Only the double-jointed among us will quickly apply a cream to their left shoulder blade, making body acne difficult to handle. (And don’t get us started on how complicated it is to treat butt acne without the solution rubbing off on your clothes when you’re sitting in yet another Zoom meeting.) In contrast, the acne on your face seems to be child’s play—more it’s obvious, yes, but at least you can hit it.
Body acne, on the other hand, can be difficult to prevent, particularly in the summer. Heat and sweat clog pores all over your body, but breakouts are most common on your stomach, back, and butt—basically, anywhere a sweat stain would show up on your clothes. (It’s like a mask, except it’s everywhere.) Although some of it can be attributed to sweat alone, there’s a lot more to it.
What causes acne on the body?
“Finding out why you’re breaking out is the first step in treating body acne,” says Marina Peredo, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City. “These causes could include hormonal, lifestyle, or genetic factors.” Since your lifestyle is the only one you can really influence out of all of these factors, it’s best to start there.
Next, take a look at your exercise routine. If you don’t shower right after working out or sweating, bacteria will build upon your skin, causing breakouts, according to Peredo. “Make sure you wear cotton athleticwear that won’t absorb sweat, shower after working out and treat your acne with a topical cream.”
Your hairstyle can also play a part, and in more ways than you would imagine. Your hair products are the most apparent culprit here. “You can note that you are breaking out along your hairline, upper back, and neck area if you are using heavier leave-in items like conditioner, pomades, and oils,” says Peredo. These are thicker and more occlusive, which means they’re more likely to clog a pore. However, not washing your hair isn’t a viable option. “Washing your hair less often will cause the scalp to create more oil, which can clog pores and lead to breakouts,” she explains.
If you already go straight from a post-run stretch to the shower and have ruled out your hair routine as a factor, genetics or hormones can be to blame (for the latter, hormonal breakouts on your face are a tip-off). According to New York dermatologist Michelle Henry, M.D., “oily skin is inherited and usually affects the whole body.” “If an individual has extreme facial acne, they are more likely to have body acne as well.”
In that case, Peredo recommends using an over-the-counter ointment to treat acne. “If that doesn’t work, you can see your dermatologist, who can prescribe a topical or oral treatment for you.” She also likes the Hydrafacial, which can be used on your whole body, including your scalp, as well as your face.
The most effective body acne remedies for eradicating breakouts:
Not all types of body acne heal at the same rate or react to the same treatments. “The closest the acne is to your face, the easier it is to handle,” Peredo says. “Acne on your chest and upper back, for example, would be easier to treat than acne on your lower back and buttocks.” It’s all about physiology. Acne heals more slowly in the lower half of the body due to slower circulation (along with wider surface areas).
Then there are a few basic ingredients from which to choose. Although both benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are commonly used to treat acne on the body and face, there are several variations between the two. “If you have sensitive skin, salicylic acid is a safer alternative than benzoyl peroxide because it is better tolerated,” Peredo says. “Benzoyl peroxide is suitable for people who have mild to sensitive skin.” Salicylic acid is also an exfoliant, but if your skin is very reactive or allergic, you might not be able to use it. If that’s the case, sodium hypochlorite is a healthy alternative for all skin types, including those susceptible to eczema.
In light of this, we asked dermatologists and editors for their recommendations for over-the-counter body acne remedies. These are the goods that they say do the job.
CLn Body Wash is the best for everyday use:
CLn Body Wash is soft enough to use daily while still being antimicrobial. This sodium hypochlorite wash incorporates two essential aspects of acne treatment: it destroys bacteria while reducing inflammation and irritation. Most importantly, it won’t overly strip the skin, causing it to produce more sebum. —Deanne Robinson, M.D., a dermatologist at Westport, Connecticut-based Modern Dermatology.
Also read: Aida Bicaj Prices
Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask is the best gentle benzoyl peroxide wash:
One of my favorites is Neutrogena Clear Pore Cleanser/Mask because it’s always easier to treat body acne with simple washes and other items. Benzoyl peroxide is good at destroying acne-causing bacteria, and concentrations under 5%, like this wash, are less drying. — Michele Farber, M.D., of Schweiger Dermatology Group in New York City, is a dermatologist.
