emulsions or gels instead of oily creams and oils, as they can potentially worsen acne. For overall facial protection, apply the emulsion or gel to the entire face, and consider applying creams specifically around the eyes, where acne is less likely to occur, to combat dryness and acne simultaneously.

4. Unwanted hair removal

Regular facial hair removal can indeed help reduce the risk of acne, especially for individuals with thick hair.

For men, using shaving foam and a sharp razor is recommended to minimize skin damage. It is important to maintain hygiene by regularly changing razor blades. Alternatively, using an electric shaver can help prevent irritation from the razor blades itself.

5. Avoiding stress

Stress and irregular circadium rhythms can upset the autonomic nervous system and lead to hormonal imbalance. If you stay up late, skip meals or lead an irregular lifestyle, your body's biological clock and hormonal balance can be disturbed. Do attempt to incorporate exercise and hobbies into your lifestyle!

Woman meditating while seated on a chair and taking a break from her work


Acne around the mouth could be a sign of a physical disorder. While improving your diet and lifestyle to the extent possible, you should also review your skincare regimen. Acne can often be improved by improving your lifestyle and skin care.

If you are suffering from stubborn acne around the mouth, we recommend that you receive specialized treatment for acne by a dermatologist for a faster and scar-free recovery.

This blog post was medically reviewed by Dr Summer Zhang.

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