The Best Products and Treatments for Clearing Back and Body Acne

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Whether it’s from sweat, diet, genetics or even clothing, acne across the back and body can appear for any number of reasons. With warmer days quickly approaching, the days of tank tops and bathing suits are upon us, and for individuals struggling with back and body acne, this turn of seasons can come with a lot of dread and anxiety.

While there are tons of products, treatments and more for treating acne on the face that are widely talked about, treating acne on the body is a less saturated market, making it hard for those struggling with breakouts on the back and body to find treatments that work for them. Not to fear, though, we consulted the experts for the run down on all things body acne, from how it works to how to remedy it.

Featured Experts:

  • Jeanine Downie, MD is a dermatologist based in Montclair, NJ
  • Kenneth Beer, MD is a dermatologist based in West Palm Beach, FL
  • Iris Looi is the physician’s assistant for New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD

How Does Body Acne Differ From Face Acne?

Montclair, NJ dermatologist Jeanine Downie, MD explains that “body acne occurs for the same reason acne in the face occurs: stress, family history, hormonal fluctuations or even picking at your body acne, which makes it worse.” Iris Looi, physician’s assistant for New York dermatologist Julie Russak, MD, adds that “fundamentally, body acne and facial acne are the same,” as “the pathophysiology of acne is due to four factors that happen to the pilosebaceous gland, which is the unit made of the hair follicle/oil gland. There is overproduction of sebum (oil), follicular hyperkeratinization (clogging of the hair follicle/oil gland with oil and keratin material), the presence of C. acnes (bacteria that lives on the skin), and a localized inflammatory response. The distinction between body acne and facial acne is really the location.”

One distinction that West Palm Beach, FL dermatologist Kenneth Beer, MD notes is that, opposed to face acne, “body acne differs because—at least for most jobs—you have [the back and body] covered for most of the day, which provides the bacteria with ample environment to grow. The cells there are typically not exposed to the same soaps, moisturizers etc.”

Does Treatment for Back and Body Acne Differ From That of the Face?

While, as Dr. Downie and Looi explain, the causes of acne across the body and face are not all that different and thus the treatment protocol doesn’t stray too far. Dr. Beer explains, “back acne is, in fact, often harder to treat as it is difficult to get medicine and actives through the thick skin of the back.” Looi explains that “the skin on the face tends to be more sensitive than the body and since most acne medications are drying, we tend to use ‘gentler’ medications for the face.”

What Ingredients Treat Back Breakouts?

Dr. Beer explains that products containing salicylic acid, zinc and adapalene are great for treating stubborn body acne. Looi agrees, explaining that “my favorite over-the-counter ingredients to treat body acne are benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and retinoids. Benzoyl peroxide helps to decrease the bacteria that contribute to acne. Salicylic acid dives down into the hair follicle and oil gland to break up the keratin material (which is part of the clogged pore). Retinoids are a vitamin A derivative that help to regulate cell turnover, resulting in increased shedding of keratin and sebum in the clogged pore, therefore leading to a decrease in the number of clogged pores and a decrease in clogged pore formation. Another reason to use retinoids in acne treatment is that they help with discoloration, which can be a concerning sequela to acne.”

Are There In-Office Options for Treating Body Acne and Back Acne?

As we all know, the amount of in-office treatments for managing acne on the face have skyrocketed in recent years, and as our experts affirm, the options for treating acne on the body in office are growing, too. “In-office option treatments like chemical peels, cortisone injections and red light lasers are great for acne on the body,” Dr. Downie says. “There are many treatments for acne scarring, too, like Intracel and Fraxel.” At the Russak Clinic in New York, Looi explains that they “offer medical facials for the body, which include steaming the pores followed by extractions. Treating the back with chemical peels tends to work well too, especially peels with salicylic acid, which helps to break up the keratin material.  Photodynamic therapy, which is a treatment that involves the application of a medication called levulanic acid and illumination under red/blue light, is also very efficacious, as it helps to shrink the oil glands, decrease bacterial overgrowth, and decrease inflammation.”

The Best Products for Treating Body Acne

Now that you understand your options, here are some of our expert’s favorite over-the-counter treatments for back and body acne, from cleansers to spot treatments and more.

1 / 5

Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash with Salicylic Acid ($9)

At under $10, this salicylic acid–rich acne wash is one of Dr. Downie’s favorite at-home washes for treating acne on the back and body, and the oil-free formula prevents excess oil production and clogged pores.

BUY NOW – $9

2 / 5

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo ($36)

A fan- and expert-favorite for treating acne on the face, Dr. Downie also recommends La Roche-Posay’s famous Effaclar Duo for spot treating breakouts across the back and body, as the benzoyl peroxide formula makes it a great product for penetrating and combatting stubborn body acne.

BUY NOW – $36

3 / 5

Differin 0.1% Gel ($14)

A favorite of both Looi and Dr. Downie, this over-the-counter retinoid is a great potent product for fighting breakouts on the thicker skin of the body. “This product can also be drying and irritating to the skin, so0 a very small amount is needed for treatment of the affected area,” Looi notes.

BUY NOW – $14

4 / 5

CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser ($18)

With exfoliating AHA salicylic acid as its hero ingredient and a hydrating blend of ceramides, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, Looi loves the CeraVe Salicylic Acid Cleanser as body wash in the shower for unclogging pores without over stripping.

BUY NOW – $18

5 / 5

PanOxyl 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Foaming Wash ($9)

With a potent concentration of benzoyl peroxide, this maximum strength foaming wash contains the highest, non-prescription concentration of benzoyl peroxide, making it another one of Looi’s favorite for putting an end to body breakouts.

BUY NOW – $9

The Best Non-Clogging SPFs For Body and Back Acne

While treating and clearing breakouts is important, sun protection should never take a back seat in any skin-care journey. Below, some of our experts’ favorite SPFs for protecting the skin on the back and body without clogging pores or creating breakouts. As a general rule of thumb, though, “we recommend using mineral/physical sunscreen, which includes zinc oxide, as zinc can help decrease oil production and inflammation in the skin, Looi notes.

6 / 8

EltaMD UV AOX Mist ($43)

With a zinc oxide–based formula and a spray nozzle that makes covering hard to reach places a breeze, Looi recommends this EltaMD staple for protecting the skin across the body without irritating or clogging pores.

BUY NOW – $43

7 / 8

Eucerin Sensitive Mineral Zinc Oxide Protection SPF 50 ($19)

If you prefer a lotion SPF, Looi recommends Eucerin’s Zinc Oxide Sensitive Mineral SPF 50. As Dr. Downie notes, SPF 30 and above is recommended for adequate SPF protection, with reapplication every 2 hours.

BUY NOW – $19

8 / 8

Colorescience Sunforgettable Total Protection Body Shield Classic SPF 50 ($49)

Colorescience SPFs are some of our favorites here at NewBeauty, and this all-mineral liquid SPF is perfect for keeping your skin safe and breakout-free.

BUY NOW – $49

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