Clean & Clear is the best tough-acting benzoyl peroxide wash. Acne Cleanser with Continuous Control:
I like that it cleans the skin, removes dirt, treats existing acne, and prevents new acne from developing. Menthol and mineral oil also have a soothing and hydrating effect. Sapna Palep, M.D., of Spring Street Dermatology in New York City, is a dermatologist.
Clean & Clear
Curology Acne Body Wash is the best gentle salicylic acid wash:
I was ecstatic to learn that Curology had just released a body wash, as I suffer from bumps under my sports bra. It lathers up like a good body wash, but it also contains 2% salicylic acid and hydrating glycerin to help clear and nourish the skin. —Beauty contributor Deanna Pai
Neutrogena Body Clear is the best tough-acting salicylic acid body wash:
This body wash contains salicylic acid and grapefruit extract, which gently unclogs blackheads and pores on the chest, back, and arms. It’s super easy to use when showering to treat your skin. [Editor’s note: It smells great, too.] —Elliot Weiss, M.D., of the Laser Skin & Surgery Center of New York, a dermatologist
Skin Ceuticals Clarifying Exfoliating Cleanser is the best body scrub:
This exfoliating cleanser packs a powerful punch. Clearer, smoother skin benefits from a combination of gentle mechanical exfoliation from pumice beads and the soft unclogging power of salicylic, glycolic, and lactic acids. —E.W.
PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash is ideal for both the face and the body:
This product can be on your face or body, and it comes in two concentrations of benzoyl peroxide: 4% and 10%, depending on your skin’s reaction and needs. The 10 percent strength on the body is tolerable for most people. Benzoyl peroxide fights active breakouts while also preventing new ones by penetrating the pores and killing the bacteria that cause acne while also soothing inflammation to keep pores open and transparent.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 8% AHA Gel is best for shoulder acne:
Warm-weather sweat, unwashed bra straps, and shoulder-bearing outfits are all great ways to make you notice the skin on your back. Green tea, aloe, and glycolic acid in the gel flattened out my elevated acne, leaving only a few small red lines where the blemishes had been. Since then, whenever I’ve seen a pimply shoulder forming, I’ve slathered it on and gotten the same results. —Contributor Rachel Nussbaum
the amount of $30
CeraVe SA Body Wash is the best for chest acne:
This is high in salicylic acid, which dissolves dead skin cells accumulated in the pore, keeping it open and clean. S.A. is lipophilic, which means it can work its way through acne-causing oil accumulation. D.R. is a writer who lives in the United States.
Glytone Acne Treatment Spray is the best for back acne:
This is advantageous because it contains acne-fighting salicylic acid, which aids in the unclogging of pores. The spray formulation also makes applying to the back easy. M.F. is a writer who lives in the United States.
Best for Tough-to-Reach Places: Acne-Control Body Mist (Versed Back-Up Plan):
As someone who has overdone the acne remedies and suffered the red, irritated effects, I’m grateful for this pore-clearing, bacteria-fighting spray, which contains salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and witch hazel. Besides, the mist removes the odd contortion that is usually needed to target my back. Contributor Deanna Pai
Skinfluence 5-2 Pads are the best for post-workout:
These pads contain salicylic acid, which helps clear acne and removes bacteria and oil from the skin. They’re easy to use and ideal for after a workout when you don’t have time to shower. M.P. is a writer who lives in the United States.
Differin Acne Treatment Gel is the best retinol treatment:
Retinoids are the most effective topical remedies for acne-related texture and pigment shifts, as well as antiacne and antiaging properties.
This is an excellent over-the-counter retinoid for treating active acne and reducing inflammation and clogging. M.F. is a writer who lives in the United States.
