It seemed like there was a new pimple on the bridge of my nose basically every other day. Because I hadn’t been wearing my old glasses and because those pimples always appeared in that specific spot, my beautiful new glasses were unfortunately the primary suspect.
Sure, being able to see is cool and all, but wouldn’t it be great if it didn’t also cause breakouts? Yes! It would!!! In fact, I talked to an expert about how to deal with this exact situation. Here’s what I learned.
How to know if it’s actually acne
The biggest clue that your glasses are causing acne is where the acne is showing up, Laura Ferris, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor in the department of dermatology at the University of Pittsburgh, tells SELF. The bridge of your nose, your cheeks where the rims sit, and the ears where they might rub are all common places.
“The other [major sign] is if you can say, ‘I didn’t have it,’ and then all of a sudden you develop it,” Dr. Ferris says, which is exactly what happened to me. Maybe this is your first pair of frames and you’re getting pimples in places you’ve never seen them before; or maybe you took a break from your glasses or alternate with wearing contacts. Whatever the situation, if you notice you’re getting acne where you hadn’t before, and now you’re wearing glasses, that’s another clue that your glasses are to blame.
But other conditions can mimic acne, even in those areas. One that Dr. Ferris specifically warns about is called acanthoma fissurataum, which is a patch of thickened skin that experts think develops after repeated trauma to an area—and it specifically occurs in people who wear glasses. So if your frames are constantly rubbing on the top of your ears or the bridge of your nose, they might cause this.
How do glasses cause acne?
“It’s really from too much pressure,” Dr. Ferris explains. This form of acne—acne mechanica—develops when something is pushing down on the skin, which prevents the normal shedding of skin cells, she says. Instead, those skin cells clog up your pores and lead to acne. Having oily skin and wearing thicker makeup just add to the issue.
Acne mechanica is also common among those who play sports or wear restrictive athletic clothing because those clothes can trap sweat and heat, making it even more likely that the pressure from clothing or equipment will cause acne in areas that those garments touch.
Here’s how to deal.
Luckily, once you’re sure it’s acne, there are specific ways to treat the bumps in those sensitive areas on your face as well as to prevent them from coming back.
Get your glasses adjusted. If you find that you’re having to push your glasses up your nose frequently or they’re so thick or heavy that they’re causing acne in the cheek area where the lenses touch your face, you should go to your eye doctor or wherever you got your glasses to have them adjusted, Dr. Ferris says. “Sometimes [the answer is] getting new bridges put on the nose so you spread the pressure,” she says.
Wipe your glasses down frequently. “Make sure you’re cleaning your glasses,” Dr. Ferris advises. She suggests getting a basic alcohol wipe and swabbing it over every part that touches your face every night.
Use an over-the-counter acne wash. Using an over-the-counter acne wash with salicylic acid in it at night is an easy way to manage mild acne all over the face, Dr. Ferris says, especially if you notice it on your cheeks and not just on the bridge of your nose.
Use an over-the-counter spot treatment. If your acne bumps are primarily confined to one area of your face, such as the bridge of your nose, a spot treatment containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide is the way to go, Dr. Ferris says. Other options include acne patches you can wear overnight and prescription topical antibiotics.
Take breaks from wearing your glasses if possible. Your glasses obviously serve a very important purpose. But if it’s possible for you to take breaks from them during the day, taking advantage of that cuts down on the likelihood that they’ll cause acne, Dr. Ferris says.
Use a makeup remover before cleansing. “Make sure that you’re really getting your makeup off,” Dr. Ferris says. The buildup of makeup under your glasses can definitely contribute to acne, so it’s important to make sure it’s all off—with the help of a makeup remover or micellar water—even before you wash your face, she explains. (And when it comes to washing, opt for a cleanser that isn’t oil-based, she says.)
Use concealers with salicylic acid. While your acne is healing, Dr. Ferris suggests going with concealers that contain salicylic acid to keep treating them while covering up any bumps.
When to check with a derm
If you’re not sure if you have acne or something else is going on, it’s always a good idea to talk to a professional. And if what you think is acne isn’t going away with those measures, or if you have a lot of acne on other parts of your face, too, it’s important to check with your derm about the best way to manage it. They may be able to prescribe you an antibiotic medication that can take better care of all the acne.
And if your bumps aren’t going away or don’t seem to be healing, they may be a sign of another condition—including, possibly, skin cancer—that you’ll want to get checked out sooner rather than later, Dr. Ferris says.
But for most of us with glasses, acne is a common yet manageable annoyance.