woman with bare back touching neck

Body Acne: How To Get Rid Of Breakouts On Your Back, Chest & Shoulders

If dealing with facial acne isn’t enough, your body can also be prone to breakouts. Odds are, if you experience acne on your face, pimples have also popped up on your neck, chest and back. In fact, Everyday Health reports that up to 60% of people who report having facial acne experience body acne as well. Here’s a breakdown of what causes body blemishes, and our tips for keeping them at bay.

What Is Body Acne?

Body acne refers to any type of acne that appears on the back and upper half of the body, including the chest and shoulders. These breakouts are classified similarly to acne on your face, and are often accompanied by oily skin and scarring. While acne can appear anywhere on your body (aside from oil-free zones on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet), it tends to concentrate on the back, chest and shoulders where there is a higher density of hair follicles and oil- and sweat-producing glands. To make matters worse, the pores and hair follicles on your body are much larger than those found on your face, and the skin on your back is extremely thick. These factors heighten the potential for dirt and oil to become trapped, block pores and cause breakouts.

What Causes Back, Chest & Shoulder Acne?

Eminence Organics Lead Skin Care Trainer Natalie Pergar tells us that the primary causes of body and facial acne are alike: “Body acne is caused by the same factors as facial acne - bacteria, overactive oil glands and excess dead skin cells.” As with facial acne, oil and dead skin cells block a pore, mix with acne-causing bacteria and trigger an immune response that presents as one of the five types of acne. There are a few additional factors that contribute to breakouts on your back, chest and shoulders. These include:

woman washing hair1. Shampoo & Conditioner

Believe it or not, keeping clean can actually contribute to body acne. As you rinse shampoo and conditioner from your scalp, the oils from your hair products can run down your back and clog pores. And, the location of body breakouts doesn’t help; unless you’re an expert contortionist, it’s likely that you’re missing patches of product during your daily scrub. A few tips to keep in mind:

  • Rinse shampoo and conditioner off to the side
  • Wash your body after shampooing to make sure you catch any lingering residue
  • Use a (clean) body brush to access hard-to-reach spots

2. Sweaty & Tight Fitting Workout Wear

One of the most common contributors to body acne is sweaty, tight-fighting clothing. Clingy fabrics trap sweat and bacteria on the skin, which can lead to clogged pores and body breakouts. Natalie adds: “When acne affects the body, it’s also good to note that the rubbing of clothing and sports equipment can add to irritation due to the extra heat and sweat.” The best way to tackle this trigger: Opt for loose-fitting workout wear and be sure to remove it immediately after you hit the gym.

3. Dirty Shower Accessories

Dirty shower accessories can quickly undo the good done by your daily cleanse. Wet loofahs, damp towels and moist bath brushes are a breeding ground for bacteria that can compromise clear skin. In addition to frequently washing your favorite towel, Refinery29 recommends replacing your loofah every three weeks and using a body brush with natural fibers to limit the available hiding places for fungus and bacteria.

all you need to know about body acne infographic

How To Treat It: Products For Body Acne

Body breakouts may be caused by the same triggers as facial acne, but they can be more challenging to treat. Because hair follicles and pores are spaced further apart, the skin tends to be tougher in these areas, it can be difficult for topical products to penetrate the skin and work as quickly as they do for facial acne. On the other hand, the skin on your back is more resilient, and can better handle potent treatments that may be irritating to your face. Here are a few ways you can adjust your body care routine to battle breakouts on your back, shoulders and chest:

1. Avoid Creamy Shower Gels

The skin on your back has more sweat and oil gland activity than elsewhere on the body, but it also happens to be the area that is least thoroughly cleansed. Due to the difficulty in reaching inaccessible spots like the skin between your shoulder blades, oil, dead skin, sweat and dirt easily build up and clog pores. For starters, Natalie advises avoiding ultra-creamy shower gels and choosing treatments that contain acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid (a BHA that unblocks pores), glycolic acid (an AHA that dissolves dead skin cells to prevent spots) and/or lactic acid (a gentle AHA that helps smooth skin and prevent pimples). GQ recommends using a long-handled cleansing sponge or body brush to help reach every nook and cranny.

Product Picks: Acne Advanced Cleansing FoamRed Currant Exfoliating Cleanser

2. Moisturize - Lightly

While it may be counterintuitive to add moisture to already oily and acne-prone skin, it’s a skin care step you can’t skip. In fact, less moisture can cause skin to produce more pore-clogging sebum in an effort to stay lubricated. Keeping your skin’s moisture barrier intact is essential to lock in hydration as well as protect your pores from bacteria and other acne-causing irritants. Yet, not all moisturizers are made equal. Steer clear of rich creams designed for dry skin and, instead, choose a lightweight lotion that will keep your skin hydrated and its oil balance in check.

Product Picks: Acne Advanced Clarifying HydratorStone Crop Body Lotion

how salicylic acid exfoliates and unclogs pores

3. Spot Treat Blemishes

The same spot treatments you apply to your face can be used for your back, chest and shoulders. Experts agree that products that contain acne-fighting salicylic acid are your best bet against body blemishes; this superstar ingredient not only clears clogged pores but also helps prevent breakouts from recurring. With regular use, it has the power to keep skin clear and breakout-free for longer. Plus: Unlike benzoyl peroxide, it is extremely gentle and will not bleach fabric. When choosing the right spot treatment, we recommend reaching for products with a creamy consistency that can be easily spread across your back, chest and shoulders.

Product Picks: Acne Advanced Clarifying MasqueHungarian Herbal Mud Treatment

4. Fade Dark Marks

Because the skin on your back is more resilient and has a slower cell turnover than the skin on your face, it can take longer to heal. This increases the chance that your body acne will leave scars and lengthens the amount of time it will take for post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation to fade. Whatever you do, don’t pick, squeeze or scratch your spots - and if you do, apply a brightening serum immediately.

Product Picks: Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster-SerumCitrus & Kale Potent C+E Serum

5. Schedule A Back Facial

Acne facials aren’t just for your face. In fact, many spas and salons now offer back facials to specifically target the hard-to-reach spots you can’t tackle at home. Not only do these professional treatments clean your skin at a deeper level, they also include professional-strength exfoliation and extractions to encourage skin cell turnover and clear clogged pores. Visit our Spa Locator to book a back facial at an Eminence Organics partner spa near you.

Do you struggle with body acne? Share your stories with us in the comments below, and join the conversation on Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Pinterest | LinkedIn | YouTube.