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Best Tips and Treatments for Acne Around the Mouth

Even if you have clear skin on the rest of your face, acne around the mouth can produce persistent pimples. Usually the problem that causes acne around the mouth is lip balm or some oral care product. When you stop using the wrong product, acne around the mouth clears up on its own. But you have to know which products are causing the problem to make the changes that clear the skin around your mouth.

acne around the mouth
Nasty outbreaks around the mouth can often be prevented.


  • Acne around the mouth is often preventable.
  • One cause of acne around the mouth is overuse of lip balm, especially scented and flavored lip balm.
  • Switching to a pure wax lip balm will help, but stopping lip balm altogether is usually better.
  • Toothpastes that contain sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) can also cause acne around the mouth.
  • Switching toothpaste plus making a habit of rinsing the face with warm water after brushing the teeth will help reduce acne around the mouth, or often eliminate it completely.

Lip Balm and Acne Around the Mouth

Lip balm is addictive. The reason lip balm is addictive is that it tastes good, and it both moistens your lips and dries them out at the same time.

Just how addictive is lip balm? If that little tube of lip balm in your pocket or your purse seems to chanting “Use me…Use me…” all the time, you are not alone. There is actually a 12-step program known as Lip Balm Anonymous. There really are stores that station an in-house detective around displays of lip balm to prevent shoplifting by desperate lip balm addicts.

The makers of lip balm add flavors and fragrances that are associated with happy events. They make lip balm with the taste of chocolate and the scent of Christmas trees. They make lip balm with cola flavorings many people first tasted with Happy Meals. They add fruit flavorings that also used to make adult beverages at resorts in Hawaii.

Every hit of lip balm triggers happy memories. And lip balm can double as lip gloss for both women and men.

All the happiness induced by lip balm might not be a problem except that the fragrances used in lip balm stimulate the production of sebum on skin surrounding the mouth. The wax from the lip balm can clog pores. The fragrances and flavorings used to make lip balm irresistible irritate the skin, which causes it to make more sebum—which gets trapped underneath the wax inside a pore surrounded by dry skin. Because these ingredients are also irritating, the inflame the pore that is already clogged, and tiny red pimples multiply at the corners of the mouth.

The most obvious way to stop these pimples is to stop using lip balm, but it is not for no reason at all that there are chapters of Lip Balm Anonymous. If you just have to keep using lip balm, opt for a brand that is pure wax with no added fragrance or flavorings. This still clogs pores around the mouth, but at least it does not inflame them.

It also helps to keep your lips hydrated by drinking small sips of water throughout the day. If your lips get cracked, use lip wax, or a tiny bit of neem ointment. Neem also helps prevent reddened breakouts around the mouth. Use a humidifier to keep the air in your home or office moist, so your lips don’t crack.

And if you are a hard-core lip balm addict, at least reduce the irritation of the skin around your mouth by applying aloe vera gel once or twice a day, or if you use makeup, by using facial waters after cleansing and before you put on foundation. Facial waters that contain magnesium or selenium will calm the skin so blemishes are not as red and noticeable. Lip balm, however, is just one cause of acne around the mouth.

Toothpaste and Acne Around the Mouth

Another cause of acne around the mouth is toothpaste. The flavors and perfumes added to flavored toothpaste can cause breakouts around the mouth in the same way that the flavors and perfumes in lip balm can cause breakouts around the mouth, but most brands of toothpaste have an additional problem ingredient, sodium lauryl sulfate.

Sodium lauryl sulfate, which is also known as sodium lauryl sulphate, sodium dodecyl sulphate, and SLS, is a sudsing agent. It it added to toothpaste to make sure it doesn’t get stuck in the bottom of the tube, and also to give the product a foaming action against your teeth and gums. This chemical is added to tens of thousands of other detergents to make them foamy so they can lift grease and grime.

