What is Body Acne and What Causes It?
Pimples, blackheads, and cysts don't only appear on the face. If you’re acne-prone due to risk factors such as hormones or oily skin, you may develop these pesky blemishes anywhere on your body, such as the neck, chest, shoulders, and upper arms. Like the face, the upper half of the body has many sebaceous glands, which increases the likelihood of clogged pores.
Body acne is triggered by the same factors that cause facial acne: overactive oil glands, excess dead skin cells, and the growth of acne-causing bacteria. When excess sebum and dead skin cells get trapped within pores, it can create a blockage. This blockage becomes a blackhead and can progress to an inflamed pimple if it gets invaded by bacteria.
If you're dealing with body acne, know that it's fairly common and you're not alone. Though body acne isn’t always as obvious as facial acne, it can be quite a pain in the [insert affected body part here].
Getting Rid of Body Acne
1. Avoid tight clothes that aren’t breathable
Certain types of clothing, sports equipment, and other gear can cause body acne. Friction or pressure on the skin, mixed with sweat and/or heat, can irritate follicles and cause a type of acne called acne mechanica.
Do minimize friction if you’re trying to prevent or heal body acne. This means avoiding tight-fitting clothing, too-snug collars, backpacks, purse straps, and athletic pads or gear. Find ways to work around these—for example if your body acne is especially prevalent on your back, you may want to switch to a handheld bag instead of carrying a heavy backpack.
Another key to preventing body acne is to wear loose, breathable clothing. Certain fabrics, such as wool, polyester, polyamide (nylon), and spandex, can cause further irritation. Opt for 100% cotton instead!
2. Shower immediately after a workout (or after a sweaty day)
Sweat irritates body acne because the bacteria responsible for causing acne thrive on sweaty skin. To minimize irritation, remove sweaty clothing and shower as soon as possible after exercising. That means no lying on the floor to space out after an exhausting workout.
If a shower is not immediately accessible, bring a change of clean clothes and wipe down your body with cleansing wipes. As soon as you get home, hop in the shower to rinse off, preferably with an anti-bacterial body wash.
3. Choose the right body moisturizer
While body moisturizers have the potential to clog pores, this doesn’t mean you should ditch them entirely. Just choose the right one! Moisturizers help to soothe and repair your skin barrier, but make sure that the products you leave on your skin are labelled 'non-comedogenic,' which is merely a fancy way of saying ‘non-pore-clogging’. If you have extra sensitive skin, you may also want to avoid synthetic fragrances (yes, those Island-scented body butters gotta go, sorry! We don’t make the rules).
4. Exfoliate once a week
Yes, we know we said friction is bad. But hear us out: your skin goes through a process of cell turnover, where dead skin cells rise to the surface to make way for new skin cells beneath. Unfortunately, dead skin cells don’t always shed on their own—they can stay in your pores and clog them, leading to acne.
This is where exfoliating comes in. This process removes dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores and reveals noticeably smoother skin. We recommend exfoliating with a gentle scrub once a week to remove build-ups that could be causing your breakouts. Keyword: gentle! We know it’s exciting to scrub away all that gunk, but please remember that your skin is delicate, and should be treated as such. If scrubby scrubs feel too abrasive for your body and leave your skin feeling raw, try a chemical exfoliator (AHA/BHA) instead.
5. Use a topical treatment
We know it’s tempting, but whatever you do, don’t pick, squeeze, or scratch your spots. This leads to scarring and can also lead to infections. The chest and back are two areas on your body that heal especially poorly and can scar more easily, so be warned. Blemishes last for only a few days, but scars will stick around for a long, long time.
Instead, apply a spot treatment like benzoyl peroxide (which fights bacteria) or salicylic acid (which exfoliates). These fight acne breakouts by shrinking pimples and healing underlying inflammation. Do apply it before bed to maximize its effectiveness (our bodies heal better at night), but note that benzoyl peroxide is notorious for bleaching clothes and sheets, so take necessary precaution. As for salicylic acid, it carries a risk of toxicity when applied to large areas, so make sure to take the word ‘spot’ in ‘spot treatment’ seriously.
If you already have scarring you’d like to get rid of, we recommend using products like our Copper Peptide Anti-Aging Mask, which fades acne scars and evens out skin tone and texture. While our face mask is, well, intended for the face, the excess serum can be applied everywhere else so your body can enjoy its benefits, too.
If the aforementioned over-the-counter (OTC) treatments don’t seem to be working, you'll need a prescription treatment. A trip to a doctor or dermatologist will save you lots of time and money in the long run. You won't be wasting money on ineffective OTC products, plus you'll be happier with the results.
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