Cheek Acne: Causes And Prevention

Cheek Acne: Causes And Prevention

Acne may be generally viewed as a superficial health problem affecting the body, but the real danger lies in acne’s ability to leave long-term scarring and harm a person’s mental health. It goes without saying that people are the most vulnerable when acne impacts parts of their face, like the neck, the chin, the noses - or most notably, the cheeks.

Teens are especially prone to acne and its adverse consequences. Being in their formative years, they’re more vulnerable to developing anxieties and questioning their self-worth. We were all adolescents once, and we remember those frequent, anxious trips to the bathroom just to check our faces all too vividly.

While there are a dozen or so types of acne, each and every one brings its own problems to deal with. Ranging from the simple blackheads and whiteheads, all the way to papules, then pustules, nodules and cystic acne, acne makes us look bad and it’s very annoying to defeat. But the specific location in which acne appears can be just as important in figuring out the specific causes and treatments as anything else.

cheek acne

Location, Location

Is it the chin, the cheeks, or the neck area? Maybe you have repeated acne outbursts between your eyebrows or on your forehead? The place of an acne inflammation is just as important as the type of acne or the factors that caused it. More often than not, the location itself can provide us with clues as to what might be causing the problem.

Generally speaking, most acne appears on the face or the neck, while the more severe types, for example, cystic acne, can also appear on the shoulders, chest or the neck. Our concern today are the most common types of acne, however, which generally appear on the cheeks.

acne face zones

Face Zones

Roughly, the face can be divided into two areas when it comes to acne appearance: the T-zone and the U-zone.

The T-zone is called that because it is comprised of the forehead and the nose, sometimes coming all the way down to the chin. Resembling a roughly-shaped capital letter T, the skin of the T-zone is greasier and less dry than the other parts of the face.

The U-zone, on the other hand, is comprised of the chin and the cheeks. These connect together and form an area on the face roughly shaped like the letter U. Cheeks tend to be drier than the nose and the forehead, which means that the causes and treatments for acne in these respective areas may be different.

What Causes Cheek Acne & How To Prevent It

Acne is caused by the general buildup of sebum (skin oil), dirt and bacteria over the skin, which clogs up pores and provokes inflammation. In this sense, cheek acne is no exception. But how did all these factors come together to impact the cheeks specifically? Well, there are many reasons, some of which might surprise you!

cheek acne smartphone cell phone

Your Smartphone

Yup. The thing you touch all day, take everywhere, in all the bathrooms in the world, and then proceed to slap on your cheeks for prolonged periods of time. It doesn’t take long to connect the dots and realize that the vector of all that dirt, oil (yes, your hands are greasy) and hundreds of types of bacteria is our modern socialization device - the smartphone.

There are a bunch of ways to sanitize your smartphone, and nearly all of them are safe. Giving it a good wipe with alcohol or wet wipes at least once in a couple of days gets the job done. If you are an avid talker and spend a fair amount of time with your phone pressed to your cheeks, then maybe clean it at least once a day. Just don’t give your smartphone a shower or throw it in the washing machine.

cheek acne

Hand Hygiene

Don't touch your face! It goes without saying, but an unclean smartphone makes for unclean hands, and vice-versa. But even people who do not have smartphones (and dumbphones) may still touch their faces without taking appropriate care and therefore exacerbate acne problems.

Of course, as people who have suffered from acne know too well, the temptations to be touching and managing your face all the time are sometimes too powerful. But constraint is a must, and if you really need to intervene and touch your face - make sure you always do it with squeaky clean hands. When cleaning your hands is simply not available due to circumstances - use a clean wipe or a clean, but soft tissue or a napkin. Avoid rough-textured napkins as well, since they can irritate your skin further and spread the inflammation around.

cheek acne pillows

Your Pillows and Sheets

Humans spend between a quarter and a third of their entire lives sleeping. Even if we count just a single day, you are probably still spending between six and eight hours asleep every day. And when it comes to your face and cheeks, it means that - whatever the cause of the acne - your pillows and sheets may be a significant contributor.

Most people don’t realize it, but sheets, pillows, and pillowcases don’t take long to become the breeding grounds for hundreds of bacteria, fungi, and allergens in the form of dust, pollen, pollutants and so on. Heck, even our own skin cells end up embedded into our sheets and pillows, making for even more nutrition for the bacteria and fungi that make their homes there. And we haven’t even mentioned all that sweat and oil.

So what is to be done? Doctors recommend amping up the hygiene of your sleeping area. Sheets, pillows, and pillowcases should be washed at least once a week in order to avoid the buildup of harmful fungi or bacteria. Plus, who doesn’t like falling asleep swamped by the comfortable smell of clean linen? A word of caution about this, though: be sure to choose mild detergents that won’t make matters even worse. Everyone’s skin is different, and some people are more sensitive to certain chemical compounds found in detergents. Always look for products that are thoroughly dermatologically tested and safe to use.

cheek acne hair

Another word of advice: if you have long hair, it may be contributing to acne outbursts on your cheeks and face. No matter how much we wash it, hair always retains some oiliness, and even the driest types of hair can act as irritants to sensitive skin. So tie it up in a ponytail and enjoy a guiltless night of sleep.

Not Cleaning Your Face Properly

As we made it plenty clear above, you should refrain from touching your face as much as possible. However, we know that’s a grossly unrealistic expectation to have, since of course, you have to touch your face at least once in a while. Dermatologists recommend that people with acne should wash their face with lukewarm water and mild soap. Exfoliation should be avoided, as well as water that’s too hot or too cold. The goal is to keep your face both clean and comfortable, instead of irritated and painful. Over-the-counter skin care products can help as well, especially those that contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, and salicylic acid. Cleansing products that contain cucumber, chamomile and green tea products can also help soothe, cleanse and refresh the skin.

cheek acne shaving


If you’re a man with acne, keeping a clean, healthy face becomes twice as hard due to all the facial hair that gets in the way. To make it easier on you and your skin, here are a few tips you should follow when shaving. First, make sure to rinse your face with warm water every time before you actually start shaving. This will relax your face and open the pores, making it easier to shave thicker, more bristly hairs.

Secondly,  make sure that you’re using a shaving cream that fits your skin type and won’t irritate your face by making it too dry or too moist. It goes without saying that you need to be careful with your razor too - shaving against the direction of your hairs may produce a smoother result, but the expense may be redness and irritation. Finally, go with natural astringents (such as witch hazel) to clean the pores. The fewer irritants - the better.

Other Considerations

Hygiene is only half the puzzle, though. Acne being acne, their causes are complex and varying - more often than not, it’s hormonal or other metabolic issues that lead to acne inflammation. Keeping a varied diet rich in plants, nuts, fruits, and vegetables can help you restore your inner balance. Avoid sugar and processed foods, since our bodies have a way of transforming the extra sweets into extra fats. Exercise has been shown to help too, and combined with a healthy amount of sleep and avoiding stress, it can do wonders.

cheek acne


Cheek acne is much like any other type of acne, but their specific location makes them easier to prevent and treat. Avoid touching your face, but also be mindful of pressing your smartphone too frequently on your cheeks. Keep your hands and smartphone clean, and make sure that you wash your sheets, pillows and pillowcases at least once a week.

Cleansing products that soothe your face and contain natural ingredients can also help, while taking better care when shaving can also help men. Following this advice should prevent, and even lessen any cheek acne inflammation. If your acne persists and becomes worse, however, it is always best to visit a dermatologist.


This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances, and its goal is to offer a general view of the subject. In case you are suffering from a severe case of acne, you should consult with a dermatologist or a certified medical professional.

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