When I was 18, I had to have jaw surgery. My jaw literally became unhinged, and I had to have it reset. My mouth wired shut for a month, the drinking through a straw — the whole nine yards.
I recovered well, but the one lingering issue was the needles from the anesthesia. I’m of Asian heritage and am prone to keloid scars, and while I was fortunate enough not to get scars on my chin, I did get a chin that tends to break out every once in a while. (This did not happen before.) Turns out the healing process didn’t give me a keloid scar, but it did give me a hyperactive oil gland or two.
While unusual (I should be written up in a case study somewhere!), I know that I am not alone in suffering from chin breakouts and acne. So here’s what to do.
P.S. — I’m super fascinated with how different sciences (i.e., biology, nutrition, chemistry, physics, psychology) and approaches to medicine (i.e., Chinese or Eastern medicine, and traditional Western medicine) affect and/or approach skincare. So a lot of my new posts will reflect that.
What Causes Chin Acne?
Turns out chin acne isn’t that much different than acne on other parts of your face. Acne on your chin, as well as other parts of your face, is caused by any of the following (or a mix of the following):
Which Skincare Treats Chin Acne Best?
- Use hormonal treatments to try to re-balance hormonal levels.
- Birth control pills
- Estrogen/progesterone menopausal treatments
- Use antibacterial agents to try to wipe out P. acnes, the underlying bacteria of acne.
- Salicylic acid
- Topical antibiotics
- Use exfoliating agents to increase cell turnover, and reveal newer, fresher, non-affected skin underneath.
- Salicylic acid
- Retinoids or alpha hydroxy acids
- Blue LED light treatments
- Use drying agents and treatments to “dry out” the pimple(s).
- Salicylic acid
- Benzoyl peroxide
- Various types of clay
- Various types of charcoal
- Zinc, magnesium
- Reducing serum production in the skin.
Which Diet Eliminates Chin Acne Most?
I know it’s the start of a new year while I’m writing this, so if one more person recommends me a diet high in leafy greens and low-carbohydrate vegetables, lean protein, and limited to no dairy or sugar, I’m going to barf. However, fortunately or unfortunately, that’s exactly the diet that is recommended for chin acne (as well as other types of acne).
Overall, the evidence says to eat a diet with:
- Limited or no milk or dairy products;
- A low glycemic index;
- A low content of iodine.
The reasons for #1 and #2 are explained in this diagram:
If you are looking for specific studies, you’ve also come to the right place. When it comes to linking milk consumption and acne, there is arguably no better source than F. William Danby at the Harvard School of Public Health. Danby and his team studied more than 47,000 women, asked to complete questionnaires relating to their diet as teenagers and to say whether they had ever been diagnosed with severe acne. The study found no link between food such as chocolate and chips and acne, but found one between women who had acne and those who had drunk a lot of milk. Danby proposes this is due to the DHT (androgens) in the milk, which increase oil production (Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 2008).
There are far more studies that demonstrate the effect of foods with a high glycemic index on acne. In one particularly poignant study, people placed on a low glycemic index for 12 weeks experienced dramatic clearing of the skin – and lost three pounds on average (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2007). It seems the elevated blood sugar-insulin-androgen link to acne really is that profound.
What about iodine?
Iodine is found in milk, egg yolks, kelp (seaweed), and, of course, iodized salt. Not everyone will break out after iodine exposure. Amongst those that do, iodine-related acne is identifiable because it causes severe eruptions of cystic acne (Archives of Dermatology, 1961).
My best advice to those with cystic acne is to write down everything you eat for a week, as well as the condition of your skin. See if you can notice a link within 24-48 hours of an eruption to milk, egg yolks, kelp (seaweed), or excess sodium.
If yes, you may very well want to limit iodine within your diet. However, do not cut out iodine completely – iodine deficiency causes both goiter and hypothyroidism, which is why salt is enriched with it in the first place.
What About Supplements for Chin Acne?
We wouldn’t be American if we didn’t like to pop a pill to try to remedy something!
According to western science and dermatology, there aren’t many supplements that are directly correlated to the resolution of acne, aside from prescription Accutane. That said, there is a weak correlation between zinc supplementation and clearing up acne, as well as omega-3 fatty acids (such as fish oil). I would proceed carefully with the latter, as omega-3 can also make your skin a bit more oily.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, not only does a high vegetable, low-carb diet help (sigh), but supplements like the following may also help (Strait Times):
- To increase your kidney yin to regulate your menses and reduce acne breakouts, try herbs such as glossy privet fruit, yerbadetajo herb, and rehmannia root.
- To strengthen the liver, take Chinese thorowax root, red peony root, and motherwort herb.
- To dispel the heat in the lungs, go for mulberry leaf, weeping forsythia capsule, and baical skullcap root.
- To dispel stomach heat and dampness, turn to pinellia tuber, dried tangerine peel, and cablin patchouli herb. Herbs such as golden thread, danshen root, and tree peony bark can help address blood heat and stasis.
If you’re suffering from chin acne, I recommend:
- First and foremost, get some wipes, and clean off your damn phone. At least once daily, if not two or three times.
- Clean up your diet. Eliminate dairy and iodine, if nothing else. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious, add in leafy greens and lean proteins, and adopt a low-sugar, low-carbohydrate diet.
- Cleanse daily with a salicylic acid cleanser. I recommend SkinCeuticals Clarifying Cleanser.
- Follow up with a serum with retinol, or a prescription retinoid, to help accelerate cell turnover. I recommend our FutureDerm Time-Release Retinol 0.5 (of course).
- Use a benzoyl peroxide treatment, on the spot only. I recommend ZapZYT. Tried and true.
- Moisturize lightly.
- Use a charcoal mask once/week, unless the skin on your chin is dry, then skip this step.
- Consider a zinc supplement nightly.
- If you are a female and notice your acne acts up around your period, try an herb, like mulberry root.
- See a dermatologist for LED treatments and/or prescription Accutane.