It’s safe to say we’ve all experienced a blemish or two on our faces, but body acne can be more of a taboo topic. Unlike facial acne, dermatologists say blemishes that appear below the face typically have a common thread, whether the breakout be on your back or neck. Ahead, a deep dive into the common causes of body acne and doctor-approved ways to bust it.
Studio City, CA dermatologist Gene Rubinstein, MD says a common cause of acne on the buttocks is folliculitis, a mild bacterial infection within the hair follicles. “It may be related to chafing or sweating and it’s sometimes spread by wearing tight clothes,” he says.
“I recommend using an over-the-counter antibacterial cleanser such as Hibiclens Liquid ($15) and a benzoyl peroxide wash. This formula helps kill the bacteria and gently exfoliate the skin. When the skin is clear, regularly using a benzoyl peroxide wash, such as PanOxyl ($10), in the shower is recommended to keep the skin clear. For deep, cystic lesions, it’s best to see a dermatologist as a systemic treatment may be necessary.”
New York dermatologist Orit Markowitz, MD says neck acne is also related to folliculitis. “They appear as small red bumps or white-headed pimples around the hair follicles,” she says, explaining that this infection is much more common in men than in women because it’s a side effect of shaving. “In women, it appears more often on the chin as a side effect of waxing.”
“For men suffering from neck acne, the best way to treat this is by using good, sharp razor blades and by practicing consistent shaving,” says Dr. Markowitz. “If you do find you are having these breakouts related to shaving, I would avoid it until the inflammation and bumps go away.” In terms of products, she recommends trying an over-the-counter hydrocortisone cream to reduce inflammation.
“For women who may have unwanted facial hair on their chin and neck, laser hair removal is a great option for those with dark hair and electrolysis is great for women with light or blonde hair,” she adds.
“If the pores on the back get clogged and bacterial overgrowth occurs, pimples, cysts and blemishes can form,” says Davie, FL dermatologist Marianna Blyumin-Karasik, MD, who explains that picking at these lesions can lead to the spread of bacteria and worsening of blemishes and scarring.
Like Dr. Rubinstein, Dr. Blyumin-Karasik says the best way to prevent ‘bacne’ is by wearing loose-fitting fabrics and also cleansing the skin soon after a work-out. “The longer the sweat and oil mixed with chaffing and tight clothing stays on your skin, the more likely it is for breakouts to occur. Most importantly, implementing good skin care is the best way to treat this issue.”
The products she recommends: spritzing the skin with Stamina Cosmetics Maskne Claming Mist, wiping the skin with the oil-reducing Replenix GlySal Pads ($22), and cleansing with the anti-bacterial PanOxyl ($10). “If it’s not better in couple of weeks, it’s time to see your friendly dermatologist for prescription medicines.”
“Chest acne can present itself in several ways,” says Chicago dermatologist Dr. Quenby Erickson. “It can have the appearance of open or closed comedones—aka blackheads and whiteheads—pimples, pustules or cysts on the skin.”
She also explains that this condition can be hereditary. “If that is the case, this type of acne will present itself around the time of puberty as pores become clogged from either excessive oil production or inadequate natural exfoliation (release of the keratinocytes from the pores). Other causes are hormonal fluctuations or occasional contact with irritating dyes found in laundry detergent or lotions applied to the skin.”
Depending on the severity of your acne, Dr. Erickson offers many different treatment routes. “Chest acne is often treated with topical exfoliants like salicylic or glycolic acids which help unclog pores,” she says. “In the case of severe acne, oral antibiotics or even oral isotretinoin (Accutane) may be prescribed. My office also performs Hydrafacials and chemical peels on the chest and back as well as laser treatments like BBL Clear to treat acne rather than resorting to oral medications.” Her favorite products are from the Obagi CLENZIderm line and the SkinMedica AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser ($47).