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How To Treat & Prevent Body Acne — Yes, Even In Weird Places — As An Adult Woman

There’s nothing more disappointing than reaching adulthood and finally having clearer skin — only to break out in zits all over your bod. Flawless skin, who? 

Don’t worry, though! You’re not the only adult dealing with bacne and buttne and boob blemishes.Whether you have one or two painful bumps a month or a smattering of acne on your chest, body acne is fine and normal. Treating this issue is doable with solutions ranging from elevating your hygiene routine to a quick consultation with a skin expert. 

We enlisted Dr. Adeline Kikam, dermatologist and skin of color educator, to share her best tips to keep those full-body blemishes at bay. Keep this advice in your saved folder and get ready to live your best acne-free life. 

Why we get body acne 

Let’s get to the root of the problem. What is causing those back blemishes, chest and arm zits, etc.? “Areas of the body with high density in sebaceous glands such as the face, chest and back are generally prone to acne breakouts,” explains Dr. Kikam.

And as it turns out, the same factors that cause teenage acne can also trigger body breakouts in adulthood. “Body acne is triggered by buildup of dead skin cells and natural oil causing clogged pores and bacteria proliferation. Other influencing factors include improper hygiene (such as not cleansing after workouts), using comedogenic skincare products, stress, menstrual cycle, conditions such as PCOS (Polycystic ovary syndrome), or medications such as oral steroids.”

Occasionally body acne may be “acne mechanica,” AKA caused by a physical friction (for example, by a bra strap) that irritates and inflames follicles.

Keep in mind that lifestyle changes can play a role in body acne too, and those range from increased stress to starting a new workout regimen or diet. Especially during this time when humans are under an unprecedented amount of stress, guzzling water and keeping yourself calm can play a big role in clear skin. 

How to deal with breakouts

Body acne is, unfortunately, very real. Preventing it is dependent on the underlying causes unique to you, but there are always a few steps everyone can take to control breakouts. According to Dr. Kikam, you should: 

  • Shower as soon as you can after workouts to avoid sweat and dead skin build up on your skin and against your clothes.
  • Avoid reusing dirty workout cloths (gross). And clean your sheets often to get rid of bacteria and dirt that encourage body breakouts.
  • Use exfoliating cleansers and moisturizers with AHA/BHA to slough dead skin and unblock pores. Avoid comedogenic ingredients that can lead to even more breakouts.
  • Avoid the temptation to pick or squeeze your body acne, seriously. It can cause more inflammation, scarring and even hyperpigmentation to the area which can take a long time to resolve.
  • See a dermatologist for evaluation. Some acne is just too tough to address on your own or with over-the-counter (OTC) products. In these cases, derms can prescribe medications which can be more effective in managing the condition.

Derm-approved products to keep zits under control

Although most of us probably have a multi-step skincare routine for our faces, we rarely give the same dedication to body care. But, friends, body care is the backbone of a clear skin! 

It’s easy to get lost trying every lotion and potion out there, or to accidentally use creams and sunscreens that will aggravate the acne further, so Dr. Kikam shared a few favorite products to steer you in the right direction.

Derms across the nation will recommend a body wash with benzoyl peroxide for clearing body acne. “I love benzoyl peroxide and sulfur based cleansers to target acne causing bacteria,” Dr. Kikam says. “I typically recommend PanOxyl Foaming Acne Wash with 10% BPO.

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While washing, pay extra attention to your back, chest, arms – even your butt – where you typically experience the most persistent breakouts. 

Body cleansers with anti-acne ingredients can also be helpful in exfoliating dead skin cells to prevent clogged pores. Dr. Kikam recommends products with chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid and salicylic acid – a few notable ones include Neutrogena’s Body Clear and SLMD Skincare Glycolic Acid Body Scrub.

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For creams, focus on body moisturizers that are light and non-greasy with BHA or AHA exfoliants. Think: the SLMD Glycolic Acid Body Moisturizer, Amlactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion and CeraVe Daily Moisturizing Lotion.

Keep in mind that unless your breakouts are very tame, you’ll potentially need a prescription treatment to get the clearing job done. A trip to the dermatologist may feel like a chore, but in the long run you’ll get better results when your doctor can recommend the correct treatment. 

Bumpy, zitty bods are just a part of life and you’ve got plenty of good company here. But if your body acne bothers you and you want to get rid of it, you’re not being vain. Find the treatment that works for your skin and get those breakouts under control once and for all.

Our mission at SheKnows is to empower and inspire women, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Pharmapacks is a SheKnows sponsor, however, all products in this article were independently selected by our editors. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale.

Before you go, check out these powerful quotes to inspire healthy attitudes about food and body image:

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