Why is it sprouting and how to treat it

Whether it’s a throbbing pimple in the middle of your forehead or a host of clogged pores and blackheads on your nose, it’s hard to think of a more frustrating skin problem than acne. But while breakouts on certain parts of the face can be directly attributed to stress or hormonal imbalances, which means your treatment plan is usually a a little more direct-acne on the cheeks can be a little more difficult to discoversince your cheeks come into contact with so many things every day (such as your phone, makeup, hair, pillowcases, etc.).

But don’t worry: It’s definitely possible to treat cheek breakouts, especially when you figure out the exact cause. And to help you, I chatted with dermatologists. rebeca marcusMD; Joshua Zeichner, MD; Y adam luberMD, to guide you through everything you need to know about acne on your cheeks, from what may be causing your acne on your cheeks to how to get rid of pimples on your face fast.

What does acne look like on the cheeks?

Unlike your T-zone area, it is rare for your cheeks to see a lot of blackheads or whiteheads. Instead, “the cheeks are usually prone to inflammatory papules, pustules, nodules, and cystic acnesays Dr. Marcus. Basically, red, irritated and notoriously difficult to remove lesions are the ones that most commonly affect the cheeks. Fun.

What causes acne on the cheeks?

Cheek acne is usually caused by oil that gets trapped inside the pores., which allows acne-causing bacteria to grow to higher-than-normal levels and create inflammation in the skin, says Dr. Zeichner. This oil buildup can happen for any number of reasons, from using the wrong skincare products in your routine to fluctuating hormones (yes, hormonal acne on your cheeks is a very real thing) and even daily habits you might not even notice. realize that they are impacting. your skin.

“Cheek acne can be triggered by touching your face or resting your face in your hands, pressing a dirty phone against your cheek, not changing your pillowcase often enough, or friction caused by wearing a protective cover. for the face,” Dr. Marcus explains. Even using a dirty makeup brush or waiting to wash your face after exercising can lead to acne on your cheeks.

How to get rid of acne on the cheeks?

Home remedies for acne on the cheeks:

As frustrating as cheek acne can be, luckily there are plenty of solutions to help get rid of it. The cheapest and most accessible is to use at-home skin care with topical ingredients designed to fight acne. “For irritated pimples, your favorite ingredient is benzoyl peroxyof,” says Dr. Zeichner. “It reduces the levels of acne-causing bacteria on the skin and also helps unclog pores.”

You can find benzoyl peroxide in everything from acne-fighting face washes to acne blemish treatments. It’s available in a variety of strengths, although most dermatologists recommend starting with 2.5 percent and then working your way up to a higher percentage, as benzoyl peroxide can be quite drying to the skin.

Salicylic acid is another highly effective ingredient for treating cheek acne. thanks to its ability to exfoliate dead skin cells and dissolve excess oil in the pores. “A salicylic acid cleanser is very helpful in helping to break down sebum and dirt in the pores,” says Dr. Marcus, who is a big fan of the Bliss Clear Genius Lightening Gel. But you can also find salicylic acid in a host of leave-in treatments, from acne serums to exfoliating toners, making it super easy to incorporate into your current routine.

Beyond benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid, over-the-counter retinols and retinoids for acne are great for treating acne on the cheeks. They work at the cellular level help boost your cell turnover rate, reduce inflammation and decrease oil production—all the key functions to keep pores clear and skin free of breakouts. Another great option? Hydrocolloid patches for pimples. “They can be helpful in speeding the healing of an acne lesion and keeping hands away to reduce the need to touch acne lesions,” says Dr. Marcus.

Prescription treatments for acne on the cheeks:

For acne on the cheeks that is especially resistant to treatment, your dermatologist may suggest a prescription medication, either oral or topical. “Topical prescriptions often belong to the topical antibiotic and topical retinoid drug families,” says Dr. Luber. “They target different causes of acne and can be very powerful when they work synergistically.”

In addition to retinoids, such as tretinoin, prescription options may include a higher-grade benzoyl peroxide, an anti-inflammatory drug called dapsone gel, or a topical acne-targeting hormone known as clascoterone. There’s also Twyneo, a newer topical prescription medication that combines benzoyl peroxide and tretinoin to effectively combat acne on the cheeks.

Prescription oral medications are popular for acne that doesn’t respond well to topical treatments. Spironolactone, a diuretic that has been shown to be very effective in getting rid of hormonal acne, and Isotretinoin (also known as Accutane) are some of the most popular and, as Dr. Marcus points out, “can work miracles.”

Your in-office treatment options:

In addition to the many at-home and prescription acne solutions, there are also several in-office treatments to help treat acne on the cheeks. Facials and extractions are obvious starting points, along with red or blue light therapy, chemical and laser peels such as Clear and Bright. Even the right facial can be powerful: “HydraFacial helps remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, unclogs pores, while infusing treatment serums, which can be customized for acne, into the skin” explains Dr. Marcus.

But the real excitement for Dr. Marcus, Dr. Zeichner, and Dr. Luber alike comes from AviClear, a new FDA-approved laser that has been shown to permanently clear acne. “It targets the sebaceous glands and decreases oil production and has shown promise in treating mild to severe acne,” says Dr. Marcus. “Although not yet widely available, this promising new treatment was approved by the FDA in 2022 and will hopefully become more accessible in the coming months.”

Food to go:

Acne is one of the most difficult skin problems to treat, but that’s especially true for breakouts on the cheeks. These papules, pustules, cysts, and more can be the result of hormonal or genetic factors, but they can also be triggered by lifestyle habits, such as frequently touching your face or not washing your pillowcase enough. The good news is that solutions are not lacking, including readily available skin care products, prescription drugs, and in-office treatments. So, the next time you experience a breakout on your cheeks, be sure to try one (or more) of these helpful remedies.


Meet the experts:

  • rebeca marcusMD, is a board certified dermatologist in Dermatology Associates of North Dallas in Dallas, TX, and the founder of Maei MD, a medical grade skincare brand. She treats a wide range of skin concerns, with a particular focus on acne, rosacea, and cosmetic skin rejuvenation.
  • Joshua ZeichnerMD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Zeichner Dermatology in New York, NY. Dr. Zeichner is one of the nation’s leading experts on acne and rosacea, and his clinical research and work have been published in leading peer-reviewed dermatology journals.
  • adam luberMD, is a board certified dermatologist in Southwest Leather Specialists in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Luber treats a variety of skin problems and has a particular interest in the cutaneous manifestations of internal disease and the prevention and treatment of skin cancer.

    Why trust? Cosmopolitan?

    Gabby Shacknai is a New York City-based journalist with years of experience researching, writing, and editing beauty and wellness stories. Gabby is an authority on all skin care categories, but she is an expert when it comes to acne. She works with the top dermatologists in the industry to evaluate new acne treatments, products and medications.

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