According to The International Dermal Institute, 55% of women over 25 have adult acne. And chin acne – let’s call it ch-acne – is the second most common kind of adult acne (67%) falling shortly behind cheek acne (81%). But why do spots congregate in this relatively small area of the face? We’ve spoken to Dr Nick Lowe, Consultant Dermatologist at The Cranley Clinic and co-author of Perfectly Clear, to find out why the chin has become a sebum battleground.
‘Acne tends to occur more in areas with a lot of oil-producing glands, AKA sebaceous glands,’ explains Lowe. ‘Pores can become blocked by excess oil from the glands, and acne bacteria builds up below the skin, producing inflamed spots.’ One of the highest concentrations of these glands is, you guessed it, around your chin area.
But there’s more to it. For starters, particular irritants specific to the chin can cause breakouts that look just like, but actually aren’t, acne (more on this later). Also, as much as we all hate to admit this, it looks like those old wives tales were right – factors like touching your face, as well as eating sugary food, play a big part too.
Read on to discover the main causes of chin acne, or ‘ch-acne’, and how to tackle it.
Is Contraception Causing My Acne?
Acne is caused when a pesky group of hormones caused androgens are released – often as a response to your contraception. This type of acne is characterised by smaller inflamed spots around the mouth and chin – although you can also get larger, cystic acne spots on the chin too.
Sound familiar? ‘It tends to be contraceptives with high progesterone compared to oestrogen that aggravates acne,’ says Nick. So if you’re on something like the progesterone mini-pill or the hormonal implant (which releases progestogen, a hormone similar to progesterone) and you’re getting acne flare-ups around your chin and mouth then, well, it adds up. Instead, you could switch to a low progesterone contraceptive pill that actually helps your skin, like Yasmin.
Is Your Toothpaste Giving You Acne?
Your chin also acts as a landing pad for your toothpaste, which, it turns out, is chock-a-block with irritants especially one ubiquitous ingredient: fluoride. ‘This condition, where acne-like symptoms occur around the mouth and chin area, looks like acne, but it’s actually peri-oral dermatitis,’ explains Nick.
A secondary culprit is sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), which is present in toothpaste brands as well as many other cosmetics such as shampoo. However, this will only irritate skin, rather than single-handedly cause something which resembles acne, explains Nick.
While we’re not suggesting for a minute you ditch toothpaste in the name of good skin, there are some great irritant-free toothpastes that do the job just as well as your go-to brand. Try JASON’s brilliant range of SLS-free, fluoride-free toothpastes.
Is Your Diet To Blame For Chin Pimples?
Sadly, when tackling acne, your diet could be the cause. There are two main food culprits to avoid if you get chin acne, according to Nick. First off, it’s high GI foods like chocolate, white bread and sugary breakfast cereals (check the sugar content of your granola). ‘The body produces insulin-like hormones to deal with the high amount of carbohydrate you’re absorbing in the bowel, and for some those hormones cause acne.’
Milk can also be a trigger. ‘In people susceptible to acne, drinking milk – including skimmed – can make the condition worse, because it contains androgenic hormones.’ Nick recommends swapping to soy or almond milk over a six to eight-week trial. ‘It takes that long to see an improvement.’ The good news is, yoghurt doesn’t seem to have the same effect, thanks to the fermenting process removing some of the hormones; so your mid-morning Fage habit is safe.
Is My Phone Causing Acne And Chin Spots?
Yes, you’re mobile phone can cause spots…and anything else coming into contact with your chinny chin chin, basically. ‘If you rest your chin on your hands or phone, the friction can block the pores, causing acne bacteria to build up,’ says Nick. Same story if you wear a cycling helmet with a chin strap. If you have existing acne, friction aggravates the inflamed spots – so snogging your stubbly boyfriend won’t help either.
As for me, my acne struggle had a happy ending. A course of antibiotics (to kill the acne bacteria) and a new contraception pill (Yasmin, my old friend) got rid of most of it. Then, just three months ago, the last nail in the coffin was changing my toothpaste – who knew fluoride was the cause of my remaining acne-that-isn’t-actually-acne?
For those still battling acne, on the chin or otherwise – and believe me, I know how crap it is – Nick’s advice is to stick with finding a solution: ‘If you have acne that is continuing, look at all your habits: your toothpaste, your diet and your contraception. Start off with topical medicine, then look into these other factors and find what works for you.’
Shop the best products for acne-prone skin:
The Best Products For Acne-Prone Skin
1. Murad Outsmart Blemish Clarifying Treatment, £35
Apply a thin layer of this serum meets moisturiser all over the affected area and let the five acids (including Salicylic and Glycolic acid) get to work to minimise the appearance of spots.
2. Glossier Zit Stick, £12
Keep this handy stick in your handbag and apply it at the first sign of a spot – so, whenever that sore, swollen bump appears. Formulated with 2% salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin and tea-tree oil to calm the area – you’ll notice the benefits in no time.
3. Votary Blemish Rescue Oil – Tamanu and Salicylic, £35
It might sound counter intuitive to add more oil to oily skin but it can in fact help to balance the skin’s mantle. This blemish oil calms irritated skin, helps to heal spots and will also treat scars.
4. La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo[+], £17
La Roche-Posay’s anti-blemish cream is formulated to target oily, blemish-prone skin. It has become a cult product for beauty buffs who have raved about its magical ability to unclog pores, minimise imperfections and give the surface of the skin a smooth velvety finish.
5. Tea Tree Night Lotion, £10 from The Body Shop Tea Tree Squeaky-Clean Scrub, £7 from The Body Shop
The Body Shop’s Tea Tree Oil range is proven to contain healing and antibacterial properties for every type of skin. The Body Shop claim that the range can create clearer skin in 3-days without over-stripping the skin. We love the Tea Tree Squeaky Clean Scrub (with biodegradable micro-beads) and Tea Tree Night Lotion to combat shine and impurities day and night.
6. Mario Badescu Drying Lotion, £13
This highly coveted skin elixir is not only surprisingly affordable but also promises to refresh and repair your complexion by clearing up and soothing whiteheads overnight. All Mario Badescu asks is that you dip a cotton swab into the pink sediment, dab on a pimple and wash off in the morning. Do not shake the bottle.
7. Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser, £17
Enriched with cocoa butter, rosemary, eucalyptus and chamomile this indulgent cream cleanses, soothes and moisturises. Used alongside Liz Earle’s pure cotton cloth, dead skin cells and daily grime are lifted away to reveal brighter looking skin.
8. Aesop Parsley Seed Anti-Oxidant Facial Toner, £45
Aesop is fast becoming the favorite beauty brand of the year because of the visible results. The parsley seed extract cleanses deep within the pores – exactly what you need for troublesome skin. Frequent use of this product will prevent future breakouts, and using this overnight won’t leave you feeling oily or clogged up the next morning.
9. Dermalogica Clay Cleanser, £33
Dermalogica’s Clay Cleanser treats spots when used as a wash and as a face mask. It concentrates on the affected area and uses refreshing cucumber to leave you feeling rejuvenated.
10. Origins Ginzing Energy Boosting Moisturiser, £25
The most common places for acne and spots, particularly in the winter months, are your cheeks and jawline. To prevent this your skin must be well moisturized, and this Origins product is enriched with boosting ingredients to brighten your complexion. And it’s completely oil-free.
11. Kiehls Clearly Corrective Dark Spot Solution, £38
Apply this serum onto your acne scars or discolouration after you’ve washed your face and before you moisturise, and overtime it will even your complexion.