Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 9/17/2020
Noticed a few extra pimples along your jawline? Dealing with acne outbreaks along your chin and jawline can be a serious challenge, especially when the acne is in a prominent place that makes it difficult to cover up with makeup.
Your jawline is one of the most common locations for acne outbreaks. Studies even show that hormonal acne (the most common form of acne) tends to concentrate in the lower third of the face, particularly on the chin, jaw and cheeks.
If you’re dealing with an acne outbreak on your chin and jawline, there’s no need to panic. Just like other acne outbreaks, acne that affects our chin, jawline and lower cheeks is relatively easy to treat using a variety of different products.
From topical retinoids to hormonal medication, we’ve covered these products below. We’ve also explained how and why acne can affect your chin and jawline, from the effects of your hormone production on acne outbreaks to your skin cell turnover process.
Almost all acne, from common whiteheads and blackheads to severe, painful cystic acne, is caused by the change in hormones. Therefore, understanding your hormones (and not face mapping your acne!) is the key to understanding what's causing your acne.
As we’ve covered in our guide to hormonal acne, acne outbreaks are usually the result of your body producing higher-than-normal amounts of androgen hormones. Hormonal culprit number one is testosterone -- a male sex hormone that’s produced by both men and women.
As a woman, the amount of testosterone your body produces is a small fraction as much as that of a man. But you’re also more sensitive to testosterone, meaning that even a small increase in your body’s testosterone production can have significant effects.
One of these effects is an increase in production of sebum -- a natural, oil-like substance that’s used to hydrate and protect your skin. When your sebum levels rise, excess sebum can collect inside your pores, resulting in blockages that produce acne.
It’s well recognized that hormonal acne outbreaks tend to affect the chin and jawline the most, meaning that if you’re sensitive to hormonal acne, there’s a good chance you’ll experience the most severe breakouts in the lower third of your face.
Chin and jawline acne can range from the occasional pimple to severe, painful cystic acne that can produce long-term scarring.
Luckily, the acne that develops around your chin and jawline doesn’t need to be permanent. A variety of treatment options are available, ranging from topical creams to hormonal medication such as birth control.
There are several proven, science-based treatments available for chin and jawline acne. Right now, the common treatments for acne that affects the jawline include topical retinoids such as tretinoin, oral retinoids such as isotretinoin, antibiotics and birth control pills.
Each of these treatments targets and prevents acne from a different angle. Your dermatology practitioner or healthcare provider might prescribe one or several treatments, depending on the severity of your acne.
Retinoids are medications derived from vitamin A. They work by speeding up your body’s skin cell turnover cycle, allowing your body to quickly exfoliate dead skin cells.
When dead skin cells become trapped inside your pores, they can cause the pores to become clogged. This can result in everything from a minor whitehead or blackhead to severe, infected acne.
Retinoids can be topical (meaning you apply the medication directly to your skin in the form of a cream or solution) or oral (meaning you’ll need to take a tablet or capsule, usually daily).
One of the most popular topical retinoids is tretinoin.
With a usage record dating all the way back to the 1960s, tretinoin has been used by millions of people to treat acne, prevent future breakouts and, in some cases, even slow down the aging process.
There are numerous studies showing that tretinoin works effectively as an acne treatment. Used as standalone medication or combined with an antibacterial, it stimulates the growth of new cells and unclogs pores associated with sebum.
Tretinoin comes in a gel or cream form . It’s one of several active ingredients in our acne treatments, making it easy to add to your skincare routine.
For severe, difficult cases of acne, some dermatology practitioners or healthcare providers will prescribe isotretinoin. Like tretinoin, isotretinoin is a retinoid that speeds up skin cell turnover. Unlike tretinoin, isotretinoin is an oral medication, meaning it’s usually taken as a once-daily pill.
Compared to tretinoin, isotretinoin has a larger, more serious range of side effects. Because of this, it’s usually only used as a treatment for severe chin and jawline acne, such as persistent, painful cystic acne that doesn’t go away using topical treatments.
Almost all chin and jaw acne is hormonal, meaning birth control is one of the most popular and effective treatment options available.
Birth control pills treat and prevent acne by reducing your body’s testosterone production. With lower levels of testosterone, your skin produces less sebum, making it harder for your pores to become clogged, infected and inflamed.
Right now, the FDA has approved three birth control pills for treating acne: YAZ®, Estrostep® and Ortho Tri-Cyclen®. All three of these pills use a combination of estrogen and a progestin to stop pregnancy, reducing testosterone and other androgen levels in the process.
It’s worth noting that progestin-only birth control pills, commonly known as “mini-pills,” usually aren’t as effective at treating acne and could even cause you to experience more outbreaks.
Since most chin, jawline and lower facial acne is the result of excess sebum production, birth control can be very effective at preventing outbreaks.
Our guide to birth control and acne goes into more detail on how birth control works as an acne treatment, as well as what you can expect if you decide to use birth control to treat and manage your acne.
Spironolactone is a medication that’s most commonly used as a treatment for fluid buildup from liver, heart and kidney issues. It’s also a powerful antiandrogen, making it useful as a treatment for hormonal acne caused by androgens like testosterone.
While spironolactone isn’t yet approved by the FDA as a treatment for acne, it’s prescribed quite often by dermatology practitioners and healthcare professionals. In fact, Dermatology Times recently noted that spironolactone has been in use as an acne treatment for more than 30 years.
Spironolactone works by reducing the levels of androgens that fuel sebum production, helping you control skin oil and avoid clogged hair follicles. Studies show that it works well, with most women experiencing a significant improvement in acne after using spironolactone.
Because of the way spironolactone affects androgen levels, it isn’t a suitable treatment for men with acne. However, for women, it can be a powerful and effective tool for dealing with acne on the chin, jawline and other areas of the face that hormonal acne often targets.
If you have cystic acne, your dermatology practitioner or healthcare provider might prescribe an antibiotic to reduce infection and inflammation.
Antibiotics are almost always prescribed in combination with other acne treatments, such as an oral or topical retinoid or a form of hormonal birth control. Dermatologists and healthcare providers prescribe both topical and oral antibiotics for acne, although oral antibiotics are usually only used for severe acne.
While antibiotics don’t treat acne itself -- even the strongest antibiotics won’t affect your body’s sebum production or skin cell turnover process -- they can fight back against the infections that cause acne to become inflamed and painful.
The most widely used oral antibiotics for cystic acne are tetracycline, doxycycline, erythromycin and minocycline. For hormonal acne and less severe cystic acne, healthcare providers also often prescribe topical antibiotics like clindamycin.
Outbreaks of acne that affect your chin and jawline are almost always caused by hormones -- namely, your body’s production of androgens such as testosterone.
Because of this, the most effective treatments for chin and jawline acne work by controlling your body’s androgen production.