What causes a forehead rash?

Forehead rashes can be caused by a wide variety of diseases, disorders and conditions, including infection, inflammation, allergic reaction, and autoimmune processes. A sudden or acute forehead rash may be due to an allergic reaction or sensitivity to a particular substance, such as a facial moisturizer, food, or medication.

A chronic or long-term forehead rash may be caused by conditions, such as acne, or an inflammatory disorder, such as rosacea. Rosacea is characterized by facial redness and flushing and raised bumps that can resemble acne. The cause of rosacea is not known.

A forehead rash in an infant may be caused by trapped dead skin cells (milia) or baby acne, although other causes are possible. A forehead rash in children can be a sign of many different conditions, including eczema, allergies, and viral diseases.

In all age groups, more serious causes of forehead rash include a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis (tightening of the airways), bacterial meningitis, and cellulitis (an invasive skin infection that can be caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria).

Infectious causes of a forehead rash

A forehead rash may be caused by an infection including:

  • Bacterial infection, such as an infection caused by streptococcal or staphylococcal bacteria
  • Chickenpox
  • Folliculitis (inflammation or infection of a hair follicle)
  • Impetigo (bacterial skin infection)
  • Measles
  • Ringworm (fungal infection of the skin)
  • Shingles (viral reactivation of chickenpox infection)

    Allergic causes of a forehead rash

    A forehead rash may be caused by an allergic reaction including:

    • Allergic contact dermatitis, such as an allergy to a facial ointment

    • Atopic dematitis
    • Drug reaction

    • Eczema (atopic dermatitis) including chronic eczema

    • Food allergy

    • Irritant contact dermatitis, such as a sensitivity to a perfume

    Autoimmune and inflammatory causes of a forehead rash

    A forehead rash may be caused by an autoimmune or inflammatory disorder including:

    • Acne

    • Baby acne (skin inflammation triggered by maternal hormones)

    • Dandruff (seborrheic dermatitis, which can affect your face and neck as well as your scalp)

    • Rosacea (chronic inflammatory skin disorder)

    • Systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)

    Other causes of a forehead rash

    A forehead rash may also accompany the following conditions:

    • Anxiety or stress

    • Erythema toxicum (benign, noncancerous skin condition common in newborn babies)

    • Heat rash

    • Methamphetamine abuse

    • Milia (tiny white bumps of dead skin cells and other debris)

    Life-threatening causes of a forehead rash

    In some cases, a forehead rash may accompany a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. Serious or life-threatening conditions include:

    • Allergic purpura (autoimmune bleeding disorder)

    • Anaphylaxis (life-threatening allergic reaction)

    • Erythema multiforme (type of allergic reaction)

    • Meningitis (infection or inflammation of the sac around the brain and spinal cord)

    • Toxic epidermal necrolysis (skin and mucosal loss due to a severe medication reaction)

    Questions for diagnosing the cause of a forehead rash

    To diagnose the underlying cause of a forehead rash, your doctor or licensed healthcare provider will ask you several questions about your symptoms. Providing complete answers to these questions will help your provider in diagnosing the cause of your forehead rash:

    • When did your rash appear?
    • Is the rash spreading to or affecting other areas?
    • Have you had the rash before?
    • Do you have any other symptoms?
    • Do you wear occupational or recreational headgear?
    • Have you been in recent contact with any unusual substances or environments, such as exposure to chemicals or unusual plants, taking new medications or supplements, or traveling to a foreign country?
    • What is your medical and dental history? Do you have any diseases or conditions?
    • What prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, dietary supplements, or herbal products are you taking?

      What are the potential complications of a forehead rash?

      In some cases, a forehead rash can lead to complications, especially if there is severe itching and scratching that leads to breakdown of the skin. Scratching can introduce bacteria or fungi into the layers of skin, resulting in infections. Complications include:

      • Bacterial or fungal infection of the skin

      • Cellulitis

      • Embarrassment

      • Open sores and lesions

      • Permanent change in skin texture

      • Permanent skin discoloration

      • Scarring

      • Stress or anxiety

      Serious complications of underlying causes of a forehead rash, such as measles or meningitis, can also occur. You can best reduce the risk of complications of a forehead rash and its underlying causes by following the treatment plan you and your healthcare provider develop specifically for you.


      1. Skin rashes and other changes.FamilyDoctor.org. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/545.html.
      2. Folliculitis. DermNet NZ. http://www.dermnet.org.nz/acne/folliculitis.html.
      3. Rashes.PubMed health. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0003704/.
      4. Collins RD. Differential Diagnosis in Primary Care, 5th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Williams & Williams, 2012.
      5. Tierney LM Jr., Saint S, Whooley MA (Eds.) Current Essentials of Medicine (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill, 2011.

      What is a forehead rash?

      A forehead rash is an inflammatory reaction of the skin of the forehead. Forehead rashes can vary greatly in appearance, size and severity depending on the underlying cause. Forehead rashes can affect a small to large area of the forehead. Sometimes a forehead rash may occur with a rash elsewhere on the face or on another area of the body. In some situations, the presence of forehead rash is a ... Read more about forehead rashintroduction


      What other symptoms might occur with a forehead rash?

      A forehead rash can occur by itself or with other symptoms, which vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Other symptoms can affect the digestive tract, respiratory system, nervous system, reproductive system, cardiovascular system, or immune system. For example, you may have a fever and o... Read more about forehead rashsymptoms

      Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Aug 23, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

      This Article is Filed Under: Skin, Hair and Nails

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