Dealing with bacne or buttne? A dermatologist details the primary causes of body acne, as well as five tips and treatments that can help in your quest to clear your body breakouts.
Similar to facial breakouts, body acne can trigger discomfort and, worse, diminished self-confidence. It’s also tricky to treat, since the causes of body acne can be different than facial acne. Plus, you may be experiencing a different type of acne on your body, which requires a separate playbook.
If you’re struggling with body acne, NYC-based cosmetic dermatologist Michele Green, MD, is here to show us how to handle it if and when it rises to the surface. Below, you’ll learn what causes body acne and how to get rid of body acne.
What Causes Body Acne?
While acne is most common on the face, it can also appear on other parts of the body, including the back, chest, shoulders, and butt.
As Dr. Green explains, “The area of the body affected by acne is determined by the location of your sebaceous glands,” which are responsible for producing sebum.
Sebum is the wax-like substance responsible for keeping your skin moisturized—yet it’s also a major cause of breakouts. “If you produce too much sebum, your pores become clogged with bacteria and excess dead skin cells, resulting in pimples,” she continues.
While genetic factors play a role as well, Dr. Green says that certain daily habits and lifestyle conditions can also cause or aggravate body acne, including but not limited to:
- Clothing choices
Additionally, hormonal fluctuations are often at play when it comes to flare-ups on both your body and face. (If you’re wondering what causes body acne in adults, hormones play a huge role.)
How to Get Rid of Body Acne
If you’re wondering how to treat body acne, we have answers. One or all of the above factors could be contributing to your body acne, but If you’re not able to pinpoint an exact cause, it’s best to address it with a holistic plan. (Or make an appointment with a dermatologist, as you might be dealing with fungal acne).
With that in mind, Dr. Green says that the five tips and body acne treatments below can help manage those breakouts.
1. Create a Consistent Body Care Routine
Just as you should wash your face daily, the same is true of your body. Dr. Green says that creating a targeted body care routine (similar to a facial skincare routine) can help. Sadly, applying retinol or an overnight beauty treatment once won’t transform your skin. That’s because products often need time to cause change. It can take a few weeks to see actual results from your skincare routine (more if you’re using retinol), which is why it’s so important to stick with it. Think of it like working out: You’re only going to see real changes if you stay consistent with your workouts over a longer period of time.
2. Use the Right Ingredients to Clear Skin
When building your routine, you’ll want to implement the best treatments and ingredients for body acne.
“You should cleanse your skin using a non-comedogenic cleanser containing glycolic acid or salicylic acid,” Dr. Green says. “After cleansing, towel-dry your body with a clean towel and apply a moisturizer containing salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or glycolic acid.”
Beyond those three powerhouse ingredients, she says that antibacterials like tea tree oil and topical zinc can also help.
Adding an exfoliant into the routine once or twice a week can also help. “Using an exfoliant regularly will keep the skin healthy and unclog the pores, [reducing] the formation of whiteheads, blackheads, and pustules on the body,” she shares.
Invest in a body acne wash (like a benzoyl peroxide-based formula) to help fight breakout-causing bacteria and keep your skin clear. Additionally, adding a retinol to your routine can seriously improve your acne—it just takes about six weeks to see results, so stick with it!
3. Supplement Your Skincare Routine
If you need extra support, consider adding a supplement to your body care routine. Taking a supplement like HUM Nutrition’s Daily Cleanse can help support clearer skin from the inside out. The supplement is made with 14 different natural detoxifiers (such as chlorella and spirulina), which help eliminate impurities and support overall skin health.
4. Adjust Your Diet
While topicals are helpful in treating body acne, what’s on the inside can help too. Your diet could potentially be causing your body acne flare-ups. (Dairy has been linked to acne, for example.) But other items like sugary foods and whey protein powders are also known to cause breakouts. Try reducing your intake of these kinds of foods and see if your body acne improves.
5. Keep Your Hair Clean
While there’s still an ongoing debate about how often you should wash your hair, cleansing it regularly can help you avoid body breakouts. If you have long hair or particularly greasy hair, Dr. Green says that it may be one of the main causes of your body acne. How does that work? When you wear your hair down, grease and product buildup can sit on skin, clog pores, and cause breakouts.
As such, be sure to wash hair frequently and keep it off your back if you suspect it could be a triggering factor.
6. Rinse Off After Sweating
Whether you just finished a hardcore workout or you simply sweat on a warm day, washing your body immediately can help prevent body acne. Just as leftover remnants of sweat on your face can lead to facial breakouts, the same goes for your body, too. Rinse your body off as soon as possible (and use a body acne-fighting body wash) to keep those breakouts at bay.
7. Change Out of Your Sweaty Clothes ASAP
Do you suffer from post-workout breakouts? Just as it’s important to rinse off, it’s also important to change out of your sweaty clothes. That’s because fabric holds all that acne-causing sweat against your pores—pressing it further into your pores.
Because of this, Dr. Green says that it’s important to shed your sweaty clothes soon after a completed workout or outdoor adventure. Naturally, the same goes for breaking a sweat on hot days.
8. Wear Breathable Fabric
We understand—leggings are tight tanks are comfy clothes that work in or out of the gym (WFH uniform, anyone?). But Dr. Green recommends wearing looser, more breathable clothing in everyday life if body acne is a concern.
That way sweat, dirt, and bacteria will be less likely to get trapped in your waistband, bra strap, or wherever else your body acne breakouts typically bloom.
9. Consult a Dermatologist
If the tips above don’t work as well as you’d hoped, Dr. Green advises consulting your dermatologist about additional treatment options. (In fact, she says getting a derm’s opinion from the start can expedite the clearing process.)“Your dermatologist can run specific tests to determine the root cause of your acne,” she explains. From there, there’s a range of topical and oral options available. Lastly, for females, there are also other treatment options specifically geared for hormonal flare-ups, including but not limited to birth control pills.