If You Have Acne In These 9 Places, It Could Be A Sign Of These Other Health Conditions
Since your skin can tell you so much about your health, it's always a good idea to pay attention to what the location of your acne means, as well as what type of acne it is, in order to get a better idea of what's going on inside your body. If it seems like new or worsening acne is cropping up — despite taking care of your health and your hygiene — it may be one way to tell if something greater is going on with your health.
While most acne is simply due to clogged pores, it's possible that it might be a sign of something else. "It is important to consider your skin's natural tendencies as new acne develops," board-certified dermatologist Shari Hicks-Graham, MD tells Bustle. "If acne is common for you, that's one thing, but if your acne suddenly becomes worse, consider any other changes in your health or medications and get help from your medical professional or see a dermatologist."
Acne could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance, a side effect of medications you're taking, or even a symptom of a yeast infection, or other systemic issues. Depending on where the acne is, it can be easier to pin down the cause. Here are nine places acne can crop up and what it may mean, according to experts.
1. Lower Face/Chin/Neck
If acne is springing up on your lower face, neck, and chin before the start of your period, or after a bout of intense emotional stress, experts say there's a good chance your hormones are imbalanced. This type of acne "may be more cystic in nature with deep, painful, red nodules that don't develop a surface 'whitehead,'" Hicks-Graham says.
Since it's so deep, she says cystic acne can take a long time to heal, and often leaves behind red or brown scars. And, she notes, "by the time they seem to fade, another cycle of hormonal lesions may be on the rise, leading to a sense that acne is present throughout the month."
But Hicks-Graham warns against picking or squeezing cystic acne — even though it's so tempting — as it can increase the chance of scarring. Instead, you might want to ask your doctor for oral contraceptives, which can help moderate your hormones and prevent this type of acne.
The body can react to unhealthy levels of stress by breaking out in blemishes anywhere on the body, but most commonly on the forehead. "The connection between stress and acne is the rise in cortisol levels which leads to overactive sebum, creating clogged pores and acne," NYC-based dermatologist Dr. Craig Austin, creator of the skincare brand Cane + Austin, tells Bustle. "Sebum is what clogs your pores as it combines with substances such as bacteria and dead skin cells on the surface of the skin resulting in breakouts. ... Stress acne is typically associated with the forehead, however, it can pop-up anywhere depending on the cortisol levels and the other environmental factors associated with the stress."
But no need to worry if stress is causing acne to crop up for you — speaking with your dermatologist can help you find solutions on how to manage it.
3. Around The Mouth
Hormonal acne around your mouth and lips can be a sign of other issues. "It often is not a tell for a serious underlying disorder, but if seen with other symptoms, your doctor may want to work up for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)," Dr. Michele J. Farber of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, tells Bustle.
Other symptoms of PCOS include thinning hair on your scalp, irregular periods, depression, and fertility issues. If you have acne around your mouth, it doesn't mean you have PCOS, but if it's accompanied by these other symptoms, it may be worth looking into as a possible cause.
If you notice new acne popping up on your face, chest, back, or buttocks, it could be a side effect of your prescription medication. "These medications include testosterone, progesterone, steroids, lithium, phenytoin, isoniazid, vitamins B2, B6, and B12, halogens, and epidermal growth factor inhibitors," board-certified dermatologist Dr. Yoram Harth, MD, chief medical officer at MDacne, tells Bustle. Management of acne that's caused by medication includes standard acne therapy, he says, and sometimes, discontinuing the offending medication can be necessary in persistent cases.
Chest acne is another one that's common among teenagers. But if you're past those hormonal years, and still have chest pimples, a different skin condition may be to blame. "Acne most commonly affects the face, back, and chest, so chest acne is not necessarily different than face acne," RealSelf contributor Dr. Sejal Shah tells Bustle. "However, there is another condition called folliculitis, which is basically inflammation of the hair follicles and has a number of different causes, that can occur on the chest and looks very similar to acne." Your dermatologist can determine what it is, and offer the correct form of treatment.
6. Bikini Line
If you have bumps that look like pimples around your vaginal area, it could also be due to folliculitis. "Folliculitis ... can be caused by a variety of factors such as tight clothing, friction, sweat, hair removal, excess oil, harsh or irritating skin care products, and infectious organisms," Shah says. "Even ingrown hairs can cause folliculitis, but in that case, there is usually a hair in the bump. Allergic or irritant reactions can also cause acne-like bumps."
If this is a concern for you, consult your dermatologist about how to manage this type of acne.
7. Upper Face
If you're diligently caring for your skin, but still notice acne on your upper face and forehead, it could be due to another issue. "Acne in the upper face is caused by candida toxins," Dr. Ben Johnson, MD, founder of the holistic beauty brand Osmosis Skincare, tells Bustle. "Candida is a yeast that overgrows in different regions of the gut. Where it is growing in the gut will determine where on the face it appears. Forehead, as one example, is the large intestine."
Of course, face and forehead acne doesn't always mean issues with candida toxins. Consulting with your doctor can help uncover whether gut issues are contributing to this kind of acne.
If your skin is super oily, or you're noticing acne along your jawline and facial hair, Johnson tells me it could be due to something called ovarian inflammation. "Ovarian inflammation is often caused by estrogenic toxins known as xenoestrogens," he says. "This causes a reduction in normal estrogen production, and therefore an imbalance of testosterone. The result is often seen as increased facial hair, oily skin, acne breakouts along the jawline, and on the chest or back."
No need to worry though — your OB/GYN can help you find the best solution for this issue.
If you notice pimple-like bumps around your mouth, nose, and/or eyes, there's a good chance those aren't actually pimples at all. "It could be something called periorificial dermatitis, which is related to rosacea," Heidi Waldorf, MD, of Waldorf Dermatology Aesthetics tells Bustle. "It can be treated like rosacea but we also rule out causes like excessive steroid use on the face or a sensitivity to toothpaste."
While acne in these places doesn't guarantee you have another health issue going on, it's always a good idea to monitor your body for changes, and to speak with a doctor if something feels off.