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Dr. Alpana Mohta Ranka, MD, DNB, IFAAD, is a triple-board-certified dermatologist with over 100 research publications in peer-reviewed scientific journals.

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Acne on Nose: Dermatologist Explains the Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

Acne on the nose is a very common and recurrent skin issue that affects people of all ages. The nose, being part of the T-zone, has a high concentration of sebaceous glands, making it more susceptible to acne, also known as acne vulgaris.


Acne on the nose of a person

In this article, we will discuss the causes, treatments, and preventive measures for acne on the nose to help you manage and reduce breakouts.


Causes of Acne on Nose

  1. Excess Sebum Production: The nose is home to numerous sebaceous glands that produce sebum, an oily substance that can clog pores and lead to acne vulgaris. The skin on this site has the highest concentration of sebaceous glands, with densities ranging from 400 to 900 glands per square centimeter.

  2. Hormonal Changes: Hormonal fluctuations causing an increase in androgens stimulate the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum, which can clog pores and cause acne vulgaris. According to a review from Anais Brasileiros de Dermatologia, 60 to 70% of women experience a worsening of the disease during the premenstrual period, as well as during premenopause, pregnancy, and when using progestin-only contraceptives.

  3. Bacterial Infections: The bacteria Propionibacterium acnes can infect clogged pores, leading to inflammation and pimples. This bacterium thrives in the oily environment created by excess sebum, causing red, inflamed acne lesions.

  4. Dirty Makeup Tools: Let's be honest! Most of us are not in the habit of properly cleaning our makeup brushes or beauty blenders after every use. In fact, it is estimated that 93% of people don’t clean their beauty blenders, and 64% still use them after they’ve been dropped on the floor. A 2020 study found that 79-90% of beauty products are contaminated with harmful levels of bacteria and fungi, with beauty blenders being the most contaminated. Using dirty makeup tools can allow dirt, oil, and bacteria to accumulate on the skin, leading to clogged pores and acne.

  5. Diet: Consumption of high-glycemic foods (such as sugary snacks and refined carbohydrates) and dairy products has been linked to an increase in acne breakouts. These foods can cause spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which may trigger hormonal changes that increase sebum production.

  6. Stress: High levels of stress can trigger the release of cortisol, a hormone that may increase oil production and exacerbate acne. Stress can also impair the skin's ability to heal, making existing acne worse.

Types of Acne on Nose

  1. Whiteheads: Closed comedones that appear as small white bumps on the skin's surface. They form when pores are completely blocked with sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria.

  2. Blackheads: Open comedones that look like black dots on the skin. These occur when pores are only partially blocked, allowing the sebum to oxidize and turn black upon exposure to air.

  3. Pustules: Red, inflamed pimples with a white or yellow center filled with pus. Pustules form when the walls of the pores break down, leading to more severe inflammation.

  4. Papules: Small, red, raised bumps without pus. Papules are formed when the walls surrounding the pores break down due to severe inflammation.

  5. Cysts: Deep, painful, pus-filled lesions that can lead to scarring. Cysts are the most severe form of acne and often require medical treatment to prevent scarring.

Differential Diagnoses for Acne on the Nose

1. Papulopustular Rosacea

At times, what you have on your nose might not be acne but another skin condition that mimics acne. The most common mimicker of acne vulgaris is acne rosacea.


The papulopustular form of rosacea often resembles acne vulgaris but is characterized by red, swollen bumps filled with pus. It often starts on the nose and can spread to nearby areas, such as the cheeks.


The disease primarily affects adults aged 30-50, particularly those with fair skin. Triggers include spicy foods, alcohol, and sun exposure. Unlike acne, rosacea does not involve blackheads or whiteheads.

2. Sebaceous Hyperplasia

Sebaceous hyperplasia presents as small, yellowish bumps, typically occurring in middle-aged to older adults. These bumps are enlarged sebaceous glands and are common in people with oily skin. Unlike acne, they are not inflamed and do not contain pus.


3. Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma can appear like a pimple that doesn't heal. It often looks like a shiny, skin-colored bump and may have blood vessels on its surface. This type of skin cancer is more common in individuals over 50 with a history of sun exposure. It requires medical treatment as it can grow and cause local damage.

4. Fibrous Papule of the Nose

A fibrous papule is a benign, solitary bump that appears on the nose. It is firm, skin-colored, and does not change in size. Common in adults, it does not require treatment unless for cosmetic reasons.

5. Hydrocystoma

Hydrocystomas are benign cysts of sweat ducts that present as small, translucent bumps. They are often around the eyes but can also appear on the nose. They can be apocrine or eccrine in origin. These cysts are more common in people who live in humid environments.

