Breaking Out Around Your Mouth? Here Are The Reasons Why

Written by Ramona Sinha

Are you suddenly breaking out around your mouth? Acne can occur on any body part. However, more irritated areas may experience frequent breakouts. From hormonal imbalance and friction to product buildup and frequent touching – multiple factors can trigger acne around your mouth. Scroll through this article to find out the possible reasons and ways to deal with it.

Causes Of Acne Around The Mouth

Acne occurs when dirt, impurities, sebum, and acne-causing bacteria like P.acnes and S. aureus get trapped in your skin pores (1). You may notice more acne on your T-zone (the forehead, nose, mouth, and chin) as this area has more sebaceous glands than the rest of the face. Those who have oily skin are more prone to acne around their T-zone.

However, if you are frequently breaking out around your mouth, there are many possible factors responsible for it:

  1. Hormonal Changes: Acne around the mouth can occur due to changes in the level of androgens, causing the overactivity of sebaceous glands (2). You may experience breakouts around your mouth during menstruation, pregnancy, if you have PCOS, and if you are taking any medication that affects the hormone levels.
  2. Product Residue: Using cosmetic products or treatments can contribute to breakouts around the mouth. This is more likely to happen if a product contains comedogenic ingredients. Moreover, if you do not remove your makeup products like foundations, lip balms, and lipsticks from your skin properly, their residue may cause buildup, clog the pores, and cause acne.
  3. Diet: Although the connection between diet and acne is still under scrutiny, several foods are found to trigger breakouts. Foods having a high glycemic index increases insulin levels. This leads to many changes in the body at the cellular level and may worsen existing acne. Dairy foods may also stimulate the production of androgens, triggering excess sebum production and acne (2).
  4. Friction: If you have the habit of constantly touching and rubbing the area around your mouth, you may develop acne. This type of acne is known as acne mechanica and is caused by friction. Wearing masks and helmet straps may often cause friction. Moreover, if you do not change your mask or clean the chin straps in your helmet, they can clog the pores near your mouth, trapping dirt and germs and cause acne.
  5. Shaving: Using a facial razor and oil to remove your baby hairs around the mouth may irritate sensitive skin and cause acne.
  6. Mobile Phones: Do you have the habit of talking over the mobile phone pressed against your cheek and mouth? If yes, that may be one cause of acne around the mouth.

A study observed that contact with the cell phone while talking could cause non-inflammatory and inflammatory lesions (papules, pustules, and nodules). It could worsen existing acne and cause new breakouts (3). The mobile phone surface contains germs and bacteria that may transfer to your skin while talking.

You may experience both inflammatory and non-inflammatory lesions around your mouth. Let’s take a look at the types of breakouts that commonly occur in the area around your lips.

Types Of Breakouts Around The Mouth

1. Comedones

Did you notice small flesh-colored bumps around your mouth? Those are comedones – an early form of acne. These comedones can be open (called blackheads) or closed (known as whiteheads). Comedonal acne makes the skin look bumpy and rough (4).

2. Pustules And Papules

These are inflammatory acne and painful. Papules and pustules are raised bumps with pus-filled heads. These may first appear as red and inflamed bumps and later develop pus. They are deep lesions and may also leave behind marks and scars (4).

Another skin condition, which is often mistaken as breakouts around the mouth, is perioral dermatitis. According to the American Academy Of Dermatology Association, these red rashes look like acne breakouts and cause itching and a burning sensation. Perioral dermatitis develops around the mouth and may also appear near the eyes and nose (5).

This condition requires different treatment. If you notice redness and breakouts around your mouth, consult a dermatologist immediately.

While acne treatment calls for medical attention and you may have to take both oral and topical medications, there are a few things you can do to soothe and calm the lesions. If you have mild to moderate breakouts, follow the tips below to manage them.

How To Deal With Acne Around The Mouth

1. Follow Proper Cleansing Routine

A good skin care routine eliminates the chances of residue on the face. Washing your face twice a day and following up with a toner and moisturizer provides your skin with the basic care it needs. Remove all your makeup at the end of the day and double cleanse, if possible.

2. Use OTC Salicylic Acid Or Benzoyl Peroxide

Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are proven OTC ingredients that help manage mild to moderate acne. You can use face washes, night creams, and serums containing these two ingredients. Salicylic acid encourages the skin’s natural exfoliation process, while benzoyl peroxide is a keratolytic agent and exfoliates the upper layer of the skin to minimize acne (6).

3. Use Prescription Retinoid Products

Topical retinoids minimize comedone formation and prevent acne. For mild to moderate acne, you may use OTC retinol and isotretinoin products. However, retinol can penetrate the skin better than tretinoin, giving more effective results (6). For severe acne, you must use prescription retinoid products. Consult a dermatologist for product recommendations.

4. Use Chemical Peels:

Use a combination of alpha-hydroxy acids to exfoliate your skin and remove the dead skin cells. You can use products containing glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acids. However, be careful while using chemical peels. If your skin is not accustomed to AHAs, start with the lowest lactic acid concentration (the mildest of all AHAs) and gradually increase the concentration.

These are some ways to manage pimples and breakouts around the mouth. Apart from taking care of your skin externally, you must also check your diet and food habits.

What Foods Cause Acne Around The Mouth?

The link between diet and acne is still a matter of controversy. However, there are a few studies that link certain foods with the prevalence of acne.

Foods that have a high glycemic index may worsen existing acne (2). So, avoid junk foods, fried foods, sugary beverages, goodies made of white flour, such as cookies, and cakes. These foods increase insulin levels and sebum production, contributing to acne formation.

Also, avoid dairy foods as they may contain growth hormones, causing hormonal imbalance in your body and triggering acne (2). If possible, switch to organic and non-hormone milk and dairy products.

Wrapping Up

It is not uncommon to notice pimples near the mouth. For mild to moderate acne, you can follow the tips discussed in the article. However, if you are struggling with chronic acne, consult a dermatologist immediately for proper treatment. Multiple factors cause acne. Once you address them, you will see a reduction in the flare-ups.

Frequently Asked Questions

At what age is acne the worst on the face?

Acne can occur at any age and is likely to trouble you the most during your teenage and adolescent years. The onset of acne usually occurs when puberty hits.

Does acne on the face go away naturally?

No. Be it non-inflammatory or inflammatory acne, you have to take care of your skin and use topical products and ointments (if necessary) to minimize it.

What is the hard and white stuff filled in acne around the mouth?

The hard and white stuff in the acne is the pus, which contains waste residue, bacteria, and white blood cells.

6 Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Acne: more than skin deep
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2585707/
  2. Adult female acne: a guide to clinical practice
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6360964/
  3. ‘Cell-phone acne’ epidemic during the COVID-19 pandemic
    https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ced.14360
  4. Acne Basics Pathophysiology Assessment and Standard Treatment Options
    https://journals.lww.com/jdnaonline/fulltext/2018/01001/acne_basics__pathophysiology
  5. RED RASH AROUND YOUR MOUTH COULD BE PERIORAL DERMATITIS
    https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/perioral-dermatitis
  6. Over-the-counter Acne Treatments
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3366450/
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Ramona is a journalist-turned-content writer. She holds a Master’s degree in English Literature and has been writing for the digital world for over five years. She specializes in writing for Skin Care. She has done a certificate course titled ‘Dermatology: Trip To The Skin’, offered by Novosibirsk State University. She believes that beauty begins with a good skin care regimen and is on a mission to eliminate all toxins from her routine. She helps and guides readers in selecting products and ingredients specific to their skin type/issue. When Ramona is not working, her books and passion for music, good food, and traveling keep her busy.