Acne is a common skin condition that currently affects up to 50 million in the United States[1] every year. It manifests in various forms and locations on the face. Acne usually develops during puberty and affects adolescents and young adults the most. However, it can continue in their 30s and 40s as well.

Among the most prominent areas where acne tends to appear are the cheeks. Acne on the cheeks is far beyond a cosmetic concern, as it can also be a source of discomfort and self-consciousness for many people. Understanding the causes and triggers of cheek acne can help to address and manage this issue. Furthermore, knowing ways to prevent it can also be beneficial in treating this prevalent skin issue.

What Is Cheek Acne?

Cheek acne refers to acne lesions that are specifically located on the cheeks. They are the fleshy, rounded areas of the face below the eyes between the ears and the mouth. Acne[2] itself is a common skin condition characterized by pimples, blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, or nodules, typically arising due to the clogging of the pores with oil, dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria.

What does Cheek Acne Look Like?

Cheek acne may be due to influences from factors such as skin type, genetics, and environmental conditions. Additionally, acne lesions on the cheeks can be associated with redness and inflammation in the surrounding areas. Two different types of acne can show up on the cheeks: non-inflammatory and inflammatory.

1. Non-inflammatory

This type of acne occurs when pores are clogged with no inflammation, redness, or swelling.

  • Whiteheads (closed comedones): Whiteheads[3] form when dead skin cells, excess oil, and bacteria build up in the pores, resulting in closed bumps in the skin. They are usually white or yellowish in appearance.
  • Blackheads (open comedones): Blackheads[4] form when open bumps on the skin are filled with excess oil and dead skin, resulting in dark spots. They typically occur on the nose but can appear in other parts of the body, including the cheeks.

2. Inflammatory

Inflammatory acne[5] causes red, inflamed pimples to appear on the face. These occur deep in the skin and oftentimes contain pus. They are also tender to the touch.

  • Papules: Papules[6] are small, red, inflamed bumps on the skin surface. These lesions are typically not filled with pus and may be painful pimples. This is a common form of acne that affects all ages.

  • Pustules: Papules tend to form into pustules[7]. These pimples are red and inflamed and are filled with a white or yellow center containing pus, which tends to ooze out if ruptured. Pustules develop from papules when the white cells begin to gather to fight as the skin begins to break down to produce pus.

  • Nodules: Nodules[8] are larger pimples turned into hard lumps under the skin. Nodules are often painful and can contribute to the development of more severe forms of acne and infections. About 20% of people with acne have this form, which requires treatment from a dermatologist.

  • Cysts: Cysts[9] are deep, inflamed lesions filled with fluid that are under the skin. Cysts are typically larger than pustules and nodules and can lead to scarring if not treated promptly. These are severe and are mainly caused by hormonal imbalances.

What are the causes of Acne on the Cheeks?

Cheek acne[10] can be attributed to a combination of factors, from everyday habits to genetic and health influences. Identifying and addressing the causes can lead to managing and treating cheek acne effectively.

  • Touching Your Face: Touching your face frequently with unwashed hands can transfer bacteria and oils to the skin, potentially leading to clogged pores and acne breakouts.
  • Talking on the Phone: Phones can hold massive amounts of bacteria, and holding them against the cheek during phone calls may contribute to the development of acne. Regularly cleaning your phone and using hands-free options can help minimize this risk.
  • Dirty Pillowcases: Sleeping on dirty pillowcases can expose your skin to accumulated oils, dirt, and bacteria. Regularly changing and washing pillowcases can help prevent cheek acne.

  • Makeup and Makeup Brushes: Certain makeup products and the use of dirty makeup brushes can be the cause of cheek acne since they clog pores. Ensuring that makeup is a non-comedogenic product (not pore-clogging) and cleaning your brushes regularly reduces the risk of skin irritation.

  • Your Skincare Routine: Harsh or inappropriate skincare products can irritate the skin and exacerbate acne. Using products suitable for your skin type and addressing specific skincare concerns is crucial for maintaining clear skin.
  • Genetics: A family history of acne can increase the likelihood of experiencing acne on the cheeks. Genetic factors can influence skin type, oil production, and susceptibility to acne.
  • Hormones: Hormonal fluctuations, especially during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, or conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), can lead to increased oil production and contribute to the development of acne.
  • Nutrition: Diet[11] can play a huge role in skin health. Following a diet that is high in processed foods, sugary snacks, dairy, and saturated fats may contribute to inflammation and acne. A balanced, anti-acne[12] diet is beneficial for overall skin well-being.

