Sudden acne breakout on one side of face. Is it acne?

I'm 27 years old and until about one year ago I had never had more then a blemish due to that time of the month. All of the sudden my entire left cheek and forehead is covered in what looks like an acne breakout. I have tried benzoyl peroxide face wash, saliyc face wash, among other things and nothing has worked. I recently thought maybe I was over treating and tried returning to a basic oil-free unscented bar of soap with no luck. The breakout has literally destroyed my self-confidence and I'm at a loss. Please, any advice would be so appreciated. Thank you.

I’m so glad you brought this up, because this may NOT be acne at all! If this is still active, please see your primary care doctor or dermatologist asap. I want to re-mention the following:

There are things that can look like acne breakout but aren’t acne!

  1. A staph infection on the face is much more likely to be one sided like that.
  2. Also, shingles can occur on the face and in the first few days look like a one-sided acne outbreak.
  3. There are some less common skin diseases too that can cause red bumps with pustules on the face.   Please see your doctor.
  4. A painful rash on the face always needs a medical evaluation.

Most acne and rosacea involves both sides of the face fairly symmetrically. One side might have a little more than the other side, but not usually a ton. The one-sided nature of yours suggests something else.

The good news to reassure you and others: if infections, or acne breakouts, or a rosacea flare, or shingles are caught reasonably early, they will usually heal without scarring. Worst case scenario, if a few scars do occur, they can often be blended and nearly hidden with either Co2 or a Fraxel Restore laser.

For more information on moles, lumps and bumps on the face (that are often confused with acne) see my resource article on it here.

Hope this helps,  Dr. I

Dr. Brandith Irwin, MD

Ask me your skincare question!

Hi, I’m Dr. Irwin, and I believe that consumers deserve a medically trained and unbiased skincare advocate. That’s why I write these skin care tips and guides.

  • All our content is written and researched by myself and my trained staff.
  • My medical office in Seattle has experience treating thousands of patients.
  • This site is not affiliated or financially tied to any product line.
Ask Me Something
SkinTour Skincare
One of the best investments in your skin is your daily skincare. Why? Because you can prevent many problems with blotchy skin color, lack of glow, texture, some types of acne, and fine lines with good skincare products. You can also correct some of these problems with effective skincare products. Great skincare is often more expensive because quality ingredients are expensive. Some companies spend on research/development which benefits all of us and adds to the cost. Are they worth it? In general - yes! I have handpicked some of what I consider to be the best skin care products, and offer them for sale on SkinTour's shop. This is based on my team and I's testing and research at our clinic. Many of the products are in my own regimen. What could be better than using skin care products a dermatologist uses?!