What It Means If You Have Acne Around Your Mouth

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woman popping pimple around mouth

When I turned 30 I thought my days of battling acne in my T-zone were over. I have never been more wrong about anything.

The truth about acne is that you are always a candidate for an outbreak. Once you age out of the hormonal teenage years and really nail down the whole "hygiene" thing, your skin tends to find its own happy medium.

But that by no means frees you from ever waking up to find a whopper between your eyes or on the tip of your nose.

Why am I breaking out around my mouth? Well, it's a common question that even I've asked myself.

Because, to me, the worst kind of acne is acne around the mouth. Not only is it unsightly but it's also super painful, and getting it to heal can leave you a sore, peeling mess.

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If you're anything like me, you've wondered what causes acne around the mouth and what to do to cure it.

I'm here to share with you the most common reasons for mouth acne and the best solutions for treating it so you can put on your favorite red lipstick once more.

What causes acne around the mouth?

1. Skin irritation and clogged pores

You know 'em, you love 'em, they will give you mad zits! Pores are stubborn little beasts. If you don't keep them clean and moisturized they can get bigger, then get clogged and turn into a zit.

Clogs and irritation, just like other locations where zits thrive, are prime causes for mouth zits. Keep your skin clean, moisturized, and exfoliate regularly. If these are the culprits, they'll clear right up.

2. Your lip balm

If you're using a scented lip balm, stop this madness at once! The chemicals that make your favorite Dr. Pepper-scented lip balm smell so good are also deeply irritating to the skin.

What makes it even worse is that wax is one of the key ingredients in most lip balms. Great for locking in moisture... but they also lock in those bad-for-you chemicals. So switch things up and try a non-scented lip balm.

3. Perioral dermatitis

The breakouts you've been having around your mouth, well... there's a chance it's actually not acne at all. In fact, what looks like acne is really perioral dermatitis, a skin condition that you can usually clear up at home.

While they look like pimples, the marks are actually a pus-filled rash. The most common cause is the overuse of steroid creams. Your doctor will let you know what to do to treat it. Usually, it's just going off the steroids, but sometimes an antibiotic is necessary to clear it all out.

4. Toothpaste

Sodium lauryl sulfate — remember those three words and check all of your products for them. If something goes on or in your body like shampoo, conditioner, or moisturizer and it has sodium lauryl sulfate in it, do not use it.

Sodium lauryl sulfate is commonly used to keep truck engines running smoothly. So the last place where you want it is on your face.

It's also often found in toothpaste, so if you've switched toothpaste and you're noticing acne, it could be a reaction to that. Switch it out with one that's sodium lauryl sulfate-free and watch that acne fly away.

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5. Dental procedures

Acne mechanica is acne caused by dental procedures. It's so common that they actually gave it a name. This is also the name given to acne that athletes get when they wear the same uniform day in and out and get acne when the uniform rubs up against them.

Much like a uniform, when you have serious dental work done, there's a lot of pressure and friction. If you want to prevent an outbreak of this nature, rinsing your face as soon as it is safe to do so following your procedure is the way to go.

6. Helmet straps

Just like how athlete uniforms cause friction, so can helmet straps of any kind. If you are wearing a helmet with a chin strap, be sure that strap isn't too tight.

Also remember to wash your face after you are finished wearing your helmet for the day. This will exfoliate and get rid of any dirt or grime that may have gotten under the strap.

7. Shaving

Shaving can result in razor burn, but it can also give you a case of acne around the mouth. Acne may appear by shaving with too much friction, which irritates the skin.

Another way shaving causes acne is hidden in your shaving creams or oils. There are certain chemicals in some of these products that are irritants for your skin and could cause you to break out, like triethanolamine. So be sure to investigate your products before you buy them at the store.

8. Hormones

Hormonal acne is often seen in the chin and mouth area, so if this is your problem area, it could be your hormones acting up.

The hormone androgens stimulate the production of sebum, which often clogs pores. You can get hormonal acne for numerous reasons from puberty to pregnancy to menstruation to menopause.

