Waking up to breakouts on your face happens to everyone at some point in our lives, and fortunately most of us are well versed in the tips, tricks and products needed to help treat facial acne. From applying spot patches to using salicylic acid face washes and clay masks, most of us have a pretty solid game plan when it comes to dealing with an unwanted pimple.
But what about those painful spots that appear on your back, shoulders and even your chest? Less discussed but actually just as common as facial acne, body acne (often referred to as "bacne") can feel like a whole new ball game, no matter how accustomed you are to dealing with facial breakouts. Body acne breakouts are often painful and deep-rooted, and since these spots are often hard to reach, they can be much more difficult to treat.
Here's how dermatologists recommend getting rid of those unwanted bacne breakouts quickly, plus how to prevent them from occurring again.
What Is Acne?
There are plenty of ways to treat body acne, but first of all, it's important to understand the basics of how it occurs in the first place. "Acne is a disorder of the pilosebaceous unit of the skin—this consists of a hair follicle and a sebaceous (or oil) gland. Acne occurs when the pilosebaceous units become blocked or inflamed," explains Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist at Self London.
"This then leads to the formation of whiteheads, blackheads, papules and pustules." Since we have hair follicles (pores) all over our bodies, this process of blockage and inflammation can occur literally anywhere on the skin, which explains why you might experience a seemingly random spot on your neck or bum, and also larger breakouts across your back or shoulders.
What Causes Body Acne?
If you're wondering why your body acne seems to appear in certain areas, there is some logic to it. "We have the highest proportion of oil glands on our face (the T-zone area) but they can also be found in higher concentrations on the chest, back and shoulders too," explains Mahto. "As a result, we predominantly tend to find body acne in these areas."
Our genetics are one of the determining factors behind acne, since they dictate how our bodies produce oil and shed dead skin cells. But there are also external factors that can contribute to body acne breakouts. According to dermatologist Dr Zainab Laftah, friction and sweating are two of the biggest triggers of body acne flare-ups. "Sweating is increased during the summer to help regulate basal body temperature, so this can lead to blockage of pores and blemishes," she explains.
Of course, while you may experience an increase in body acne during the warmer months for this reason, if you have a lifestyle that causes you to sweat, this can also impact you throughout the year. "Exercise can cause blockage of pores from sweating and build up of oil, bacteria and dirt, thus leading to acne breakouts," Laftah adds. "Washing immediately after exercising and wearing loose, breathable clothing is recommended."
"A lot of exercise clothing is tight-fitting, which can trap bacteria and sweat on the skin, leading to the development of the C.acnes [bacteria]," agrees Mahto. "I’d always recommend changing out of sweaty exercise clothes and showering as soon as possible after your workout."
How Can You Get Rid of Body Acne?
As with all types of acne, ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are recommended for treating body acne. You just might have to look for them in a slightly different product format. "Salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide body washes are a great place to start," suggests Mahto. "But you don’t need to use a specific body wash either—you can use your facial cleanser that contains these ingredients on your body too." Mahto's top tip for preventing body acne from occurring is to ensure that you are thoroughly washing your body each day, particularly after exercise, as previously mentioned.
In addition, Laftah recommends considering leave-on products such as serums or masks to help get rid of body acne. "Salicylic acid is my top recommendation for body acne because it's oil-soluble, so it penetrates deep into oil glands and unclogs pores," she explains. "Benzoyl peroxide, azelaic acid and retinoids are further actives that help to treat body acne and target the inflammatory process, but if the above is not effective then see your GP or dermatologist for prescription-grade treatments."
The Best Products for Getting Rid of Body Acne:
This unique formula cleverly creates a skin-like film over spots, forming a breathable patch which protects them from irritation and bacteria. Camphor cools skin whilst sulphur directly tackles the breakout and niacinamide helps to prevent scarring.