The problem with SLS or any other sudsing agent on your skin, especially at the corners of your mouth, is that the surface tension generated at the edges of the bubbles can force tiny cracks in the skin. The skin’s first aid for these cracks is sebum generated by nearby pores. That doesn’t cause acne breakouts, but if toothpaste also gets into those pores and irritates them, excess sebum can get trapped. Surrounding skin is not protected, and the clogged pore forms a whitehead or blackhead if it not inflamed or a pimple if it is.

Women’s skin is more sensitive to SLS than men’s skin. In one famous clinical study reported in the 1970’s, American dermatologists found that persuading adult women who had acne to stop using all products that contained SLS or the skin care ingredients isopropyl myristate or butyl stearate (which are even found in products that supposedly treat acne), 80% of them had complete remission from blemishes, without topical tretinoin, with Retin-A or Accutane, and without skin peels, microdermabrasion, blue light, or laser resurfacing.

Getting rid of chemical-laden toothpaste is a great way to get rid of acne around the mouth in most cases. But since you don’t want to replace your acne problem with a rotting teeth problem, you still need to use toothpaste, just without the SLS, flavorings, and fragrances. Here are some products that won’t make your skin break out.

  • Biotène (but read the label to make sure)
  • Burt’s Bees Natural Toothpaste
  • Jason Natural Products Powersmile Toothpaste
  • Now Foods Xyliwhite
  • Organix South Neem Toothpaste
  • Sensodyne Pronamel
  • Squigel Enamel Saver Toothpaste
  • Tom’s of Maine toothpastes
  • Urtekram Organic Eucalyptus Toothpaste (made in Denmark)

Other products on this list, only Organix South Neem Toothpaste will both stop new blemishes and help heal existing ones. Even these toothpastes, however, should be used just three times a day, and it is still important to rinse the skin around the mouth after brushing.

Lip balm and toothpaste cause easily preventable acne in millions of people. Stopping the use of the wrong products sometimes clears up acne altogether. But if you have lingering acne issues, consider a complete but inexpensive acne treatment system such as Exposed Skin Care.

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Tiquanna Bentos Reply

Thanks, bcuz i really really hate the pimples around my mouth and thats the only place i have them. It looks horrible and if i smile it will show really bad.

April 18, 2015 at 1:58 pm Reply
Cheyenne Reply

It really sucks! It makes it look like you have herpes and it really shoots down my confidence.

February 12, 2018 at 7:09 pm Reply
shailender Reply

I have got two big white heads on both the corners of my mouth for the last 5-6 days. Please help me really looks ugly

April 26, 2015 at 6:17 pm Reply
Julie Reply

I don't use lip balm and I don't use that kind of toothpaste but I still get pimples around my mouth ..

May 2, 2015 at 8:04 pm Reply
HM Reply

This is such an OVER STATEMENT! There are so many other things that can cause pimples around the mouth. Food sensitivities and fluoride are other big contributors too. Also, be careful about Tom's of Maine when purchasing. Some of their products now contain fluoride ever since they were bought out by Colgate.

August 10, 2015 at 11:49 pm Reply
ben chow Reply

for me, the acne around my mouth was due to poor dental hygiene. it almost completely cleared up after a long overdue teeth cleaning. dentist told me there was a ton of bacteria between my teeth from not flossing, causing bleeding gums. i floss daily and use mouth wash now, also considering going in for a deep cleaning.

November 3, 2015 at 12:18 am Reply
Delara Reply

Sensodyne pronamel is the only toothpaste I've ever used so that can't be the cause of my breakouts around the mouth. I am however a lip balm addict but I only use unflavored onces such as nivea or vaseline. I was told vaseline is the way to go but I'm not so sure after reading this. Is there a support group for lip balm addicts? Wanna start one??

August 10, 2016 at 2:08 am Reply
Dero Reply

I have had acne my whole life (30 years old). What I found after trying everything is a problem with bacterias. As soon as I start using mouthwash in daily basis. My acne improved a lot. Hope it helps others

March 8, 2017 at 8:12 am Reply
Euna Reply

Dermalmd acne serum for hormonal acne, I have been breaking out around my mouth and chin and it works great it dries out my pimples within 2 days.

July 9, 2017 at 5:18 am Reply

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