Acne On One Side of the Face: What Does it Mean?

Acne On One Side of the Face: What Does it Mean?

Unlock the secrets of one-sided facial acne and explore causes, types, treatments, and prevention strategies for a balanced and clear complexion.

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Discovering acne on one side of your face can be jarring: Your right side is perfectly clear, but your left jawline is covered with rough, red bumps. What’s going on?

Trust that you’re not the first person to ask Google about the reasons behind “acne on one side of face.” Acne is not only the most prevalent skin condition in the US, but experiencing it only on one part of your face—be it your chin, forehead, or, yes, that whole left jawline—is a more common issue than you might think. 

While it’s all too easy to brush off a breakout on common acne causes, consistently finding pimples on one side of the face may be indicative of a deeper issue. Let’s explore the why behind it—and how you can combat this skin condition in the name of a clear, beautiful complexion. 

Why Am I Breaking Out on One Side of the Face?

Breaking out on one side of your face may be due to a whole host of reasons (more on this below) but it’s important to recall what prompts acne in the first place.

From a purely physiological stance, acne occurs when your pores become clogged with debris ranging from dirt to makeup to even dead skin cells. This triggers an inflammatory response as your body attempts to thwart the perceived invader and results in one or more of acne vulgaris’s many manifestations:

  • Blackheads
  • Whiteheads
  • Papules
  • Pustules
  • Cysts
  • Nodules

Whether you're suffering from cheek acne, neck acne, or chin acne, breakouts can develop almost anywhere on the body and in any pattern. While the root cause of all acne—inflammation—remains the same, why inflammatory acne occurs can vary widely. Persistent, discrete breakouts in specific areas can be a clue that something is a bit more awry than forgetting to wash your face after last weekend’s late-night date.

Overview of Acne Asymmetry 

The issue of acne on one side of the face has been a subject of interest for centuries. 

Ayurvedic medicine practitioners developed what’s contemporarily called “acne face mapping,” the idea being that different parts of your face are directly connected to certain internal organs. When acne stubbornly appears or recurs in one specific area, it may be telling you more than immediately meets the eye—and reveal the specific health issues and lifestyle factors that may be behind it.

Potential Causes of One-Sided Facial Acne

Whether you repeatedly experience a cluster of whiteheads on your forehead or blind pimples on your jawline, one-sided facial acne can typically be traced back to one or more of several overlapping reasons. These include:

  • Hormonal fluctuations – Hormonal changes are part of being human. But experiencing substantial swings in certain hormones can take a toll on your skin, leading to hormonal acne. (Specifically, an uptick in androgen production is believed to prompt flare-ups.) Menopause, menstruation, pregnancy, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)—all are known for triggering excess sebum production and, consequently, acne breakouts. Hormonal acne can be checked by doing an acne lab test.

  • Exogenous factors – Ever find an acne breakout on your forehead after a visit to your stylist? Whether you realize it or not, hair products and makeup can cause acne breakouts to occur. External factors—from the chemicals in your cosmetics to the oils in your hair products—may also be to blame for acne. A handful of the most harmful, pore-clogging ingredients for acne-prone skin include:
      • Lanolin
      • Fragrances
      • Dyes
      • Silicone
      • Sodium chloride

  • Gut health – Did you know that there is a strong relationship between your gut and acne? The gut microbiome—or the delicate ecosystem of bacteria in your gut—has been implicated in a number of health issues, including acne. Emerging research on the topic reveals that an imbalance between “good” and “bad” bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract may stimulate systemic inflammation and result in an acne breakout.,

  • Naturally, these aren’t the only reasons behind acne that appears only on one part of the face—and we’ll touch upon a few other possible culprits below.

    Types of Unilateral Facial Acne

    Unilateral facial acne may emerge in any one of acne’s triggers listed above. Generally, it appears in one of the following areas:

    • Forehead
    • Chin 
    • Jawline
    • Hairline 
    • Cheeks
    • T-zone (or your chin, forehead, and nose)

    Understanding Pattern and Distribution 

    As discussed, the location of breakouts can offer you a glimpse into your overall health and lifestyle while also giving you a peek into its precise causes:

  • HairlineHairline acne or near the edges of your face is colloquially called “pomade acne” because it can be triggered by the oils in—you guessed it—your pomade or other hair products. Certain headgear, such as your bike helmet or the headband you sport at the gym, can also cause hairline acne. 

