Body Acne: What It Is and How To Treat It

A woman's back.

It’s likely that when you hear the word acne the first thing you think of is acne that relates to your face. However, (brace yourself) acne can pop up anywhere - even on your body and while it’s unfair and probably as fun as eating a cupcake without the icing there are ways to treat/manage it. So let’s discuss.

WHAT IS BODY ACNE?

Body and face acne essentially have similar underlying causes. However, whiteheads, pimples, and cysts (those painful red bumps that never come to a head) are the most common types of acne you’re likely to find on your body. And body acne can be a little harder to treat. 

This is predominantly because body acne can a) show up in random places that you can’t reach and b) cover a larger surface area, that you can’t just cover with a pimple patch. However, a combination of excess oil production, inflammation, blocked pores and skin that can’t turn over effectively are generally the factors to blame. Along with sweaty gym clothes. 

WHERE CAN BODY ACNE POP UP?

Body acne can pop up anywhere that you get oily or sweaty. Oily, sweaty, unclean environments are akin to a fun paradise land for bacteria to grow. Acne on the back and chest is super common and is likely something that you’ve experienced. Both areas are full of sweat and sebaceous skin glands. Couple that with occlusive fabrics, a sweaty bus, a sweaty gym sesh and your skin crying out for some fresh air and voila this mix can lead to inflammation and subsequent body acne.

However, the lower half of your body is not immune to acne, because butt acne is also a thing and very common. We’re all friends here, so there’s no need to get shy about it. Again, this is predominantly due to sweating in this area and clothing friction. Hence why spending a little time in your undies comes highly recommended, though, it's important to note that this has not been scientifically studied.

You may also get acne on your arms although this is less common. However, if you have bumpy arms it’s probably Keratosis Pilaris – which is not acne and a story for another day. 

WHAT CAUSES BODY ACNE? 

So while technically sweat can't cause body acne it can disrupt the normal oil flow within the pore which can lead to acne. While some people are just more prone to sweat than others, hence why they may be more prone to body acne. Couple that with an over-production of oil and that = body acne. 

However, body acne can also be blamed on hormones too (those ol’ things!) and yes stress, because whenever we’re stressed, our hormones (androgens) trigger oil production. In fact, if you’re sitting more (in your sweaty gym clothes after you’ve finished an at home gym sesh) or stressed out by your millionth zoom for the day you may find you get more body acne.  

TIPS TO PREVENT AND TREAT BODY ACNE:

Look for acne fighting ingredients in your body products: Salicylic acid, which can help clear out the pores and prevent further acne breakouts is great. Benzoyl Peroxide can additionally help kill bacteria. 

Use an acne fighting body wash: Those ingredients outlined above? Find them in your body wash. 

Change your clothes: Whether you're sweaty from a gym sesh, or from sitting all day at work. If your clothes are too tight or you've worked out in them, then you need to change them. 

Change your bedsheets regularly: The same premise applies for changing your pillowcases and its relation to acne on the face. This is very important and often overlooked. 

Get a chest/back facial: Dermal therapists have seen it all, there is no need to feel embarrassed. In fact, chest/back options will likely be on a treatment menu at many clinics. Look for a clinic in your city that does this. 

Reduce stress: Easier said than done, but it's not good for everyone to be so stressed all the time. Where possible, do your very best to schedule in some 'me time.'

See a dermatologist: If acne is bothering you, not responding to treatment or even starting to leave scars book yourself in with a Dermatologist.

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