Cheek Acne – The Dos and Don’ts

I’m sure that everyone you know has had at least some type of problem with acne – and if they haven’t – lucky them!  

Acne can be a real hassle – it can destroy a person’s self-confidence and pester them for years. I personally have had issues with acne breakouts, and I’m just as guilty of popping them at home or washing my face compulsively as much as the next person, all in faint hope it’ll help.

But now I know better – and I’m here to share.

We all secretly know that popping won’t help.   Different types of acne demand different types of treatment – and if you want to get rid of them for good, you first have to have at least a basic understanding of your skin type, the type of acne you’re suffering from, and what’s causing them in particular.

They flare-up for a different reason, ergo they require different treatment.

Let’s take a look at cheek acne – which can be particularly nasty.

What Causes Cheek Acne?

Cheek Acne 11

First things first, we must understand that just like any other type of acne, cheek acne has a trigger.

We all want to spend time out and about, keeping ourselves busy, meeting people and performing a variety of activities, which in turn expose us to the general pollution in the cities, specifically air pollution, which in turn can cause acne outbreaks. And unfortunately, the air in our homes can be just as bad! But what’s more, some allergies that affect the respiratory system can also irritate the skin.

A diet consisting of large amounts of sugar can create an imbalance in our blood, forcing our body to pump more insulin, causing androgens to become more active, which in combination with certain proteins encourages the growth of skin cells and oil secretion. Androgens are a group of hormones, most famous of which are testosterone and estrogen.

In general, hormonal imbalance causes acne, as the changes in our bodies are too big for our body to adapt to right away – and cheek acne are not different. In fact,  outbreaks and redness are our body’s way of spelling “red alert”.

Another important factor we need to take into consideration when we’re discussing the causes of cheek acne is the difference between acne in the T – Zone and acne in the U – Zone.

T – Zone

The nose and forehead area, commonly known as the T – zone, usually suffers from acne that breaks out due to excessive oiliness – especially in people with oily or combination skin. That’s because this area has a concentration of sebaceous glands that are considered to be the highest in the human body. The oil, or sebum, they produce can clog our pores, giving way to blackheads and whiteheads, sometimes even flare up pimples, as it’s the perfect breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria.

U – Zone

Now, cheek acne belong to the U – zone, and while it’s different to the T – zone in that it has somewhat fewer sebaceous glands, you are just as likely to get acne on your cheeks – only of a different kind.  Oil can sometimes clog the pores, but it also provides protection from bacteria and irritants, meaning that this part of your face is also vulnerable to acne. Lack of oil can cause the pores to inflame, leaving dead skin cells inside, which in turn can create acne.

Keep in mind that people with different skin types can have different causes for acne outbreak. If you are not sure what type you have, talk to a dermatologist.

Cheek Acne VS. Rosacea

It’s a common occurrence that people with a skin condition called rosacea can often mistake it for acne.

Rosacea is a skin condition with a variety of symptoms similar to cheek acne breakouts, yet it has almost nothing in common with cheek acne.

Generally speaking, rosacea causes the face to inflame and swell up, leaving a visible blush in the cheek area – which can range from mild to severe.  This type of symptom, however, is not necessarily caused by inflammation, oil or bacteria.

Research on what causes rosacea is not conclusive, but it’s known that many people have triggers which can cause their rosacea to flare-up. Sun exposure, stress and some foods can trigger both rosacea and acne, so, if you’re unsure what’s your diagnosis it’s really much better to consult a dermatologist and clear up any confusion. Some anti-acne products can actually trigger rosacea and make it worse, so, it’s important to find professional help if you want to treat both.

How to Deal With Cheek Acne



So, how do we get rid of them? It seems that they are a headache to deal with, but in my experience, it has been easier to control them than other acne. You just have to be careful with the products you choose.

Unbelievable as it may seem, some anti-acne products can actually make your acne worse and irritate and inflame your skin even more. Yes, these products have an antibacterial and exfoliating component which cleans your face, but using it too much can actually cause acne – especially if your skin is sensitive.


So here’s what we recommend:


  • You have a better shot at dealing with cheek acne by using products which are not as invasive and aggressive, as that can dry out your skin and cause it to produce even more oil – which in turn leads to breakouts.
  • As sunlight can irritate the skin more than usual, try using sunscreen to protect and soothe your skin, but make sure that you use a “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free” sunscreen, as these will not clog up your pores and cause further irritation.
  • Just as with sunscreen, when using makeup, make sure that it’s also “non-comedogenic” or “oil-free”, as these have less of a chance to cause inflammation or clog up your pores.
  • When removing your makeup and/or sunscreen, make sure that you do not scrub really hard to get them off, but rather use a gentle face wash, as scrubbing (especially when paired with an aggressive face wash) will almost certainly cause redness and irritation.
  • As for shaving cream, fellas, make sure that you use a shaving cream which does not contain sodium lauryl sulfate or any fragrances, as these chemicals which are part of many of the hygiene products we use every day are known to cause skin irritation. Instead, you can switch to a shaving gel which has been shown to be much more gentle on the skin or you can just find a recipe for a nice and light lather – it’ll keep your skin nice and clean just as well.
  • Some pimples are more resistant to treatment than others. Do not hesitate to visit a dermatologist and see if you need prescription topicals and/or oral medicines in dealing with your acne.
  • Make sure that you change your pillowcase often, as it’s the perfect medium for transferring any lingering dead skin cells back to your skin – a sure way to irritate your skin and clog up your pores. Also, since our phones are the perfect transmitter for bacteria, using a microfiber cloth and 70% isopropyl alcohol to swipe it will go a long way in reducing the bacteria you get on your face
  • A good water-based skin moisturizer is a good option, as it does not contain oils and alcohol which can further clog your pores or dry them up, leading to skin inflammation. Water-based moisturizers will hydrate and soothe your skin just enough, so the natural exfoliation process will keep your skin in great condition.


Now, taking proper care of your face and removing the acne from your face with proper good hygiene habits is just one part of the story. If you want to reduce the chances of cheek acne even more, you might want to change a habit or two – as some aspects of your day-to-day life play a huge role in breakouts.

  • Stop popping cheek acne and pimples, and in general, try to stop touching your face, or resting your head on your hands. Your hands can transmit bacteria which can cause or aggravate acne. It can also lead to scarring.
  • Try to decrease stress and tension, as tension tends to disturb the hormonal balance, which encourages more pimples to develop. A good night’s sleep and a healthy lifestyle, in general, can go a long way in reducing the chances of a pimple eruptions.
  • What we put inside our bodies is just as important as what we put on it. Food! To start with, avoid junk food and food rich in processed carbohydrates, as these take a long time to digest and disturb blood circulation, thus encouraging acne breakouts. Dairy has also been known to lead to the aggravation of acne.
  • Hair products are known to have a lot of chemicals which can really irritate the skin. When using shampoo and hair conditioner, make sure that you’re not lathering them on your face.
  • Picking the right products for your skin is not an easy task, and can sometimes take a few months, but do keep in mind that switching products can often lead to more acne. Instead, stick to a simple skincare routine and give your skin time to adjust!
  • Avoid using products which contain perfume or fragrance. These are usually added to mask the low quality of other ingredients. Check the labels!
  • For hormonal acne, don’t use over-the-counter medicine or skincare products, as these are usually not effective. This is because most hormonal acne form a type of cystic bump located deeper in the layers of the skin, and out of reach for most topical medications. You can remove them by balancing your hormones with oral medications such as contraceptives or anti-androgen drugs, treating the acne from inside out – but they have to be prescribed, don’t take anything on your own!