STDs That Show on Your Face

STDs That Show on Your Face

Concerned About a Facial STI That’s Drawing Too Much Attention? Do This

Product photos from retailer sites.

No one actively tries to get a STD (or as they’re more commonly referred to these days, STIs). While you likely have a general idea of how not to get yourself infected with one, knowing the nuances of how each type of STI gets contracted and the respective prevention/treatment methods are key to not only keeping yourself from getting one, but from spreading it to your next partner.

Take, for example, syphilis. There was a time when this particular STI was basically on the path toward being eliminated. Then in the early 2000s, it started to rear its ugly head again, bringing the stats of men affected by syphilis in the U.S. from every 2.9 per 100,000 people in 2005 to every 5.3 per 100,000 in 2013, all the way up to 8.7 per 100,000 people in 2016, according to the CDC.

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Sure, talking with your partner about sexually transmitted infections isn’t pleasant, but neither is contracting one … especially when it shows up on your face. To save face later on, you’ll want to know what STIs you’re at risk for, ways to detect the signs in order to seek proper treatment and most importantly, how they get spread so that you can avoid doing so. Below, you’ll find out all of those important details.

Different STIs and How to Deal With Them


Let’s start with the STI that’s been taking the U.S. by storm as of late. Syphilis is a bacterial infection that spreads throughout the body and, if not treated, can impact all of your organ systems. Yes, all of them.

“Primary syphilis is an [STI] caused by the spirochete bacterium Treponema pallidum,” explains dermatologist Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD. Once a person has syphilis, an ulcer will soon form. “It will present 10-90 days (average 21 days) after exposure, last 2-6 weeks, before resolving spontaneously,” she adds. “The problem is that if it wasn’t treated with antibiotics (penicillin injection is most effective), it isn’t really gone — and you will end up with secondary syphilis within 3-10 weeks of the ulcer resolution.”

If it gets left untreated, Shainhouse says this disease can resurface as what’s known as tertiary syphilis years later, affecting vital organs like the heart or brain.

How It’s Spread

Making contact with a syphilis ulcer causes the disease to spread. “Syphilis is transmitted person to person via direct contact with a syphilis ulcer during vaginal, anal or oral sex and may enter through skin or mucous membranes,” says Shainhouse. “Hence, the locations for syphilitic ulcers include the vagina, cervix, penis, anus, rectum, lips, hands and inside of the mouth.”  

How It Shows Up on Your Face

“Both primary and secondary syphilis symptoms can present on the face,” explains Dr. Samuel Malloy, general practitioner at Dr. Felix. “The sores of primary syphilis are most likely to appear on the face if you have had oral sex with a syphilis-infected person. This is because the sores usually occur at the site of the infection. But secondary syphilis symptoms can appear on the face from other forms of sexual contact and congenital syphilis as the syphilis has entered the body, and the rash is the body’s response to the infection.”  

How to Prevent It

As you may have guessed, condoms are key for keeping syphilis at bay. “Use a condom if having vaginal or anal sex,” says Malloy. “Syphilis is increasing amongst men who have sex with men, so it’s important to use a condom — even if there is no risk of pregnancy. You can also use a dental dam to protect against contracting syphilis orally.”

How to Treat It

“Syphilis can usually be treated by a course of antibiotics prescribed by your doctor,” notes Malloy, with a dose of penicillin being the typical course of action. “However, not all symptoms of syphilis are reversible,” Malloy continues. “The sores/rashes can cause scarring, and the symptoms of tertiary syphilis may be irreversible.”

Genital Herpes

Genital herpes is a viral infection caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus, Type 1 or Type 2,” explains Malloy. “HSV 1 is the virus usually responsible for oral herpes, but this can cause sores in the genital area. HSV 2 is the virus usually responsible for genital herpes, but can also cause sores on the face.”

How It’s Spread

“Genital herpes is spread through contact with others who also are infected with herpes,” says Malloy. “This contact usually happens through oral, anal or vaginal sexual activity, but can also occur through kissing.” If getting this STI just by swapping spit has you stressed about offering your date a sip of your drink, fear not. “Genital herpes is not spread by sharing drinking glasses or towels, etc. as the virus cannot survive long outside the body,” he adds.

How It Shows Up on Your Face

“The location of the herpes sores are usually related to the site of the infection,” explains Malloy. “However, once infected with the herpes virus, you will usually experience several outbreaks. These outbreaks may cause sores in different areas and you can spread the infection to different areas of your body through touching the sores and then other areas.” If you’re experiencing an outbreak, it’s best to wash your hands after coming in contact with the sores to keep it from spreading to other regions of your body.

