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22nd Jan 2024

Face Mapping: The location of your acne may reveal the cause of it

Jody Coffey


Acne can be a source of stress and insecurity for us all.

When it comes to our skin, there is a wealth of information out there on how to treat acne.

So much so that it can be confusing to determine which route to take without running the risk of irritating another area of our face.

We all have different skin types, and because of this, our skin can have very different reactions to various foods, products, cosmetics, and so on.

However, there may be a way to narrow down what’s triggering a certain part of a face into a breakout by looking at the location that is being with an unwelcome breakout.

T-Zone (forehead, nose and chin)

My most prominent breakout spot is my forehead.

Even as a teenager, it was always the area of my face that I spent my time trying to cover with makeup, and the blemishes made me contemplate a fringe many a time.

If you’re in the same boat or have a tendency to get nose and/or chin acne (AKA the T-shape of our face), it’s because you likely have oily or combination skin, much like me.

T-zone. Credit: Getty

However, even dry skin types can experience an oily T-zone. Your sebaceous glands produce an oil known as sebum, which works to hydrate and protect your skin.

Kris Jenner works hard, but sometimes the T-zone works harder as it produces more oil than the rest of your face, mainly because it has more oil glands.

To combat this acne, it can be a balancing act.

You may feel the urge to overwash your face to remove any greasiness, but this can lead to even more oil production, especially if you’re using an alcohol-based cleanser, according to ProActiv.

To put it simply, washing your face every morning, evening, and after exercise with a mild, oil-free, non-comedogenic (formulated not to clog pores) face cleanser should be enough.

Credit: Getty

Don’t be afraid to moisturise. However, it’s important to use oil-free and non-comedogenic ones as opposed to heavy moisturisers.

The same applies for sunscreen.

In terms of makeup, try opting for powder-based makeup over oil-based cream or liquid foundation to help absorb any excess oil. I have also found that oil-blotting papers are a brilliant way to do this.

Hairline and temples

Acne along the hairline and temples is more of an easy fix than the T-zone.

With this location, you may feel the urge to take advantage of your hair to cover it, but this may be counterproductive as it may actually be the cause.

Temple and hairline spots are often brought about by hair products and cosmetics, Naissan O. Wesley, a board-certified aesthetic and surgical dermatologist, told Byrdie.

Using oily or waxy products in our hair can clog the pores around our hairline if they come into contact with or spread to the face, thus leading to a breakout.

One solution is to swap them out for non-comedogenic (word of the day) hair and haircare products.

Similarly, hats, scarves, and/or helmets that may have a buildup of sweat or dead skin cells may also be causing breakouts in this location of the face, according to Wesley.

She also says pulling our hair back into tight hairstyles, like ponytails or buns, can trigger this acne.


Cheek breakouts can be a real source of insecurity, as they are the most difficult to conceal.

This area of breakouts is also known as acne mechanica, according to Medical News Today, and often develops as a result of friction or rubbing of the skin.

Think back to Covid times (just for a second). When we were all wearing masks, a lot of us likely experienced breakouts on our cheeks.

The same happens when we hold our phones close to our faces, move against pillows (particularly if they have a buildup of bacteria), or wear any type of clothing or equipment on the lower half of our faces.

Directing efforts towards addressing where friction may be coming from may help improve cheek acne.

Credit: Getty

Other sources of acne mechanica may include makeup brushes that need to be washed or cosmetics and/or skincare products that are clogging the pores.

Non-comedogenic skincare and makeup are a great place to start in this regard.

There is, however, a possibility that hormonal changes may be at play when it comes to cheek acne, in which case the advice of an endocrinologist should be sought.


According to Medical News Today, jawline acne can be linked to fluctuations in hormones, though scientific evidence is needed in this area.

Meanwhile, Healthline reports that these breakouts may also be traced back to stress and medicines such as contraceptives, antidepressants, B vitamins, and corticosteroids.

Some women may be more likely to experience jawline spots around the time of their period as their hormone levels shift, as well as from irritation from clothing or cosmetics.

Medical News Today states that some over-the-counter products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid may help some cases of jawline acne.

However, more severe cases, or cases of a negative reaction to over-the-counter products, may require a treatment plan from a dermatologist.

One thing that should be avoided for all types of acne is squeezing, picking, or touching it.

According to VeryWell Health, keeping your hands away from any and all spots is the best course of action to avoid making them more inflamed or angry-looking.

Not only is this advice given to reduce the appearance of acne, but using our hands to interfere with spots can create more damage to our skin.

While you’re working to treat acne, fight every urge to touch it.