I’m sure you’ve heard of ‘bacne’ (back acne), but did you know that acne can also occur on the chest, arms, bum and shoulders as well as the back? In fact, anywhere you can find hair follicles, you can find acne.
What is body acne?
Body acne is a common skin concern that occurs when hair follicles become clogged with oil, dead skin cells and bacteria, and just like acne on the face, acne on the body can also result in large amounts of inflammation, scarring and hyperpigmentation.
What causes body acne?
Body acne can be just as frustrating as acne on the face and can knock your confidence. Just like the skin on our faces, the skin on our backs (and elsewhere) contains sweat glands, oil glands and hair follicles. These follicles can become congested with sweat and oil as well as bacteria and dead skin cells, which can inflame the follicles and lead to bumps.
Some of the things that can exacerbate body acne include hormonal changes (especially during puberty), pregnancy, and the menstrual cycle.
Genetics can also play a part; for instance, you may be more naturally predisposed to having highly active oil secreting glands.
Excessive sweating and friction from tight clothing can play a role; particularly if you sit in workout clothing after exercise for any period of time.
Certain medications such as steroids can be a cause, as can use of cosmetics or skincare that congest the pores, such as body oils.
Still confused? The location of where you’re getting body acne may give you some insight as to the cause. For instance, body acne that occurs on the back or the nape of the neck may be due to oil from your hair products and acne on the shoulder and arms or bum can be due to sweat from sportswear.
How to prevent body acne
As with all things in skincare, prevention is better than treatment, and it’s important to understand the things that are contributing to your body acne (see above) and try to address each risk factor as you find it.
Firstly, avoid tight-fitting clothing, particularly during exercise; the friction from the clothing combined with the bacteria in sweat is a recipe for body acne. Swap body-hugging gym wear to loose-fitting and breathable clothing to prevent friction from the fabric against the skin and allow the sweat to evaporate.
In addition to this, showering before exercise can help to reduce bacteria on the skin that can become trapped within the sweat. If you must wear tight workout gear, remember to remove it and shower as soon as possible when you’ve finished training.
Next, you want to avoid skincare oils and comedogenic products seeping from your hair onto you back, shoulders and arms. Comedogenic skincare oils include coconut oil, castor oil and shea butter. Hair conditioners, hair oils, hairspray and creams can all congest the pores and contribute to body acne. A good tip is to wash off any residual conditioner with an oil-reducing body wash after you have finished your wash cycle.
How to treat body acne
When it comes to how to treat body acne, the same principles apply as for acne on the face: reduce oil, reduce bacteria and inflammation, and exfoliate the skin.
An oil-removing body wash can help to unclog the pores that are trapping acne-producing. Cleansers containing exfoliating acids such as salicylic acid can penetrate deep within the pores and remove buildup. Beauty Pie’s latest launch is a great option you can also use on your face.
Benzoyl peroxide is another key ingredient to help dampen inflammation and reduce bacteria on the skin.
You can use benzoyl peroxide again in acne washes or in topical gels and apply it solely to the affected area.
Lastly, retinol body creams can help speed up skin cell turnover and dislodge the build-up that is trapped within the cells.
So, what should you avoid? Steer clear of heavily fragranced shower gels, harsh scrubs and loofahs to avoid weakening the skin’s barrier and predisposing your skin to hyperpigmentation and trauma. Consider getting prescription-strength ingredients from your GP if you’re concerned that your acne is beginning to leave behind hyperpigmented marks or is having a real knock to your confidence.