6. Spider Nevus

A spider nevus is a small, red spot with radiating blood vessels, often seen in children and pregnant women. It can be mistaken for acne but is distinguished by its vascular nature. It is usually benign, but can be associated with liver disease in adults.

7. Sarcoidosis

Sarcoidosis can cause non-painful, red-brown bumps on the face, including the nose. It is an inflammatory disease affecting multiple organs, more common in adults aged 20-40, particularly African Americans and Northern Europeans. Diagnosis often requires a biopsy.

8. Granuloma Faciale

Granuloma faciale presents as red-brown papules or plaques on the face. It is a rare disease that is more common in middle-aged men than women. These lesions do not have the pustules seen in acne and can persist without treatment.

Treatments for Acne on Nose

Topical Treatments


  • Retinoids: Vitamin A derivatives that promote cell turnover and prevent clogged pores. Retinoids such as tretinoin, adapalene, and tazarotene are commonly used to treat both inflammatory and non-inflammatory acne. My top OTC recommendation: Differin Gel (Adapalene) Other retinoids are only available with a dermatologist's prescription.



Oral Medications

  • Antibiotics: Oral antibiotics such as doxycycline and minocycline reduce bacteria and inflammation. They are prescribed for moderate to severe acne and are often used in combination with topical treatments.

  • Hormonal Treatments: Birth control pills or anti-androgens (such as spironolactone) can help regulate hormones and reduce sebum production, particularly in women with hormonal acne.

  • Isotretinoin: A powerful oral retinoid for severe and treatment-resistant acne. Isotretinoin reduces the size of sebaceous glands and decreases oil production by up to 90%, often leading to long-term remission of acne.

Professional Treatments

  • Chemical Peels: Professional chemical peels use high concentrations of acids (such as glycolic, salicylic, or lactic acid) to exfoliate the skin and reduce acne. Peels can be superficial, medium, or deep, depending on the severity of the acne and the desired results.

  • Laser Therapy: Laser treatments target acne-causing bacteria and reduce oil production. Different types of lasers (such as pulsed dye lasers and diode lasers) are used to treat acne and reduce inflammation.

  • Extraction: Manual removal of comedones (blackheads and whiteheads) by a dermatologist. This procedure is often performed in conjunction with other acne treatments to achieve better results.

Home Remedies

  1. Tea Tree Oil: It has antimicrobial properties that can reduce acne. It can be applied directly to the skin or added to skincare products. Applying diluted tea tree oil (5% concentration) under an acne patch once a day is effective in treating mild acne.

  2. Aloe Vera: Soothes inflammation and promotes healing. Aloe vera can be used as a natural moisturizer and anti-inflammatory agent.


Prevention Strategies

Proper Skincare Routine:

  • Cleanse Twice Daily: Use a gentle cleanser to remove dirt, oil, and makeup. Avoid harsh soaps that can irritate the skin.

  • Use Non-Comedogenic Products: Choose sunscreens and moisturizers labeled as non-comedogenic, meaning they won't clog pores.

  • Use a Salicylic Acid Serum: No other ingredient dissolves oil on your skin better than salicylic acid. Using a betahydroxy acid (BHA), like salicylic acid serum, 2-3 nights per week can help in maintaining the oil-balance on your face and keeping your pores unclogged.

  • Weekly Exfoliation: Use a gentle AHA/BHA exfoliant to remove dead skin cells and prevent clogged pores. Be careful not to over-exfoliate, as this can irritate the skin and worsen acne.

Healthy Diet:

  • Avoid High-Glycemic Foods and Dairy Products: Reduce intake of sugary snacks, refined carbohydrates, and dairy products, which can trigger acne breakouts.

  • Increase Intake of Fruits, Vegetables, and Whole Grains: A balanced diet rich in vitamins and minerals supports overall skin health.

Stress Management:

  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Engage in yoga, meditation, or deep-breathing exercises to reduce stress.

  • Ensure Adequate Sleep and Regular Physical Activity: Prioritize sleep and incorporate regular exercise into your routine to help manage stress levels.

Hygiene Practices:

  • Clean Makeup Brushes Regularly: Wash brushes and sponges to prevent bacteria buildup.

  • Avoid Touching Your Face: Keep your hands away from your face to prevent transferring dirt and bacteria to your skin.


When to See a Dermatologist

If over-the-counter treatments and home remedies do not improve your acne, or if you experience severe and painful cysts, it is advisable to consult a dermatologist. A professional can provide tailored treatment plans, including prescription medications and advanced therapies, to effectively manage your acne.


Conclusion

Acne on the nose can be a persistent and frustrating issue, but understanding its causes and available treatments can help manage and reduce breakouts. You can achieve clearer, healthier skin by maintaining a proper skincare routine, making healthy lifestyle choices, and seeking professional help when necessary. Patience and consistency are key in the battle against acne.

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