CeraVe Regular Moisturizing Lotion is the best lotion:
Aside from body washes and topicals, use a non-comedogenic moisturizer on your body the same way you would on an acne-prone face. This CeraVe product is one of my favorites because it’s fragrance-free and gentle, and it uses the hydrating power of hyaluronic acid, which is light and won’t clog pores. D.R. is a writer who lives in the United States.
Differin Regular Deep Cleanser is the best for oil control:
This is a highly effective benzoyl peroxide-based wash that effectively reduces dryness and inflammation while offering acne-fighting benzoyl peroxide benefits. Just make sure you don’t bleach your towels in the process. —E.W.
SkinBetter AlphaRet Exfoliating Peel Pads are the best for fading scars:
These are perfect for swiping over your chest, shoulders, and back to exfoliate and rejuvenate your skin after active breakouts have been suppressed. They assist in the fading of scars and the evening out of skin pigment and texture. D.R. is a writer who lives in the United States.
The cost is $95
Arm & Hammer Body Deodorant Invisible Spray Powder is the best for preventing body acne:
Baking soda has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic effects, making it ideal for acne treatment. The (talc-free!) ingredients help absorb moisture and sweat, making the atmosphere less conducive to bacteria development. This is a good choice for spraying trouble areas ahead of time. D.R. is a writer who lives in the United States.
Armadillo & Hammer
What is the concept of body acne?
According to Chang, the underlying causes of body and facial acne are identical. Excess oil development, clogged pores, and inflammation, among other reasons, cause zits. These factors include things like human biology, hormones, and stress.
However, just because you have cystic acne on your chin or whiteheads around your nose doesn’t mean you’ll have the same kind of breakouts on your body. “Body acne is more common than blackheads, but it may also be whiteheads, pimples, and cysts,” says Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist.
Acne is most common in oily areas, such as the middle of the chest and upper back. “Lower oil levels provide a perfect atmosphere for bacteria to thrive, resulting in inflammation and acne,” Chang states. “Due to discomfort from sweating and tight-fitting clothing, the buttocks are often a popular region.” Because of the inflammation around the hair follicles, legs may be susceptible to acne after shaving.”
Folliculitis, or acne on the chest and back, is caused by clogged pores filled with oil, dead skin, or other debris, resulting in inflamed hair follicles that appear in tiny red bumps. Breakouts can also be caused by dermatitis, a skin irritation caused by fabric rubbing mixed with sweat.
And just because you have breakouts on your face doesn’t mean you’ll have them anywhere on your body, and vice versa. “Acne on the body can be entirely different from acne on the face,” Engelman says.
What’s the matter with you? Why are you breaking out all of a sudden?
Pandemic-related problems are leading to the increase of acne on all levels, from mental to physical.
For starters, there’s a shift in lifestyle. “When you’re sitting, there’s more pressure on your butt,” Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, told Allure previously. All of that butt rubbing on the sofa will irritate the skin and cause breakouts.
Besides, the growth of at-home workouts isn’t helping. Clogged pores can be caused by spending more time in sweaty clothes (because who changes right after a workout anymore? ) and then sitting in those sweaty clothes on the sofa.
There’s also the fact that many of us aren’t taking as good care of our skin as we once did for different reasons. “People are mentally and physically drained,” Gohara says. “Since March, I’ve been wearing athleisure, and I believe the same [thinking] applies to skincare.” People don’t take care of their skin because they can’t cope with it.” People are also showering less, which can lead to oil buildup on the body. Forget about frills like sheet masks (or butt masks); people are even showering less. Others are pouring more often, which may cause skin irritation.
Diet is also a factor in the emergence of new body breakouts. “If you’re anything like me, you’ll be reaching for the donuts, ice cream, and wine while sitting at home. “A bad diet caused by the pandemic may be exacerbating your acne,” Chang says. “Studies show that high-glycemic diets (foods with a lot of sugar and carbs) and dairy can aggravate acne.”
Finally, this year has taken an emotional toll on me. “Acne flares can be aggravated by pandemic-related stress,” Chang continues. “Stress activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, resulting in an increase in cortisol levels in the body.” Stress has been shown to increase oil production and skin inflammation, resulting in acne flare-ups.”