9. Cell phone use

You may have actually heard about this one. The use of cell phones may be the culprit of your constant mouth acne.

If you haven't noticed by now, you should really keep everything from touching your face to keep it clean. When anything, especially cell phones, touch your face, they are transferring all of the dust, dirt, grime, and germs they have collected and putting them onto your face, which easily clogs your pores.

10. Musical instruments

If you play a musical instrument that needs to be placed in or around your mouth, this might be a cause of your mouth acne.

To ensure this isn't the cause, make sure your instrument is always clean before letting it touch your face or chin. Then, be sure to clean the instrument and your face after you are done using it.

11. Your pillow

You'd be surprised how much bacteria gets onto our pillows as we sleep at night. If you are prone to breakouts, your pillow could actually be making it worse.

The build-up of bad bacteria and oils will clog your pores when you sleep, so make sure you wash your pillowcase often. You can also invest in a silk pillowcase. Silk is a natural fiber that won't hold in oil or grime and can prevent you from breaking out. It's also great for your hair as well!

12. Touching your face

This is probably the most common cause of acne around the mouth. Plain and simple, stop touching your face. This will keep the area clean.

Our hands are disgusting when you truly think about them. They touch everything and pick up tons of germs and dirt as we go about our day. Try carrying hand sanitizer around or washing your hands to help keep them clean.

If you notice yourself having the habit of touching your face, wear an elastic on your wrist and snap it every time you reach for your face. This will retrain your behavior.

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How to Prevent Acne Around the Mouth

1. Invest in a silk pillowcase.

Like mentioned earlier, a silk pillowcase isn't the end all be all of your acne, but it can help prevent it.

The fabric doesn't hold in any oils or bacteria that leave your face while you sleep; instead, it actually "slides off" due to how small the fibers are. It doesn't absorb moisture.

A silk pillowcase is probably one of the easier ways to prevent mouth acne and helps reduce frizzy hair, so there's a bonus.

2. Cleanse your face.

A healthy skincare routine can do wonders for mouth acne. Adopt a good routine with anti-acne-causing products to get your defenses up.

Cleanse your face twice a day to get rid of any dead skin cells, bacteria, and grime. It's best to do so in the morning and at night so your skin doesn't get irritated. Of course, if you feel this is too much for your skin, drop down to once a day.

3. Shower after exercise.

Being sweaty and letting that sweat dry on your skin can cause acne, so be sure to wash your face whenever you sweat.

A popular way to stop breakouts is by showering after you exercise. This stops the sweat from being reabsorbed back into your pores along with the germs and grime.

4. Look for non-comedogenic products.

A ton of makeup products actually have chemicals and oils that are harmful to your skin and clog pores. When you shop for any face product, look for this magic phrase: "non-comedogenic."

This means that the product doesn't have oil, which is one of the main culprits of facial acne.

5. Remove makeup at night.

Another great way to prevent acne around your mouth is to remove your makeup before you go to sleep. Not just a little wipe of the face, but deep, scrub-your-face wash to get all that grimy makeup off.

Go to bed with fresh skin every night to prevent those acne breakouts.

6. Use lighter oils on your face.

A lot of hair removal products like waxing come with after-treatment oils to get rid of the sticky residue left over. These can be super heavy on the skin and clog your pores, like coconut oil.

Instead, opt for a lighter oil like sweet almond oil or neem oil. These are considered "good oils."

7. Wipe your mouth after eating.

Food can leave a residue that could potentially clog your pores, resulting in acne, so wipe your mouth with a napkin or, even better, a cloth. This will keep your pores clear and clean.

There are also certain foods that could cause the acne to begin with. And wipe your mouth after drinking something as well.

8. Don't touch your face.

Commit this one to memory. Avoid touching your face. You'll thank yourself later.

As always, if you are having issues with acne, it's a good idea to seek out a dermatologist so they can treat you and give you the best guidance going forward.

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer and the former Senior Editor of Pop Culture at Newsweek with a passion for lifestyle, geek news, and true crime.