What Causes Acne on the Back and Chest and How to Get Rid of It

what causes acne

Find out what causes acne to break out on the back, chest, butt, and other areas prone to body acne. Get expert tips on how to treat body acne for clear, healthy, radiant skin from head to toe.

Beauty writer Maddy Zollo of Seventeen magazine takes on body acne, interviewing some of the best dermatologists in NYC to inform readers on what causes body acne and what people can do to prevent body acne and treat breakouts on the back, chest, arms and legs, in her article “Everything You Need to Know About Getting Rid of Body Acne for Good.

what causes acne

What causes acne to breakout on your back, chest, or booty?

Not all acne is created equal. Body acne is a different breed of beast than breakouts of the face. Body acne “tends to be red, raised and tender,” says Seventeen magazine. And the culprit that causes body acne is not always the same thing that causes someone to breakout on their face.

To clarify what causes body acne, Seventeen interviews Dr. Hadley King, a dermatologist at NYC’s chic SKINNEY Medspa. “Acne is caused when oil gets clogged in a pore and it becomes inflamed, says Dr. Hadley King. Thus, “the more oil your bod makes, the higher the chance you’ll have to deal with breakouts.” Also, areas of the body that “have a high concentration of oil glands (like the chest and shoulders)” are especially susceptible to body acne breakouts.

Hormonal Acne

Knowing that oil-clogged pores is one suspect of what causes acne helps us better understand the mechanism of hormonal acne, or breakouts that are linked to hormonal changes, like puberty, or the few days prior to a woman’s period. Seventeen explains that hormones effect how much oil your glands produce, so the more oil your bod makes, the higher the chance you’ll have to deal with breakouts.

Besides hormones, what causes acne?

Hormones that stimulate oil production are not the only possibility for what causes acne to breakout across the chest and back. Your workout may be causing your body acne. Most people don’t associate back acne or other types of body acne with their Pilates class but perspiration and bacteria can “get trapped in the pores and cause infection due to tight or sweaty clothing,” says Seventeen.

Chest Acne: Is your workout causing your breakout?

When you are dealing with an area of the body that produces a lot of oil, like your chest, and combine that with tight clothing, like your bra, you create the “perfect storm” for acne breakouts.

How to get rid of chest acne? A few tips from the skin care experts:

  • Wear looser fitting bras or tops.
  • Change out of your workout clothes as soon as you are done exercising
  • Seventeen provides another great tip for preventing chest acne during the hot summer months is to “keep blemish-busting towelettes in your bag, so you can wipe away grime right after a sweat-sesh or on a super steamy day.”
  • What are the best acne treatments to help get rid of chest acne? Some of the best acne products can be found at your local drug store, and for cheap. Like Neutrogena, or any acne product containing salicylic acid. “Use it at night to exfoliate and reduce oil build-up on the congested spots,” suggests Seventeen.

Related Article: inexpensive acne treatment, products & tips that clear up breakouts >>

Are you sure those red bumps are zits?

Is it really chest acne? Seventeen counsels its readers “if your spots [around your chest or breast] tend to be more puss-like” you may be dealing with infected hair follicles, known as folliculitis. You may also encounter Folliculitis on your back, arm pits, or pubic region, basically “it can occur anywhere on skin,” says Dr. King.  Folliculitis may be difficult to treat on your own or with over the counter acne products. “If over the counter treatments with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide don’t seem to work, go meet with your dermatologist to see.”

What Causes Back Acne and Can you get rid of back acne on your own?

What causes back acne? One common culprit of back breakouts is your shampoo or conditioner, especially if they are oil based hair products. Oily conditioners can exacerbate existing back acne, or can clog your pores causing “backne.”

Related article: How to Reduce Acne Over Night >>

How to reduce back acne caused by oily shampoos or conditioners?

  • Since it can be difficult to get rid of back acne, one of the best strategies for dealing with back acne is to prevent it. Ensure that after rinsing your hair of its conditioner that all the residue isn’t running down your back, potentially clogging your pores.
  • Wash your body after washing your hair to rinse your skin of any residual oil your conditioner may have left behind.
  • You can also use acne treatments designed for the shower, such as a benzoyl peroxide body wash.
  • Another great tip to better prevent or help get rid of back acne is a spray on acne product. “After showering, apply “a lightweight zit-zapping spray… since it’s easy to mist all over your back,” suggests Seventeen.

Want more acne fighting tips from NYC Dermatologist Dr. Hadley King? Check out this article on tips to help you get rid of adult acne, how to deal with black heads, cystic acne and more.

