Acne on the Face

Acne on the Face

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Face acne affects around 50 million Americans each year, making it a very common condition. In most cases, acne on the face is effectively treated with both prescription and over-the-counter medication. But failure to treat bumps and a tendency to pick at them can lead to permanent discoloration and scarring. The face is also extremely exposed, which means facial acne is especially prone to infection and further inflammation.

When preparing to visit the dermatologist for face acne, pay attention to several factors. Is the acne recurring in the same spot? How painful does it feel? How often do you experience breakouts, or are they chronic? This information can be very helpful to our Chesterfield clinicians, as it can point to a more specific cause than a visual exam alone.

What Causes Acne on the Face?

Nearly every type of acne can appear on the face, but some conditions can be more painful and widespread than others. Most facial acne manifests as inflamed bumps, but there are key differences between these growths that can indicate the best acne treatment method. Whether your breakout is minor or severe, seeing a dermatologist can clear up the condition with no or minimal scarring. Below, we’ve outlined the most common forms of acne on the face.

  • Acne Mechanica: Acne mechanica is caused by pressure, friction, and excess heat, all of which may occur when exercising or during seasonal clothing changes. Most patients we see for acne mechanica are athletes and students, but everything from bra straps to helmets can cause it. Acne mechanica on the face is typically the result of wearing close-fitting hats, like winter beanies.


  • Acne Vulgaris: Acne vulgaris, also known as hormonal acne, occurs as a result of an obstructed or inflamed hair follicle and sebaceous gland. It manifests as bumps, which can range in shape, size, and pain level. Most common in adolescents, acne vulgaris is typically treated with a topical, over-the-counter treatment, but you should seek treatment from a dermatologist if the acne is severe, painful, or becomes infected.


  • Pyoderma Faciale: This unusual condition typically occurs in young adult women and resembles severe rosacea. The condition starts abruptly and is confined to the face but often disappears within a year. Pyoderma faciale presents as large, painful red nodules, pustules, and sores on the cheeks, chin, and/or forehead. It is important to see a dermatologist if you suspect you have this condition, as antibiotics, steroids, and isotretinoin are the most effective treatment methods.


  • Acne Rosacea: Rosacea develops on the face and manifests as swollen, red bumps. Triggers and flare-ups occur in cycles, but all types of rosacea involve enlargement of the blood vessels just under the skin. While there is no cure for rosacea, a dermatologist can prescribe medication to help manage symptoms.


  • Acne Fulminans: This rare but serious skin condition is characterized by the sudden onset of nodular and ulcerative acne lesions that are painful, hemorrhagic, and often covered with crusts. Patients may also experience fever and joint aches, and this type of acne typically affects young men with a prior history of acne. Acne fulminans is often confused with acne conglobata, a separate condition, but only a dermatologist will be able to make the determination.

It can be difficult to understand what causes facial acne, but the location of your breakout can provide helpful clues. Called face mapping, this is an easy way to figure out the type of breakouts you have and the best facial acne treatment for your skin. You can also find information about back acne and shoulder acne.

However, it is important to remember that this identification strategy is only able to approximate a cause. If you’re struggling with painful lesions or recurring outbreaks, regardless of your ability to identity them on the face, it’s time to see a dermatologist. Additionally, acne shares symptoms with other, non-acne conditions, like scabies and seborrheic dermatitis. Only a doctor can discern the exact type of acne you are experiencing and prescribe an effective treatment.

Talk to a Dermatologist about How to Treat Face Acne

Don’t hesitate to see a dermatologist for face acne. A medical professional can prescribe a facial acne treatment that addresses your condition and leads to no or minimal scarring. Getting a consultation is the best way to develop a treatment plan that works with your skin, condition, and lifestyle.

Contact us to schedule an appointment