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Why Am I Breaking Out On My Cheeks?

The older we get, the more we appreciate a little nostalgia. We watch movies we enjoyed when we were children or even try food we haven’t eaten in years. Ah, the days when we were young! What we certainly aren’t trying to revisit, though, is cheek acne.

If you never had acne as a teen, getting it as an adult might feel even more mind-boggling. Why now, after all these years?

What Are Common Reasons for Cheek Acne?

There are countless reasons you could be experiencing acne as an adult. However, cheek acne may indicate some specific causes.

Dirty Cell Phones

Do you still answer your phone by putting it directly up against your face? If yes, you may have a dirty cell phone spreading bacteria to your cheeks. For real. For example, health care workers are more likely than most to have bacteria-colonized phones. This is because health care workers often touch phones between patients but don’t always wash their hands or clean their phones between use.

That said, most folks' phones aren’t much cleaner. In fact, the phones of both health care and non-health care workers contribute to the spread of drug-resistant organisms.

Dirty Resting Spaces

Where you lay your head can lead to acne. Some people wouldn’t think twice about falling asleep on the subway with their cheek resting on the seat. Similarly, you might rest your cheeks on your desk or even your own pillowcases. Any of these can become a breeding ground for bacteria when not frequently cleaned and disinfected.

One recent study published by the U.S. National Library of Medicine confirms that pillows are often a breeding ground for pathogens. They provide the perfect, warm ecosystem for fungi, bacteria and adenoviruses to thrive.

Face Touching

Over the past year or more during the coronavirus pandemic, people around the world have become more conscious about how often we touch our faces. Even worse, we now notice how often we touch our faces without washing our hands. While public health crises have forced us to adjust in public, we might not think twice about touching our faces at home.

We do it after petting Fido; we do it after touching the phone we just took with us to the restroom. If you’re guilty of these and similar acts, you may have just answered the question: Why am I breaking out on my cheeks?

Mask Wearing

Some people wear masks and have no issue adjusting to them. For others, certain mask materials irritate the skin and cause acne. It’s even worse if you wear a mask for long periods or if you start to sweat while wearing the mask. This has become so common that people have nicknamed acne from a mask “maskne!”

The New York Times dug into the potential causes of mask acne. The type of mask and where it comes into contact with the skin can affect how and where these breakouts develop. Wearing masks tightly and for long periods of time also increases the risk.


Did you know your makeup could be guilty of creating your acne? This might be frustrating if you use makeup to conceal blemishes on your skin. Sadly, the preservatives and other additions in makeup can cause skin irritation or block pores. Failing to regularly disinfect your blush brush and other key pieces for your routine can further compound the problem.

Before you start throwing out your makeup, consider whether someone else has been using it or your brushes. They could be the culprit and not the makeup itself.

Is It Really Acne or Something Else?

One of the tricky things about acne is that it shares a similar appearance with other skin conditions. Consequently, a dermatologist can help determine whether what you have is truly acne. Here are some of the many other conditions that could trick you into thinking you have acne.


This condition tends to present as bumps and redness on the nose and cheeks. If you notice you get your cheek breakouts after the following, it could be rosacea:

  • Drinking alcoholic beverages
  • Spending time in the sun
  • Experiencing stress
  • Smoking


These tend to affect men more than women on the cheeks because they tend to appear where there are hair follicles. If you recently trimmed your beard or switched barbers, this could account for the breakout. These bumps tend to form in tiny clusters and can be itchy.


This looks like a cluster of whitehead pimples. They most commonly form around the eyes, but the cheeks are definitely not off-limits. Milia often occurs wherever the skin has injuries or chafing from clothing or rough sheets.

Sebaceous Hyperplasia

These might alarm you if they appear on the cheeks because they tend to look like larger pimples. Men are more likely to get these because they tend to occur around hair follicles that become enlarged. Middle-aged people and seniors are most susceptible.

How Can You Get Rid of Your Cheeky Breakouts?

The first time you tried to cure your acne, you probably headed straight for the skincare aisle at the pharmacy. However, the best starting place is making some lifestyle changes. Then, talk to a dermatologist.

Disinfect Phones

Use disinfecting wipes to clean your phone at least once per day. It’s also a good idea to break yourself of the habit of bringing the phone with you to the restroom, especially public restrooms.

Use Headsets

You can reduce the likelihood of your phone coming into contact with your face by using headsets. Whether you choose Bluetooth or plug-in versions, the effect is the same. You can also use the speakerphone function when alone.

Take Mask Breaks

If you wear masks for long hours each day, the American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends removing the mask every four hours for 15 minutes. Spaces where mask removal can be safer include your car or outdoor areas.

Wash Often

Wash your hands, face, reusable masks, and makeup brushes as often as possible. Doing so reduces the likelihood of these surfaces becoming a breeding ground for harmful organisms. You should change your pillowcases once per week and change your towels twice per week.

Change Makeup

Break up with your makeup temporarily to see if you can identify which item could be contributing to your acne. Sometimes, even older products you used for years may only recently have started triggering skin reactions. Reintroduce products slowly to further test your theory, then make changes as needed.

How Can Nava MD Cure Your Cheek Acne?

There is no guarantee that any treatment will completely rid you of acne, but Nava MD can help fight your breakouts. It begins with a physician consultation done remotely, so you never have to leave the comfort of your home. We then create a customized prescription treatment to help you find your healthy skin and keep it that way. Once we have the right plan for you all figured out, we ship it right to your door, if prescribed.

One of the amazing things about our treatment programs is that we can tackle more than acne. Other skin conditions we treat include rosacea, hyperpigmentation and melasma. Are you ready to get rid of your cheek acne? Start with a simple consultation from a Nava MD dermatologist.

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This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
Consult a healthcare professional or call a doctor in the case of a medical emergency