Derm DMs: Why Am I Breaking Out on My Cheeks?

April 05, 2021
Alanna Martine Kilkeary
By: Alanna Martine Kilkeary | by L'Oréal
Derm DMs: Why Am I Breaking Out on My Cheeks?

Breakouts can occur anywhere on the face that produces excess oil, like the T-zone, chin and jawline. But what about areas like the cheeks? Is it possible for this spot to also overproduce oil, or is there something else at play? We consulted with Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research in Dermatology at Mount Sinai Joshua Zeichner, M.D., and board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, M.D., about why you may be breaking out on your cheeks. Find out what you need to know below.  

What Causes Acne on the Cheeks?

As you may have suspected, breakouts on the cheek area are, in fact, caused by the over-activity of oil glands. According to Dr. Zeichner, however, a lot of other factors contribute to acne on this area as well. “Acne is largely caused by hormones, genetics and environmental factors, as well as diet, stress and skin-care products,” he says. “In fact, acne on the cheeks can also be caused by dirty fingers or your cell phone touching your face.”

Dr. King agrees with this sentiment and adds that if you’re breaking out on the “beard area” of the cheeks, it may be due to hormonal changes in women, specifically.

How to Treat Cheek Breakouts

According to both dermatologists, the best way to treat cheek acne is to look for cleansers and treatments with the right ingredients. “Look for salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and adapalene,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Salicylic is a beta-hydroxy-acid that removes excess oil and dead cells from the surface of the skin. Benzoyl peroxide lowers levels of acne-causing bacteria and reduces inflammation. Adapalene is a topical retinoid that prevents the pores from becoming blocked. Think of them as pipe cleaners.”

For cleansers. Dr. King recommends the CeraVe Renewing SA CleanserFor a spot treatment, try the La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo, and remember that generally, you want to avoid products that contain oil. “Avoid using any products that are potentially comedogenic,” says Dr. King. “And be aware of surfaces that could be causing occlusion and/or spreading bacteria when pressed against your cheek — like cell phones and dirty pillow cases.” You should also avoid touching your face as much as possible.


Design: Hannah Packer

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