Beard Acne Uncovered: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

If you're lucky enough to grow a full beard, you need to make sure you're taking care of the skin underneath. We spoke to one of the leading Skincare Practitioners in the UK and Co-Founder of Estetica Clinics, Parisa Bahramian (Mpharm), to demystify beard acne.

man with thick beard

About Parisa Bahramian (Mpharm)
Parisa is a full Member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, qualifying at Brighton University. She is a Director and Co-Founder of Estetica Clinics and has combined her pharmaceutical expertise with facial aesthetics and a desire to be at the forefront of any relevant cosmetic developments.

Beards have become a popular style statement for many men, but along with the trendy look, some men also experience a common skincare woe known as 'beard acne'. Beard acne, also known as “folliculitis barbae,” is a common skin condition that occurs when hair follicles on the face, particularly in the beard area, become inflamed or infected. This can lead to the development of small red or white bumps, similar to acne, that may be painful or itchy.

Beard acne can be caused by a variety of factors, including excess oil production, buildup of dead skin cells, and ingrown hairs. It tends to be more common in men with thick, coarse beards or curly hair, as well as those who shave frequently. We’ve spoken with Parisa Bahramian, a Humanery associate dermatologist and co-founder of Estetica Clinics, to explore the causes of beard acne, the factors that contribute to its development, and the preventive measures and treatment options to effectively manage this condition.

If you're one of the many men struggling with beard acne, read on to learn how to tackle this challenge and maintain healthy, acne-free skin underneath your beard.

What are the main causes of beard acne?

Parisa points out that the following are key causes of men’s beard acne:

• Increased sebum production: Excessive sebum production can lead to clogged hair follicles, which can contribute to the development of beard acne.

• Dead skin cells and dirt: Dead skin cells, dirt, and other debris can accumulate in the beard area, leading to clogged follicles and acne breakouts.

• Bacterial growth: Bacteria naturally present on the skin, such as Propionibacterium acnes, can thrive in the beard area and contribute to the development of acne.

• Friction: Friction from shaving or wearing tight clothing, such as face masks, can irritate the skin and exacerbate beard acne.

• Hormonal changes: Hormonal fluctuations, such as those that occur during puberty or due to hormonal imbalances, can affect sebum production and contribute to beard acne.

• Poor hygiene: Neglecting proper beard hygiene, such as infrequent washing or failure to cleanse the skin underneath the beard, can allow buildup of sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria, leading to acne breakouts.

Can shaving worsen beard acne?

Whilst shaving itself does not directly cause beard acne, it can potentially contribute to exacerbating the condition. Shaving can irritate the skin and disrupt the hair follicles, leading to inflammation and increased risk of developing beard acne. Parisa has explained to us that when the skin is shaved, the razor can cause friction, irritation, and micro-cuts on the skin surface, which can create an entry point for bacteria or other impurities to penetrate the follicles and trigger acne breakouts.

Additionally, using dull or dirty razors, applying too much pressure while shaving, or using harsh shaving products can further irritate the skin and potentially worsen beard acne. Therefore, proper shaving technique, using clean and sharp razors, and avoiding unnecessary irritation or pressure on the skin during shaving can help minimize the risk of developing beard acne.

What are the best products to use for men’s beard acne?

There are several product solutions we can use on a daily basis that can help treat and prevent beard acne:

• Cleansers: Use a gentle, fragrance-free cleanser to wash your beard daily. Look for a product that is formulated specifically for the face and is non-comedogenic.

• Exfoliators: A gentle exfoliating scrub once or twice a week will remove dead skin cells and unclog pores. Parisa advises that products containing salicylic acid or glycolic acid can help exfoliate and treat acne.

• Moisturisers: Lightweight, non-greasy moisturisers will keep your skin hydrated and prevent dryness. Look for a product that is oil-free.

• Beard oils: Apply a few drops of beard oil to your beard to moisturise the skin and hair. Natural oils, such as jojoba or argan oil can help nourish and protect the skin.

• Spot treatments: Parisa explains that spot treatments containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are effective in targeting individual pimples or blemishes. These ingredients can help kill bacteria and reduce inflammation.

• Shaving cream: Try using a shaving cream or gel that is formulated for sensitive skin. Look for a product that is fragrance-free and contains soothing ingredients, such as aloe vera or chamomile.

How does regular acne differ from beard acne?

It may sound obvious, but just to clarify: regular acne (facial acne) typically refers to acne that occurs on the face, whereas beard acne specifically refers to acne that occurs in the beard area. Parisa explains there are other key differences between the two:

• Location: Regular acne can occur on various parts of the face, including the forehead, cheeks, nose, and chin, while beard acne specifically affects the areas where facial hair grows, such as the jawline, neck, and cheeks underneath the beard.

• Causes: While both regular acne and beard acne are generally caused by a combination of factors such as increased sebum production, dead skin cells, bacteria, hormonal changes, and poor hygiene, the specific causes and contributing factors may differ between the two. Beard acne is often associated with factors such as friction from shaving, wearing tight clothing, and accumulation of sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria in the beard area.

• Presentation: The appearance of regular acne and beard acne can also differ. Regular acne may present as a variety of lesions, such as whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules, or cysts, while beard acne may manifest as red, inflamed bumps or pustules around hair follicles in the beard area.

• Treatment: Treating beard acne may involve additional considerations, such as avoiding further irritation from shaving or tight clothing, and using beard-specific grooming products.

What are the top tips for coping with beard acne?

According to Parisa, if you have beard acne, there are several things you should avoid to prevent further irritation or inflammation:

• Avoid touching your face or beard with your hands: Your hands can transfer oil, bacteria, and dirt to your skin, which can worsen acne.

• Stop picking at your beard or pimples. Picking at your skin can cause further inflammation, scarring, and infection.

• Avoid using harsh or abrasive cleansers: These can strip your skin of its natural oils and irritate acne-prone skin.

• Avoid using products that contain alcohol or fragrances. These ingredients can be irritating to the skin and exacerbate acne.

• Minimise using hot water when washing your beard. Hot water can strip your skin of its natural oils and worsen acne.

• Stop using hair care products that contain oils or silicone. These ingredients can clog pores and lead to acne breakouts.

By avoiding these triggers, you can help prevent further irritation and inflammation of your beard acne. If your acne persists or is severe, it’s best to consult a dermatologist, like Parisa, for personalised treatment recommendations.

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