The Ultimate Guide to Chin Acne

Chin acne is one of the most persistent kinds of acne because it’s often caused by activities you do every day. With the right changes to your skin care routine, chin acne can be gone for good.

What Causes Chin Acne?

Acne is caused by a wide variety of factors, but on the skin level, there are three primary causes: inflammation, bacteria, and oil production. Chin acne is most often caused by inflammation, but bacteria and oil production can also play a role.

woman pondering
Acne on the chin is common, but it can have a variety of causes.

Dermatologists used to believe that bacteria were the root of acne, but in the last decade, studies have found that acne starts with inflammation. The bacteria associated with acne, called p. acnes, always live on the skin. When the skin isn’t inflamed, p. acnes can actually help prevent acne. They consume the oil your skin naturally produces, so they can help prevent the oil buildup that often leads to blackheads and whiteheads.

Bacteria only cause issues when the skin becomes inflamed, and inflammation can cause its own set of problems. When the skin is irritated, it triggers the inflammation response to protect itself. This causes the skin to swell slightly and prevents any irritants or outside bacteria from entering the skin further. The trouble is, it takes the oil, dead skin cells, and bacteria that were already on the surface of the skin and traps them in the pores. This can cause everything from blackheads to pimples.

Excess oil production is the third major cause of acne, and it is primarily responsible for clogging pores and providing bacteria with extra food. Clogged pores often lead to blackheads and whiteheads, and when bacteria have extra food, their numbers grow rapidly. If they get trapped in a pore due to inflammation, they generate a minor infection and cause a pimple.

Why Can’t I Get Rid of Chin Acne?

If you’ve tried all kinds of acne products on your chin, but it still hasn’t cleared up, one of your daily activities, or even one of your skin care products, could be contributing to the problem.

When it comes to acne on the chin, inflammation often plays the biggest role. The chin comes into contact with many irritants throughout the day, such as razors, toothpaste, and musical instruments or sports equipment. All of these can increase inflammation and cause acne.

Why Is the Chin Sensitive to Irritation?

Not all acne is the same, and neither is all skin. Many people have heard of the “T-zone,” an area encompassing the forehead and nose that typically produces more oil and often has more acne. But there’s another area called the “U-zone.” It includes the temples, cheeks, and chin, and this area is typically drier than the T-zone.

Even though dry skin doesn’t have excess oil that can clog pores, it can still be very acne-prone. This is because dry skin is particularly susceptible to irritation. Extra oil can cause issues, but without a thin layer of oil, the skin has no protection from irritants in the air. Dry skin is much more likely to get irritated, and try to protect itself through inflammation and extra oil production.

Because irritated skin produces more oil and becomes inflamed at the same time, that extra oil is immediately trapped in the pores and can easily create blackheads or whiteheads. Because the chin is in the U-zone, it is typically more affected by irritants that can set off this whole process of irritation and clogged pores, even if those same irritants might not cause any issues for the forehead or nose.

Because of this increased sensitivity, the acne products that work for the T-zone could actually be making acne in the U-zone worse. Most acne products are much stronger than necessary, so if acne in your T-zone has gotten better, but your chin acne has only gotten worse, your acne products could be to blame.

What Products Can Help Clear Chin Acne?

Unfortunately, many acne products are far too harsh, and sometimes result in more acne instead of less. Although many acne products use the typical acne treatment ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, they use them at concentrations that are much too high. For instance, benzoyl peroxide products are available in concentrations from 2.5% to 10%, or potentially higher with a prescription. However, most people will see a significant improvement at only 2.5%.

Many skin care companies use higher concentrations to try and get immediate results. But acne shows the best, most consistent improvement when treated with gentler options. At Exposed Skin Care, all of our products contain proven acne-fighting ingredients at concentrations that are gentle but still effective.

Because the chin is in the U-zone, it is usually somewhat dry, so the best treatment is a gentle daily skin care routine that includes a moisturizing agent. We offer a variety of kits to care for all types of skin and all types of acne, but if you have persistent chin acne, we recommend our Expanded Kit. This kit contains everything from our Basic Kit, but it also includes our signature Moisture Complex, which can help balance out any potential irritation that could occur in the U-zone.

Exposed Moisture Complex product
Dry skin is one of the main causes of acne on the chin, but you can combat dryness with our signature Moisture Complex.

How Can Toothpaste Cause Chin Acne?

It might seem odd to think that your toothpaste could play a role in your acne, but it’s more common than you think. Many toothpastes contain something called sodium lauryl sulfate, or SLS. This is the chemical that makes toothpaste foam up. It is a surfactant, meaning it clings to plaque, then foams up to pull the plaque away from the teeth. This is one good way to keep teeth healthy, but it is not as helpful when it comes to the skin.

SLS is a strong chemical not designed for the skin, so when extra toothpaste foam gets into the corners of your mouth or drips on your chin, it can majorly irritate the skin and cause increased acne. The best way to prevent acne caused by SLS is to switch to an SLS-free toothpaste, but it can also help to wash your face after brushing your teeth. This can quickly clear away the SLS before it has a chance to irritate the skin too much.