What are the symptoms of Cheek Acne?

Cheek acne can present various symptoms, and the severity of these symptoms may vary for each individual.

  • Redness/Inflammation: Inflamed acne lesions on the cheeks can appear red or pink. This indicates increased blood flow and inflammation in the affected areas.
  • Pain or tenderness: Larger and more severe acne lesions, such as nodules or cysts, may cause pain or tenderness when touched or pressed.
  • Bumps or Pimples: The presence of different types of acne lesions, including papules, pustules, blackheads, whiteheads, nodules, or cysts, on the surface of the cheeks.
  • Itching: This is not common but some individuals may experience itching in the areas affected by acne. They may also experience random itchy bumps that come and go particularly when the skin is irritated or inflamed.
  • Scarring: In severe cases, if acne is not properly treated, there is a risk of scarring. This can result from inflammation and tissue damage caused by more significant acne lesions even if the skin is ruptured by lesions.
  • Hyperpigmentation: After an acne lesion heals, it may leave dark spots on the skin. This can be a lingering symptom even after acne has subsided.
  • Increased Oiliness: Acne on the cheeks is often associated with increased oil production in the skin, contributing to the development of acne lesions.
  • Enlarged Pores: Over time, persistent acne can lead to the enlargement of pores on the cheeks, creating a noticeable texture on the skin.

How to Prevent Cheek Acne?

There are a variety of ways to prevent cheek acne. Of course, depending on the causes, severity, and skin type, it will vary from person to person.

  • Practicing better everyday habits: Avoiding touching your face often, cleaning your phone regularly, changing and cleaning pillowcases and makeup brushes, and learning to manage stress are all habits that can be formed to prevent acne on the cheek.
  • Cleansing regularly: Wash your face twice daily with a gentle, non-comedogenic cleanser to remove excess oil, dirt, and bacteria.
  • Choosing non-comedogenic products: Select skincare and makeup products labeled as non-comedogenic to avoid clogging pores.

  • Consuming a balanced diet: Maintain a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and limit processed foods and sugary snacks. Foods high in glycemic index tend to spike blood sugar levels, leading to more acne.

  • Staying hydrated: Drink an adequate amount of water to keep your skin hydrated and support overall skin health.
  • Treating hormonal imbalances: If hormonal fluctuations or imbalances are suspected, consult with a healthcare provider to explore appropriate treatment options to better manage acne problems.
  • Use sun protection: Use sunscreen daily to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, and choose non-pore-clogging formulations.
  • Gently exfoliate: Incorporate gentle exfoliation into your skincare routine to remove dead skin cells and prevent clogged pores. Avoid over-exfoliating.
  • Practice a consistent skincare routine: Establish a consistent skincare routine with products suitable for your skin type. Be patient, as results may take time.
  • Consulting with a Dermatologist: If acne persists or becomes severe, seek professional advice from a dermatologist for personalized treatment options.
Gently exfoliate

How do I treat Acne on the Cheeks?

Individual responses to how to treat cheek[13] acne may vary, so it may take some time to find the most effective approach for your specific case. Of course, consulting with a healthcare professional will be the best option to go over causes and treatment options.

  • Gentle Cleansing: Use a mild, non-comedogenic cleanser to wash your face twice daily, removing excess oil, dirt, and bacteria.
  • Topical Treatments: Apply over-the-counter or prescription topical treatments containing ingredients like salicylic acid, or retinoids to target acne lesions. Other prescription topicals, such as isotretinoin, can be used as well, but they must be monitored closely due to severe side effects. In addition, you can also apply hyaluronic acid for acne-prone skin to the lesions. This allows your skin to remain hydrated and plump. Many topical treatments may over dry the skin.
  • Oral medications: In severe cases, a dermatologist may recommend oral antibiotics if topical treatment is not working or if lesions are severely inflamed. For females with hormonal acne, birth control pills may be prescribed to regulate hormones and reduce acne breakouts.
  • Chemical Peels: Consider professional chemical peels to exfoliate the skin and promote the shedding of dead skin cells, reducing acne.
  • Dietary Changes: Consider dietary adjustments, such as reducing dairy and processed food intake, to address triggers.
  • Consistent Skincare Routine: Establish and maintain a consistent skincare routine tailored to your skin type to promote long-term skin health. Consider adding products such as Zeroblem Blemish Treatment Serum to your routine, as this helps to heal acne without stripping the skin of its natural oils. It also helps to prevent flare-ups.
  • Consult a Dermatologist: If home remedies and over-the-counter treatments are not effective, consult a dermatologist for personalized advice and advanced treatment options.