Getting Rid of Back Acne may not be easy on your own

Sufficiently getting rid of back acne can be difficult. “Not only is it hard to apply treatment to your backside, but also the skin is thicker, making it difficult for acne-fighting products to soak in and start working,” explains Seventeen.

Professional acne treatment such as laser acne treatment is a great way to deal with stubborn back acne. Learn more about laser acne treatment, alternatives and how much laser acne treatment costs, here >>

What causes butt acne? And tips for how to get rid of acne on your butt

Butt acne also known as “butt-ne,” is another common type of body acne. While many people prefer acne to break out on their butt instead of their face, butt-ne is still distressing.

First things first. Eliminate any environmental causes of butt acne, such as tight fitting clothing. Similar in concept to tight fitting bras and chest acne, Seventeen explains “Yoga pants and leggings are comfy, but wearing [them] all day can cause zits” to break out on your booty. “The tighter the material, the more likely you’ll have a breakout.”

Seventeen quotes Dr. Hadley King who suggests that people wanting to prevent or get rid of butt acne wear cotton underwear, as opposed to thongs. “Cotton is great since it lets skin breathe and won’t trap anything in pores.”

What are the best acne products for dealing with butt acne?

While everyone’s acne is different, and results vary, some of the best acne products for treating butt acne contain glycolic acid. In fact, exfoliating facial pads containing glycolic acid usually provides an effective acne treatment for dealing with every thing from facial acne to that rogue zit on your backside.

The best way to treat body acne flair-ups is with glycolic pads

-Seventeen Magazine

what causes acneExclusively from SKINNEY Medspa, Chemical Peel in a Bottle, the best acne product offering glycolic and salicylic pads to help clear up acne, reduce black heads, and promote cellular turnover for beautifully clear, radiant skin. Check out chemical peel in a bottle and other skin care products from SKINNEY Medspa here >>.


What causes acne on your arms or legs? And is it really acne?

Your arms and legs are still prone to body acne, but not as much as other notorious acne fields, like your chest and back. If you spot a suspicious blemish on your limbs, the first step to treating it is to correctly identify it. It may not be a pimple, explains Seventeen. “If it’s a tiny red or skin colored bump that’s painless, it may be keratosis pilaris or KP. KP tends to be on the backs of arms and legs and occurs when skin builds up around the hair follicle.”

KP is “also more likely to affect people with drier skin or eczema,” so if you are prone to dry skin,  “use a lotion with urea,” like Eucerin, another example of effective but inexpensive acne products available at your local drug store. This acne fighting lotion “moisturizes and exfoliates at the same time without clogging up pores,” says Seventeen.

“But even if you don’t have eczema or dry skin, KP can still be happen,” says Dr. Hadley King. In this circumstance, one of the best acne products for treating KP are lotions containing 12% lactic acid, which can ”smooth out skin by gently turning over skin cells.”

What if it really is a zit? Similar to treating back acne or chest acne, when zits popup on your arms or legs, reach for your favorite acne product containing salicylic acid and some acne fighting body wash.

When to consider professional acne treatment?

What if your body acne requires a more intensive treatment than the inexpensive acne products from the drug store? You may consider consulting with a professional, like a dermatologist, or a skin care professional from a medical or laser spa in NYC.

Home remedies for acne on the face  may not work as well for body acne

Typically, getting rid of body acne with home remedies, skincare tips, and drugstore acne products is harder than getting rid of acne on your face. This is because body acne is commonly caused by inflammation. That is why body acne usually consists of red, bumpy pimples or cysts, and not your typical black head your find around your nose or chin. Body acne, especially back acne, is also hard to treat because that area can be hard to reach, making the application of topical acne products problematic.

If you are struggling with severe acne breakouts on your body, or “your skin hasn’t improved after four weeks of consistent use of over-the-counter treatments, you should probably go see your derm” counsels the skin care experts at Seventeen Magazine.

Are your home remedies for acne or over the counter acne products not clearing up your body acne? Don’t worry, you are not doomed to this unsightly skin condition. Professional acne treatments such as laser acne treatment, microdermabrasion, and chemical peels are all incredibly effective at improving acne and clearing skin when nothing else works. Learn more about the professional acne treatments in NYC that can dramatically improve body acne breakouts and restore clear, healthy, beautiful looking skin.

acne treatment

When is professional acne treatment necessary?

If you have facial acne or body acne that hasn’t responded to over the counter acne treatment or other home remedies for acne, check out the following article that reveals how advances in laser and skin care technology provide effective acne treatment for even the worst cases of body acne.

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