Those of us who suffer from back acne (backne) and/or chest acne (chestne) tend to forget it’s even there for about nine months. And then it starts to get warm and you try on swimsuits and yikes–red spots everywhere. Body acne sucks!
Before we get to treating back and chest acne, let’s first make sure we’re all on the same page in understanding that, although sweating can exacerbate it, it isn’t the root cause of body acne. Yes, that means you can stop cursing summer now. “It is 100 percent due to hormones, and the severity of it is due to genetics,” explains Dr. Jill Waibel, a dermatologist at Miami Dermatology & Laser Institute. “Chest and back acne are just like acne that can be found anywhere else on the body, however, your pores are larger in these areas, which causes the acne to seem more noticeable or difficult to treat. Stress and changes in hormone levels, like menstruation and puberty, can contribute to acne flare-ups.”
With that out of the way, here are 5 ways to treat backne and chestne before you hit the beach or throw on a low cut tank this summer.
1. Cleanse effectively. Your first step in banishing backne and chestne is to wash your body each day with an antibacterial soap or cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide because it will kill excess bacteria on the skin’s surface, says Dr. Debra Jaliman, dermatologist and author of the book Skin Rules. “I’m a big fan of the Clarisonic because it has a special acne brush attachment,” Jaliman says. “You can then use a toner or unimpregnated pad that contains glycolic acid or salicylic acid as it is easier on the skin.” Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash contains salicylic acid and is specifically formulated to treat body acne breakouts.
2. Exfoliate. Most of us have become accustomed to exfoliating our faces a few times a week and the same benefits of exfoliation apply below the neck. “Exfoliating the skin will help rid it of dirt and oil that can build up over time,” Waibel says, adding that we should aim to exfoliate our bodies twice a week. Make the act a pleasure and not a chore by choosing a product that invigorates the skin and contains natural ingredients. Lush Ocean Salt Cleanser is made with sea salt, seaweed absolute, and organic lime extracted in vodka (hello!) and will get you in a surfing/bonfire mood.
3. Wear the right clothing. “Many people exercise in clothing that doesn’t breathe, basically anything with spandex and other synthetic fabrics,” Jaliman says. “Then they sweat and don’t take a shower right after. It’s best if you wear cotton or a breathable fabric and shower right after exercising. If you can’t then it would be good if you could at least towel off and change into a new top so that you’re not sitting in sweaty clothing with bacteria.” If you are out and about after a workout and unable to immediately hit the showers, Dr. Hadley King, a board-certified dermatologist at NYC’S SKINNEY Medspa, recommends using a cleansing wipe that contains salicylic acid, like AcneFree’s 2-in-1 Acne Treatment Wipes.
4. Visit a dermatologist. If all else fails, dermatologists are able to treat stubborn skin problems that at-home treatments can’t so use their expertise! “A dermatologist can prescribe additional topical products, such as Aczone or a retinoid, and he/she can also outline the options for systemic treatment: oral antibiotics, hormonal options for women, including oral contraceptives or spironolactone, or finally, isotretinoin if the acne is severe and not improving with other treatments.” For those with severe cystic acne on the chest or back, Waibel says the only real cure is Accutane, which can treat intense cases of acne.
5. Consider a laser treatment. Is there anything a laser can’t do? In the case of body acne, King says an intense pulsed light-based device called the Isolaze can also be a treatment option. “The vacuum component helps to clear out pores and the light component decreases inflammation and can decrease discoloration.”
For more beauty tips, check out 10 at-home remedies to try when zits pop up out of nowhere and 8 places you don’t think to put sunscreen but should.