What are some at-home Cheek Acne treatments?

Consistency is crucial when using at-home treatments[14], and results may take time. If acne persists or worsens, or if you have concerns about a specific treatment, it’s advisable to consult with a dermatologist for personalized advice. Implementing a proper diet, avoiding touching your face too often, and practicing proper acne-proof habits daily are home remedies for cheek acne treatment. Let’s take a look at the other home treatments.

  • Tea Tree Oil: Consider using diluted tea tree oil as a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory treatment for acne. Apply sparingly.
  • Honey mask: Mix honey and cinnamon to create a mask with antibacterial properties, scar fading, and skin brightening.
  • Aloe Vera Gel: Pure aloe vera gel has anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Ensure it’s free from added chemicals.
  • Green Tea Extract: Use cooled green tea as a toner in a spritz bottle or apply green tea extract with honey and aloe vera gel. Green tea is great because it has anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and antioxidant properties.


Is cheek acne hormonal?

Cheek acne can be influenced by hormonal factors. Hormones play a crucial role in regulating oil production (sebaceous glands), and any fluctuations can lead to increased sebum production, clogged pores, and the development of acne. Hormonal changes during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can contribute to the occurrence of acne on the cheeks. Androgens, such as testosterone, stimulate the oil glands, leading to excess oil secretion, which, when combined with skin cell shedding, creates a favorable environment for bacteria and acne development.

This is why finding the causes of acne is crucial because it is hormonally based. After all, there are treatment options that will target this issue.

How long does acne on the cheeks last?

How long pimples last varies widely depending on factors such as the individual's skin type, the severity of the acne, and the effectiveness of the chosen treatments. Mild cases may resolve within a few weeks or months, while more severe or persistent acne can last for several months or even years. Hormonal factors, genetics, and skincare routines also impact the duration of cheek acne. Consistent and appropriate treatment with a good skin care regimen can help shorten acne issues. However, individuals may continue to experience occasional breakouts or residual marks.

It's essential to be patient, adhere to a customized skincare routine, and seek professional guidance for persistent acne. A comprehensive approach to managing cheek acne can ultimately reduce the duration of this skin condition.

What age is acne the worst?

Acne is most commonly associated with adolescence, and for many individuals, the teenage years represent a period when acne is at its peak. Typically, acne is at its worst during puberty, between the ages of 12 and 18, as hormonal changes lead to increased oil production and skin cell turnover. However, the severity and duration of acne can vary widely among individuals and many adults have been experiencing acne problems. Hormonal fluctuations and stress can influence adult-onset acne, which contributes to acne persistence in adulthood.

What food is bad for acne?

Certain foods[15] are commonly associated with exacerbating acne, and individuals prone to breakouts may consider moderating their intake of these items. High-glycemic foods, including sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates, can increase insulin levels, promote inflammation and oil production, and contribute to acne. Dairy products are linked to acne development due to hormonal components that potentially stimulate oil glands. Processed and fried foods high in unhealthy fats may also worsen acne by influencing sebum production. While the relationship between diet and acne is complex and varies among individuals, reducing the consumption of these foods and opting for a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may contribute to better skin health.


Cheek acne is a common skin concern with a multitude of causes and varied manifestations. Understanding the factors contributing to cheek acne, such as hormonal fluctuations, genetics, and external triggers, is crucial for effective management. Adopting preventive measures, including proper skincare, maintaining cleanliness, and making lifestyle adjustments, can significantly reduce the risk of acne development.

For those already dealing with cheek acne, a combination of at-home treatments, such as gentle cleansing, topical applications, and dietary considerations, along with professional interventions when needed, can lead to successful outcomes. Patience is key, as the duration and severity of acne vary among individuals. By cultivating a consistent and effective skincare routine and seeking personalized advice when needed, you can navigate and lessen the impact of cheek acne, inviting healthier and clearer skin.