Can Shaving Cause Chin Acne?

Similar to toothpaste, many shaving creams contain a foaming agent, which can be very irritating to the skin. If you shave your face, your chin acne could be partially caused by your shaving cream.

Razors are another factor in shaving that could cause acne, especially when they’re dull. Sharp razors cut off hairs, but dull razors often bend hairs rather than cutting them, and sometimes the hairs can be bent back into the hair follicle and grow inward. The body interprets this as an invasion and attacks the hair. This causes inflammation, which leads to razor burn, but it could also lead to acne.

Using a sharp razor is one good way to avoid acne, but switching to fragrance-free shaving gel could help as well. Shaving gels rarely contain irritating foaming agents, but it’s important to avoid fragrances too. The chemicals used to create fragrances often irritate the skin, just like foaming agents. One last way to prevent shaving from interfering with your acne is to shave in the shower. This allows the hairs to be rinsed away completely. Shaving at the sink and splashing water on the face could accidentally leave behind some hairs or shaving cream, which could cause irritation.

What is Acne Mechanica?

One specific kind of acne that frequently occurs on the chin is acne mechanica, which is acne caused by friction and pressure. This is more commonly called sports acne, but that term isn’t entirely accurate, since many other, non-sport activities can cause this particular kind of acne.

Friction and pressure are not good for the skin because they lead to inflammation, oil production, and clogged pores. When something rubs against the skin, it causes irritation, and the skin tries to protect itself through the inflammation response and increased oil production. When this friction is combined with consistent applied pressure, acne is a common result.

When something rubs and presses against the skin, all the extra oil being produced has nowhere to go. It gets trapped in the pores, and the longer that oil is trapped, the more likely it is to form a clog and lead to blackheads and whiteheads. Sports often involve tight uniforms or pads which can apply friction and pressure, but musical instruments are another possible cause of acne mechanica, especially on the chin.

How Can Music and Sports Cause Chin Acne?

The flute and the violin are the top instruments associated with chin acne because both instruments are played by being pressed against the chin (or the chin and the jawline, for the violin). This creates the pressure and friction that causes acne mechanica, and as a result, many flutists and violinists deal with blackheads and whiteheads on their chins.

man playing flute
Even though acne mechanica is usually called sports acne, instruments like the flute or violin can also cause acne mechanica.

Similarly, many sports involve a chin strap, which can also lead to acne mechanica. For chin straps to be effective, they have to be relatively tight, which irritates the skin and traps the resulting oil in the pores.

In both cases, the best way to prevent acne mechanica on the chin is to keep everything as clean as possible. Before playing, either your instrument or your sport, wash your face with cool water, and clean your chin strap or instrument. You should be able to rinse chin straps with water, but sometimes instruments require special cleaning products. Be sure to read up on your instrument before rinsing it with water.

After each game, performance, or practice, clean the chin strap or instrument again, the same way as before, and wash your face again. This time, we recommend using a facial cleanser, especially one containing a low concentration of salicylic acid, around 0.5%. Salicylic acid is especially good at breaking up the oil that clogs pores, but you want to use a low concentration because you don’t want to increase the irritation caused by the chin strap or instrument. Our Facial Cleanser  is perfect for this purpose, with a low concentration of salicylic acid combined soothing ingredients like sage extract to help reduce inflammation and irritation that comes with acne mechanica.

Can Picking Cause Chin Acne?

Picking is one of the worst things you can do for your skin, but unfortunately, most people who have acne love to pick. It can be hard to resist squeezing and popping and scratching at acne, but because it irritates the skin, it almost always makes acne worse. This is especially true for the chin, since it is already prone to dryness and irritation.

Many acne websites talk about pimple popping like it’s a violent crime, to be avoided at all costs. At Exposed, we know that most acne does not benefit from being popped, but when done responsibly, pimple popping can sometimes help. There are three main criteria for popping a pimple safely:

  1. Wash everything before and after popping
  2. Only pop pimples with a white or yellow defined head
  3. Stop popping immediately at the sight of clear fluid or blood

Done poorly, pimple popping can lead to irritation, which causes further acne, the spread of bacteria, which can cause new pimples to develop elsewhere on the skin, and scarring. But done right, pimple popping can relieve the painful pressure of pimples and decrease their visibility.

First, make sure you only pop pimples with a white or yellow defined head. The chin typically has more blackheads or whiteheads, and these should not be popped. Next, wash your hands with soap and water, and rinse your face with cool water. Then use the pads of your fingertips to press down and in toward the pimple. Be very careful not to use your nails because it almost always leads to scarring. You can continue pressing on the pimple as long as white or yellow pus is coming out, but once you see clear fluid or blood, you should stop, even if you know there is more of the pimple to pop. Continuing to squeeze could lead to scarring or increased inflammation. Afterwards, wash hands with soap and water and rinse your face with cool water again. It may help to apply honey to the affected area, as it has been proven to speed wound healing which helps prevent scarring.