Acne Around the Lips

A blemish around the mouth is likely acne.

Photo: Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

Almost nothing can ruin an otherwise flawless complexion like a pimple, especially when it crops up at the most inopportune times. If you’re like most people, treating minor breakouts is probably old hat by now. But when acne develops somewhere new, like around the lips, it can give you a moment of pause. Fortunately, treatment doesn’t present any more of a challenge — except for its location — than the acne that develops on the chin or cheeks.


A breakout around the lips is often caused by the same factors that contribute to acne anywhere else on the face. Dead skin and excess sebum — the oily substance that keeps your skin from drying out — can build up in any one of the pores nearest your mouth. This buildup forms a soft plug that clogs the pore, preventing sebum from reaching the surface of your skin. As the sebum builds in the pore, bacteria, which thrive in this oily environment, begin to multiply, causing the inflammation that leads to an acne lesion close to your lip.

Self-Care Measures

As with any pimple on your face, proper skin care can control the breakout around your lips. Washing with a gentle cleanser is a good place to start, but avoid using scrubs or astringents. Such products can irritate already inflamed skin, making acne worse. Also, apply a light layer of an over-the-counter acne cream to the blemish after washing your face. Creams containing benzoyl peroxide are often the best, but those made with salicylic acid or resorcinol are helpful as well. At the same time, make sure any cosmetics you’re using are noncomedogenic. Greasy or oily makeup can help trap dead skin and excess oil in your pores, setting the stage for another pimple. And don’t forget about your phone, particularly those for landlines. The receiver can press against the skin around your lips, trapping oil or sweat in a pore and contributing to an acne lesion.

Medical Treatment

Sometimes, self-care isn’t enough to control breakouts, and you may need additional medication to aid in healing. Your dermatologist can prescribe a number of topical preparations. These are a little stronger than their over-the-counter counterparts, often containing higher concentrations of certain ingredients or prescription drugs.

Other Skin Conditions

While acne is the likeliest culprit of a blemish near your lip, not all breakouts are associated with clogged pores. When acne develops around your lips, you may want to talk to a dermatologist. A number of skin conditions can produce pimple-like lesions that look very similar to acne. Perioral dermatitis is probably one of the more common, but rosacea can also trigger acne-like papules and pustules.

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