Breaking Out Between the Brows

Breaking Out Between the Brows

It's one of the most common locations where pimples pop up — here's what you can do about it.


3 minute read

It’s easy to spot a breakout, but it’s harder to identify exactly why that certain area is acting up. We sat down with our founder, board-certified dermatologist Dr. Sandra Lee (aka Dr. Pimple Popper), to clear things up and find out why pimples pop up between our eyebrows. 


Why do we break out between the brows?

According to Dr. Lee, the medical term for that region of the face is the glabellar area. It’s common for people to break out there because it is part of the t-zone — which extends horizontally across your forehead (including the glabellar area) and down vertically along your nose and chin. The t-zone has the highest concentration of sebaceous glands and produces the most sebum (aka oil) — making it virtually primed for producing pimples.

“Our skin contains millions of structures called follicular units — each one made up of a  sebaceous gland, hair follicle, and pore. The sebaceous glands empty oil into our pores, which can mix with dead skin cells and form pimples,” she explains. “So acne really only occurs where there are hair follicles — which is why we don’t break out on non hair-bearing areas like the palms of our hands, soles of our feet, lips or inside of our mouths (in our mucous membranes).”  

Most common causes of brow breakouts

All acne starts with clogged pores: when excess oil and dead skin get trapped and then sometimes, invaded by C. acnes bacteria to form inflammatory pimples. There are several factors that make it more likely to happen in your glabellar region:

  • Tweezing/waxing: When you pluck, wax, or thread, you are pulling hair out at the root. This creates a risk of the hair growing back improperly: turned back under the skin and trapped. This can lead to ingrown hairs, irritation, or acne pimples, or folliculitis. 
  • Makeup/cosmetics: Many cosmetic products are occlusive, meaning they are likely to clog your pores. Old makeup — and makeup brushes — are another common culprit, since these are a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria.
  • Hair products: If you’re using hairspray or deep conditioning products — especially if you have bangs — pore-clogging residue could be building up on your skin. Look for non-comedogenic products (meaning they won’t clog pores).

Dr. Pimple Popper's Brow Acne Solutions

Dr. Pimple Popper’s tips for treating acne between the brows

Dr. Lee says that the best way to handle pimples that pop up in your eyebrow area is to take measures to prevent your pores from becoming clogged in the first place. Here are her tips and tricks for treating and preventing brow acne.

  • Follow an acne skincare regimen. If you have chronic breakouts, you need a routine that treats acne at every stage. If you’re dealing with the occasional pimple, exfoliating and using retinol regularly should help keep pores clear. Try: SLMD Acne System, Salicylic Acid Cleanser, Retinol Resurfacing Serum.
  • Consider laser hair removal. If you’re removing a lot of hair from your eyebrow area on a regular basis, it’s worth exploring laser treatments. This will permanently remove the hair, so you’re not removing the hair at the root and risking ingrown hairs. If you have to tweeze, sterilize your tools, wash your face and hands first, and use exfoliating pads regularly. Try: SLMD AHA/BHA Swipes.
  • Mind your makeup stash. If you can’t remember how old your makeup is, it’s probably time to replace it. Generally speaking, you should toss eyebrow pencils after a year, and eyebrow gel between three and six months. Clean your brushes at least monthly.
  • Keep hair care at a distance. Apply hair styling products and heavy conditioners away from your hairline and roots. Shield your forehead and face from hairspray. If bangs are causing your brow acne, consider a new hairstyle.
  • Use an antibacterial spot treatment. When brow pimples pop up, don’t pick! You’ll likely make it worse. Instead, apply a maximum-strength spot treatment with benzoyl peroxide, which kills acne-causing bacteria. Try: SLMD BP Acne Spot Treatment.
  • Wash your hats. Ever check the inside band of your hat and notice a dark stain? That’s a buildup of sweat, oil and bacteria (ew). Avoid wearing hats that fit tightly over your breakouts, and/or protect your pimples with acne patches. Whenever possible, wash your hats, and mist the inside with an acne spray before and after wearing. Try: SLMD Salicylic Acid Pimple Patches, Salicylic Acid Body Spray.
Dr Sandra Lee

Dr. Lee's Last Word

Eyebrow acne is incredibly common, and we treat it like we do acne anywhere else: with skincare ingredients like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinol. Sometimes it’s from cosmetics or acne mechanica from wearing hats…in these cases, making some simple lifestyle changes can go a long way. If it doesn’t clear up, see your dermatologist.


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