Here’s What Causes Body Acne, Plus Simple Ways to Help Clear It

by Rebecca Norris

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A dermatologist details the primary causes of body acne, as well as five tips and treatments that can help in your quest to clear it.

Similar to facial breakouts, body acne can trigger discomfort and, worse, diminished self-confidence. Because the causes of body acne can be different than facial acne and you may be experiencing a different type of acne on your body, it requires a separate playbook.

Luckily for us, 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 about the main causes of body acne and how to build a solid skin-clearing regimen.

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:

  • diet
  • stress
  • hygiene
  • clothing choices

Additionally, hormonal fluctuations are often at play when it comes to flare-ups on both your body and face.

Woman washing her back in the shower with the best body acne treatments

How to Clear Up Body Acne

One or all of these factors could be contributing to your body acne. If you’re not able to pinpoint an exact cause, it’s best to address it with a holistic plan.

With that in mind, Dr. Green says that the five tips and body acne treatments below can help manage those breakouts.

1. Create a 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.

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.

2. Use the Right Ingredients to Clear Skin

When building your routine, you’ll want to implement the best treatments and ingredients geared 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.

3. Keep Your Hair Clean

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.

As such, be sure to wash hair frequently and keep it off your back if you suspect it could be a triggering factor.

Man running on street sweating through his shirt

4. Change Out of Your Sweaty Clothes ASAP

Just as leaving remnants of sweat on your face can lead to facial breakouts, the same goes for your body, too. However, when it comes to body acne, it’s actually worse since there’s typically fabric forcing 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.

5. Wear Breathable Fabric

While leggings and tighter tanks are common workout clothes, in everyday life, Dr. Green recommends looser, more breathable clothing 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.

Final Thoughts

As we can see, there are several causes of body acne. But fortunately, there are just as many—if not more—ways to clear your skin up from head to toe.

That said, 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 you may be best served to get a derm’s opinion from the start to 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.


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