The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary Online defines acne as “A skin condition, common among young people, that produces many pimples (spots), especially on the face and neck.” Whether you’re a teenager or an adult, having acne, especially around the mouth, is certainly not the most pleasant experience. Habits that form part of everyday life and which involve the mouth – i.e. eating, speaking, smiling – may become embarrassing to perform because they will remind you of your not so agreeable skin condition. Nevertheless, if you understand its causes and methods of prevention and cure, you will be able to handle and overcome acne around the mouth.
What Are The Types of Acne?
Acne can be categorized into non-inflammatory and inflammatory acne.
When it is found around the mouth, acne will usually fall under the category of non-inflammatory acne, sub-divided into two types, namely whiteheads and blackheads. Blackheads, also known as open comedones, are caused by the contact of sebum with air followed by a mixture with the melanin skin pigment, which gives the pimple a black, brown or even a grey coloration. Blackheads mostly appear at the beginning of puberty and in times of hormonal change. On the other hand, whiteheads result from an accumulation of sebum and dead skin cells and can be recognized by a white spot full of pus. Unlike whiteheads, they generally don’t last more than a week. Both types can however appear around the mouth and make it burdensome to use your lips.
Inflammatory breakouts result from an infection and are further divided into four types: cysts, nodules, papules and pustules. While papules and nodules do not contain pus, papules and cysts are characterized by the presence of pus. Cysts are the less common form of this category and at the same time the most difficult type to treat. It is important to note that this inflammatory acne usually takes long to heal and can have a permanent impact on the skin, thus the necessity to consult a specialist when faced with such.
What are The Causes of Acne Around The Mouth?
Generally, acne can be caused by:
• Excess oil production;
• Hormonal changes (for instance when there is variation in the level of estrogen and androgen hormones for the women);
• Bacteria; and sometimes
• Hereditary factors.
Certain elements equally trigger or worsen breakouts; these include the following:
• Drugs (especially those containing lithium or testosterone);
• A number of dietary factors such as chocolate, carbohydrate-rich foods or skim milk, which have proved to exacerbate the skin condition;
• A poor hygiene;
• Stress which is scientifically known to cause the body to release androgens and cortisol.
More specifically, acne can appear around the mouth for several reasons, such as:
• Using inappropriate cosmetic products (including sulfate rich toothpastes, make up accessories, lipstick or lip balms);
• Sleeping without removing your makeup;
• Leaning your face on your hands or even on dirty pillowcases;
• Eating spiced foods that may cause skin irritation; or
• Other health conditions.
How To Be Sure It is Acne?
Some skin conditions do look like acne but are not. It is important to know them and how they occur, so not to apply the wrong treatment and run the risk of worsening the ailment you suffer from.
Perorial dermatitis is a skin problem that can easily be confused with acne around the mouth. It can be recognized by small pimples found around the mouth, nose and chin area and is usually caused by sun or cold exposure, chloride found in some dental products or a contact with an allergenic substance. One way to differentiate it from acne is that the portion of skin affected will usually be itchy and with a closer look, will look more like a rash.
Another skin condition that can be taken for acne is folliculitis, which consists in small, red but non-inflamed bumps that frequently appear on one’s forehead or face. Unlike acne, in cases of folliculitis, the pimples are filled with a clear liquid and not pus.
Though less common, Pyoderma Faciale is equally a skin condition that does look like acne, which is occasioned by trauma or extreme stress. The difference with acne is that, it produces more painful and bigger abrasions than acne does.
Note that in the three skin conditions listed above, taking medications against acne will make the situation worse. It is therefore important that before commencing any treatment, you make sure that what you are dealing with is actually acne.
How To Treat Acne Around The Mouth?
When mild, acne can be easily treated by over-the-counter medications (such as gels, soaps, creams, etc.) applicable to the skin. Such will generally contain active ingredients like salicylic acid, Retin-A, sulfur, azelaic acid, benzoyl peroxide or resorcinol.
Further precautions need to be taken in the treatment of acne around the mouth:
• Do well to change all the makeup products you frequently use;
• Replace sulfate rich toothpastes with hypoallergenic ones;
• Avoid excess sun exposure;
• Avoid touching the pimples around your mouth in order not to run the risk of spreading the bacteria on other parts of your face or body.
• To prevent scars, always have your spot-treating medicine at hand;
• Avoid scrubbing your skin too hard;
• Be consistent in using the acne treatment; and
• Avoid applying the medications too closely to your lips to avoid an eventual irritation.
Note that if after a while and despite the aforementioned precautions the symptoms persist, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist as soon as possible.
How To Prevent Acne?
• Always keep your face clean;
• However do not use soaps or products containing ingredients that can irritate your face;
• Do well to remove cosmetics and makeup every night with a good face cleanser;
• Use an oil free moisturizer during the day;
• Wash your mouth thoroughly after taking acidic foods;
• Avoid touching your face with your hands;
• Regularly wash your pillowcases, especially if you or someone in your entourage is frequently to acne;
• Refrain from diets that trigger the skin condition; and
• Keep watch over your level of stress.