Breaking out between your brows? We’ve all been there. And the thing about these pesky pimples is that they’re right smack dab in the center of your face. Like a third eye (or five) that you swear everyone is looking at when you’re talking to them.
Fortunately, they’re usually pretty easy to clear up. We asked Dr. Sandra Lee (yes, the Pimple Popper herself) and Dr. Jennifer Chwalek, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York, for insight on why we break out here specifically and what we can do about it.
What are the causes for acne between your eyebrows?
“The glabellar area (the medical term for the region between the eyebrows) is actually a very common place for people to break out,” says Lee. “This is because it’s part of your T-zone (which starts at your forehead and follows down the length of your nose and ends at your chin). The T-zone is one of the oiliest areas of your face because it has the highest concentration of sebaceous glands.” (And in this case, more sebum equals more problems.)
“Sebaceous glands empty into your pores and can clog your hair follicles causing inflammation. So, if you notice, acne really only occurs where there are hair follicles and not so much on the non-hair-bearing areas of your skin—like the palms of your hands, soles of your feet, or along your mucous membranes (i.e. your lips or the insides of your nose and mouth),” says Lee.
And one of most common culprits for between the brow bumps is…drumroll…tweezing. Or waxing. Or really any of the hair removal you do to keep that unibrow in check. As Lee further explains: “When you pluck (or wax or thread) your hair, you pull it out at the root. As it grows back, it needs to grow a little bit under the skin before it projects beyond the surface. If the incoming hair gets trapped underneath the skin during this process, it becomes “ingrown,” and appears as a pimple-like bump.”
“This is especially the case for people with thick or curly hair,” adds Chwalek, as this type of hair is more likely to bend back and get trapped under the surface causing folliculitis or the aforementioned inflammation of the hair follicle.
If the bumps or pustules are accompanied by redness and flaking of the skin, it could be seborrhea. “This is another name for dandruff and it can occur on not only your scalp but other areas of your face—especially near your eyebrows,” says Chwalek.
Finally, another thing to consider is what you’re using on and around your face. Take a closer look at the ingredient labels. Are your skin-care products non-comedogenic (meaning they won’t clog pores)? And are you using any heavy conditioners or styling products like oils or serums near your roots (i.e. close to the hairline)? If you have bangs, do you pull them up and out of your face during workouts and wash them daily to keep them from getting greasy and matted down to your forehead?
How do you treat acne between your eyebrows?
“If you are prone to pimples in this area, my best advice would be to skip plucking or waxing your brows. You may want to try shaving the hair instead, so you’re not removing the hair from the root—or there’s always the option to get laser hair removal for a more permanent solution,” advises Lee.
Hair removal methods aside, always make sure to use an antibacterial spot treatment in the area. “Ideally, you want something that will keep the area clear of any acne-causing bacteria like benzoyl peroxide, which will help prevent future pimples from ever forming in the first place,” says Lee.
Dr. Chwalek agrees on the benzoly peroxide but also recommends salicylic acid or sulfur products —particularly if your skin doesn’t tolerate bp well. For seborrhea, you’ll need to see your dermatologist for a topical antifungal (like ketoconazole cream) or a steroid like a hydrocortisone cream.
OK, now that we’ve covered the why’s and how’s, let’s discuss some of our go-to products for treating acne between the eyebrows. Note: These are best suited for blackheads, whiteheads, or newly budding spots. (For deeper, cystic acne, you’ll want to see a derm to figure out the best course of action, which could include a combination of oral and topical treatments.)
La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Acne Treatment
This French staple combines 5.5 percent benzoyl peroxide with 0.4 percent LHA (a type of salicylic acid) to quickly kill off any acne-causing bacteria, while gradually smoothing the overall texture of your skin. We love the pointy tip applicator that doles out the teensiest pea-sized amount of cream each time (which is all you really need for the spot between your brows and then some).
SLMD BP Spot Treatment
For a slightly gentler option, this bp cream hits the (ahem) spot. Formulated with moisturizing ingredients like vitamin E and soothing allantoin, it protects your skin from drying out while still treating the spot (or spots) in question. After washing your face, apply a thin layer over any bumps to help bring down swelling and clear up bacteria that’s lingering behind.
Paula's Choice Resist BHA 9
And if your skin doesn’t tolerate benzoyl peroxide well or you have a cluster of small spots to tend to, this salicylic acid packed treatment (which boasts a whopping nine percent of the pore-clearing ingredient), is just as hard on bumps as it is on stubborn blackheads.
Jan Marini Bioglycolic Bioclear Lotion
This one goes out to all the ladies (and gentlemen!) who have both acne-prone and sensitive skin. As its name implies, this lotion is a tad more hydrating than some of the others on this list and has a nice slip to it (read: it’s easier to spread onto your skin). The combo of hyaluronic, azelaic, salicylic and glycolic acids ensures no spot—big or small—gets left behind.
Cosrx Acne Pimple Master Patch
If you tend to only get the one-off pimple between your brows, we’d recommend spot treating it with a hydrocolloid patch like this one. The waterproof material creates a little cocoon over the pimple, allowing it to heal faster, while also delivering beta salicylate and white willow bark to the area. Plus, it reduces the risk of mindless picking (and subsequent scarring).
Dr. Dennis Gross Acne Solutions Clarifying Colloidal Sulfur Mask
For weekly maintenance, smooth this creamy mask over any troubled areas. Kaolin and bentonite clays draw out excess oils, while sulfur (which has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties) clears up and calms down inflamed skin. Leave it on for ten minutes before rinsing off or leave it on as an overnight spot treatment.