Bumps On The Forehead: A Complete Guide To Causes & Treatments
Bumps on your forehead are a particular kind of annoyance. This is primarily because there are so many kinds of bumps that can sneak up on the area, so people have a hard time figuring out what exactly is causing their issue. Then once you make your diagnosis, where do you go from there? It's a lot of thought to put into one area.
Don't worry—we did the work for you.
What is causing your bumps on your forehead?
Depending on what your bumps look like—as well as how they act and react to—you may be dealing with one of the five conditions below:
Perhaps the easiest type to diagnose is acne, which can range from blackheads and whiteheads to pustules and cysts. Blemishes that appear on your forehead will look similar to the breakouts you get anywhere on the body. "When cells within the oil glands stick together and block the pores, oil builds up, leading to inflammation," says board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D.
This is just a fancy way of saying congested skin (These are also sometimes called sebum plugs). Essentially when your pores become clogged from makeup, thick creams or hair products, or external debris, you might find your pores become blocked—and therefore bumpy—without developing into full-blown, inflamed zits.
Unlike acne, milia are not caused by an infection in the pore. According to Elena Villanueva, D.C., founder of Modern Holistic Health, milia is actually a buildup of keratin that gets trapped beneath the surface of the skin. It's also important to know that, unlike acne, milia does not get inflamed, red, or swollen. (This is a telltale sign of milia: if your bumps are flesh-colored and you typically don't experience acne.) Causes of milia can differ, but the general cause of their development is a lack of natural exfoliation of the skin. For more information on this type of skin bumps, read our guide on milia.
Rosacea is an inflammatory skin condition that results in several skin changes. For some skin tones, it may result in intense flushing (or redness) around the cheeks, nose, and forehead. For any skin tone, it may result in thickening of the skin and textural changes. Finally, it may result in small bumps on the face, forehead included. You're likely dealing with rosacea (or rosacea acne, a combination of the two conditions) if you experience bumps on the cheeks and nose as well as the forehead.
This is essentially a temporary condition resulting in an inflamed, angry, bumpy rash that was triggered by an allergic reaction or external irritant. People with highly sensitive skin often experience contact dermatitis, although any skin type may deal with it from time to time. Everyone's skin is different, however, so everyone will likely have different flares.
How to treat bumps on your forehead: A breakdown.
Now, since there are several causes of forehead bumps, you might reason that there are several fixes: hes and no. There are general rules to follow for smart skin care that can and will help any of the above issues. Then there are more specific tips that someone with acne should try—but that would totally backfire on those with rosacea.
Tips for everyone:
If you are experiencing bumps on your forehead, there are general tips you'll want to follow no matter what. So even if you haven't totally nailed down what you're dealing with, you can feel free to start here:
- Inspect your hair care. To state the obvious: Your forehead is awfully close to your hair. This means that products you use in your hair can travel their way down to your forehead (this is especially true if you have bangs). Hair care is often not formulated with your delicate skin or pores in mind, and thus can be quite comedogenic. If you suspect your products, consider switching to lighter options or limit their use.
- Manage lifestyle factors, like diet and stress management. Your skin is affected by so much, diet and mental health included. No matter whether you have acne, rosacea, or dermatitis, you'll benefit from going internal and evaluating how your stress levels or eating habits are affecting your skin.
- Visit a dermatologist. If you really can't figure out what's happening, we always recommend visiting a professional who will help you diagnose your issue and walk you through solutions.
Tips for acne, subclinical acne, and milia:
Since these all have to do with clogged pores, you can treat these similarly:
- Proper face-washing. Many times people are simply not as diligent about washing their foreheads (especially the hairline) as they are the rest of the face, leaving behind makeup, sweat, and dirt from the day. Over time, this can lead to a buildup in the pores. Find a nonstripping face wash that works for your skin type, and be mindful to attend to your whole face.
- AHAs and BHAs. Gently exfoliating with AHAs or BHAs can help keep your pores clean, slough off excess dead skin cells, balance oil production, and allow for more vibrant skin to shine through. BHAs, like salicylic acid, are ideal if you have an oily T-zone; while AHAs tend to be more hydrating and perfect for those with dry skin.
- Retinols. These vitamin A derivatives encourage cell turnover and can regulate inflammation in the cells, leading to fewer clogged pores and blemishes overall.
Tips for rosacea and contact dermatitis:
For both of these skin conditions defined by inflammation, you're going to want to focus on just that. Pare back your skin care routine and invest in soothing actives:
- Take a skin care break. Rosacea and contact dermatitis can both be triggered by doing too much in your routine. So if you are experiencing a flare-up, that's more than likely a sure-fire sign you need to cut back on your steps. Edit down your routine to nothing more than you need—no peels, masks, or heavy-duty serums.
- Soothing, anti-inflammatory topicals. The caveat is that you can use barrier-supporting ingredients in your products. These will mend damage in the skin, calm things down, and prevent moisture loss (another issue you'll likely find with these conditions). We love aloe vera and ceramides.
- Azelaic acid. Don't let the acid scare you; this type is actually quite good for sensitive skin folk. If rosacea is a recurring issue, you're probably looking for a solution you can use daily. Azelaic acid tends to be the most often recommended from derms. According to board-certified dermatologist Jessie Cheung, M.D., in rosacea, "neutrophils release proteases that break down collagen and elastin, contributing to swelling and flushing." However, azelaic acid can inhibit the function of these neutrophils1, thus reducing inflammatory symptoms.
Bumps on your forehead appearing and don't seem to go away? Annoying indeed. The root cause may come from several influences, so it's worth investigating your skin to see what's causing yours, and then tending to it accordingly.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.