  • Cheeks – If you find acne sprouting up on one of your cheeks time and again, consider which side of your face you hold your phone to—and which side of your face you tend to sleep on: Both your phone and pillowcase may be carrying dirt and other bacteria that could be spawning those blemishes. Another possible cause? Genetics. 

  • Jawline and chin – Jawline acne and chin acne are thought to have one of three possible offenders: imbalanced hormones, diet, and/or gut health.

  • T-zone – T-zone breakouts are nearly ubiquitous, but that doesn’t make them any less bothersome. Some experts suggest that acne in this area may be spurred by stress and exhaustion. 

  • Skin Health and Lifestyle Factors

    As your body’s biggest organ, your skin is a direct reflection of your overall health and how you’re leading your life. Smoking, tanning, excessive alcohol, even skimping on sleep—all can impact your internal organs and the organ you show to the world.

    Impact of Skincare Routine

    Whether you have only the occasional bout of unilateral acne or frequently find blemishes on several parts of your face, consider your skincare routine and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Am I being consistent? – Consistency is imperative in skincare. If you fall out of the habit of using an acne treatment regimen or even ensuring you head to bed with a clean face, your skin may, well, remind you to return to your practice.

  • Am I using comedogenic skincare products and ingredients? – You may not realize that countless products contain ingredients that would qualify as comedogenic—or, put simply, clog pores. These comedogenic ingredients include seemingly natural wonders like coconut oil and cacao butter, as well as synthetic compounds such as isopropyl palmitate and talc. (For a full list, check out this pore-clogging ingredient list.) Meaning: Scrutiny is vital when it comes to your skincare ingredients.

  • Diet, Sleep, and Stress Influence

    It’s an all-too-familiar scenario: After a super chaotic work week, you rise on Saturday morning to find that your T-Zone is covered with patchy, angry acne. But once you pause and reflect on how you’ve been treating yourself, you may discover that three of the biggest components that affect skin health—diet, sleep, and stress—were thrown totally out of whack M–F. 

    Let’s look briefly at each:

  • Diet – Some experts suggest that the link between diet and acne is tenuous at best. Others (and the research behind it) indicate otherwise. What we do know is that high-sugar, high-fat diets can cause widespread inflammation and hormonal disequilibrium, both of which can trigger acne. Care for your brain, body, and skin by curbing your intake of both and piling your plate with plant-based, antioxidant-rich eats instead.

  • Stress – Stress wreaks havoc on your brain and body—including your skin. Whether you’re dealing with a recent breakup or feel under the gun with a deadline, stress increases cortisol production. In turn, cortisol ramps up sebaceous gland activity and increases oil production. 

  • Sleep – The importance of sound, rejuvenating sleep cannot be overstated. Not only will it give you the energy and bright mood to lead a lifestyle that promotes healthy skin, but sleep is also when your skin revitalizes itself. (Indeed, repairs to skin damage peak at night.) Further, inadequate, poor sleep can spur acne and result in dry and dull skin.

  • Treatment Approaches for One-Sided Acne

    Treating acne on one side of face should mirror the same regimen you would use to treat all acne, such as:

    • Avoid scrubbing and harsh exfoliators that may cause irritation
    • Reach for ingredients that work as powerful acne deterrents, such as squalene, Vitamin C, and natural exfoliators like alpha-hydroxy acids.,,

    And if your blemishes persist? By all means, consider the advantages a dermatologist can provide, including an informed diagnosis of your unilateral acne’s causes and the best preventative measures for a clear complexion.

    Prevention Strategies

    The lifestyle changes outlined above—from cleaning off your phone to reducing your consumption of sugar—may make an enormous difference in the frequency and severity of your acne. 

    Additionally, if your blemishes are in fact caused by hormones, consider a solid hormonal acne supplement to restore your body’s balance. 

    Above all, seek out smart stress-busting tactics that will tone down inflammation—and leave you, and your skin, feeling cool, calm, and rested. 

    Addressing Unilateral Acne Concerns

    Acne that emerges on one side of your face can stir up a great deal of emotions and concerns. But it can also be a valuable tool for understanding what’s going on with you internally, emotionally, and environmentally.

    Experimenting with the strategies and lifestyle changes mentioned here may give you a leg up on fending off acne and mitigating blemishes when they appear. 

    Augment your efforts with CLEARSTEM’s skincare for acne-prone skin, a collection of exceptional products shaped by the latest dermatological research, and rest assured that only the most nourishing ingredients will have contact with your complexion.

    Map out your ideal skincare routine with CLEARSTEM.


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