How to Treat It

In case you didn’t already know, herpes is an STI that stays with you forever — though it can lay dormant in your system with the effects in a constant ebb and flow. However, there are treatment options for the symptoms, as well as ways to prevent future outbreaks. 

RELATED: How to Prevent and Treat Cold Sores

“When you first experience symptoms, you may be prescribed antiviral tablets to prevent the infection from progressing,” says Malloy. “You may also be given a cream to alleviate the pain. If you have regular outbreaks, your doctor may prescribe you Aciclovir or Valaciclovir to reduce the likelihood of further outbreaks.” There are also things you can do to make yourself more comfortable during an outbreak, from wearing loose clothing to applying ice to the affected area.

How to Prevent It

Although herpes can only be spread when there are visible sores, it’s important to note that once they begin to bud, they’re very easily spread — even before they’re extremely prominent. “The virus is highly contagious, from the first tingle of a new sore until it has completely healed,” warns Malloy. “If your partner has any sores, you should either avoid contact with the affected area until the outbreak has resolved, or you should use a condom and/or dental dam to prevent contact with the affected area. If these methods do not cover the sore, there is a risk you could also contract the virus.”

RELATED: The Best And Most Reliable At-Home STI Kits


The stats on chlamydia are staggering with an estimated two million Americans affected by this disease. One of the reasons why chlamydia is so easily spread is the fact that this bacterial infection is often symptomless. Chlamydia is more common in women, but 70-80 percent of females diagnosed don’t show symptoms.

“Chlamydia is an infection by a bacteria known as chlamydia trachomatis (if you want to get scientific),” says Dr. James Wantuck, MD of PlushCare. “It most commonly infects the genitals of women and men, and it is sexually transmitted.” It spreads by targeting the mucous membranes, which lines the internal organs that don’t have the luxury of being protected by the skin including the vagina, rectum, cervix and urethra.  

How It’s Spread

Because of the membranes this disease targets, it gets spread thanks to fluid transfers that happen during sex. “Chlamydia is not spread by skin-to-skin contact, but instead by contact with the sexual fluids of an infected person,” explains Malloy. “Sexual fluids include semen or vaginal fluids, and chlamydia can be spread through anal, vaginal or oral sex.”

How It Shows Up on Your Face

Not-so-fun fact: Chlamydia can actually end up causing pink eye. “Chlamydia can affect the eyes, which usually happens if any sexual fluids enter the eye, either through ejaculation, or if you have some fluids on your hand and then you touch the eye,” notes Malloy. “This can cause conjunctivitis, also known as pink eye. If you have contracted chlamydia through oral sex, you may experience chlamydia symptoms in and around the mouth.”

How to Treat It

“Chlamydia is treated by a course of antibiotics, such as azithromycin or doxycycline,” says Malloy. This is definitely one time where you’ll want to make sure you finish the entire duration of your medication, and follow the directions to the letter. “If you are given antibiotics, it is important to follow your doctor’s instructions exactly to prevent antibiotic resistance,” he adds.

How to Prevent It

The tough part about preventing chlamydia is the fact that it’s so symptomless. As long as you’re being diligent about safe sex practices, you should be in the clear. “Chlamydia can be prevented by using dental dams or condoms during sex, and taking care to avoid contact with infected sexual fluids,” says Malloy.

Recommended Products for STIs on Your Face

Though you should probably check with your doctor before adding any sort of medicine or cream to your treatment routine, there are some products available online that could make a difference in your level of pain. From clearing your eyes to healing your skin, try these recommended choices:

Pink Eye Relief Drops

Pink Eye Relief Drops

Since some STIs show up not only on your face, but in your eyes (ouch!), you could have symptoms that mimic pink eye. You will need a prescription, sure, but these drops can also make any pain or discoloration more bearable. Free of chemicals, a few uses of these bad boys will fight against redness, swelling, itching and more.
$13.98 at

Wart Removal Cream

Wart Removal Cream and cream

Some of the physical bumps that show up thanks to STIs look much like the warts you could have suffered from as a child. This ointment cream works to make these less painful, smaller and more manageable. Check with your dermatologist or doctor before overdoing it, but this is great to keep on hand for breakouts.
$34.95 at

After Shave Balm

Dove Men After Shave Balm

(Not so) fun fact: Even if you have an STI-induced reaction, the hair on your face will still grow. And that means you’ll need to shave, too. This could make razor burn that’s much more intense, making this balm your best buddy. Apply religiously when you freshen up to experience less stinging or discomfort.
$12.99 at

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