How Body and Face Acne Are Different and How to Treat Them

How Body and Face Acne Are Different and How to Treat Them

Seeing a zit or two in your reflection in the mirror is an unwelcome occurrence. It’s not uncommon, however. As a teen or an adult, you probably expect these blemishes will pop up. But when they show up elsewhere on your body, you might be a little surprised.

As annoying as it is, body acne isn’t cause for alarm. It affects millions of people every year. Whether it’s on your back (“bacne”), butt (“buttne”), or your chest, there’s a way to treat it. While there are some similarities between facial and body acne, they can have different causes. Here’s what you need to know about what prompts the pimples and the acne treatment that can banish them.

Causes and Treatments of Facial Acne

Say the word “acne,” and you probably think of whiteheads, blackheads, and angry red pustules across your face. There are lots of reasons why you can get acne breakouts on your cheeks, nose, and chin.


Genetics, stress, diet, the weather, and lifestyle can all play a role. The one factor that affects nearly everyone, though, is hormones. The hormonal roller-coaster can be particularly rough during puberty (for everyone) and menstruation and menopause (for women). These changes kick up activity in your sebaceous glands, the ones responsible for producing the oil that clogs your pores.


Lots of options are available to zap the zits on your face. The most important thing to remember with all of them, though? Don’t pop the pimples! It can lead to scarring, skin discoloration, and infection.

Over-the-counter topical treatments such as benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid washes and creams can be very effective. They break down dead skin cells that clog your pores and wash away acne-causing bacteria.

For more severe acne, you might need a prescription. Your dermatologist can recommend more effective topical retinoids or steroids to clear your skin. Oral antibiotics, isotretinoin (Accutane), and spironolactone are also powerful treatments.

Causes of Body Acne

Like the acne on your face, bacne, buttne, and those chest bumps are also the result of clogged pores and inflammation. They can erupt for the same reasons you get facial acne, but body acne has a few additional root causes.


Who knew your clothes, backpack, purse, or even sports equipment would be acne aggravators? They are, though. Anything that rubs against your skin too hard causes irritation that can cause a breakout, often called acne mechanica.

To reduce the skin stress, opt for looser-fit clothing. It can also be helpful to avoid some synthetic materials, such as polyester or nylon, if you can. They can make friction worse.

Be careful about exfoliation, too. Gently scrubbing your skin with acne-fighting cleanser can be beneficial. Scrub too hard, and you’re inviting a breakout.


When it comes to fighting acne, perspiration is a double-edged sword. When you work out, your body sweats. It’s a natural way to rid yourself of the dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells that plug and inflame your pores. That’s awesome — if you get those unwanted troublemakers off your skin promptly.

Shower after you exercise and change out of your exercise duds as soon as possible. Otherwise, you’ll trap acne-causing bacteria against your skin. Selecting loose-fit, sweat-wicking clothes can also reduce the yuck-filled moisture that can seep back into your pores.

Sun Exposure

You may think time in the sun dries up your pores and protects you from acne. Unfortunately, that’s wishful thinking. If you dry out your skin with too much direct daylight, your sebaceous glands go into overdrive. That excessive oil pools in your pores and causes breakouts.

Using sunscreen with enough UVA/UVB protection can safeguard your skin. Consider using an oil-free, non-comedogenic moisturizer after spending time outdoors as well. Both keep your oil glands from overdoing it.

Treatments for Body Acne

Some of the medications you use for your facial acne can likewise be effective for bothersome bacne and buttne. There are also other treatment options available that don’t require a prescription. Give these a try to clear up body acne.

Sulfur Soaps

Soaps that contain sulfur break down your dead skin cells to keep them from clogging your pores. They also wash away the acne-causing bacteria that can be responsible for deeper, cystic acne.

Such soaps are gentler on your skin than salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Just remember that these products contain sulfur. They might not smell exactly like rotten eggs, but the odor isn’t great.

Zinc Soaps

Zinc pyrithione soaps work in the same way. Your dermatologist usually prescribes them to clear up dandruff, psoriasis, or eczema.

Over-the-counter soaps can clear up your acne, too. Leave the lather on your skin for about a minute so the zinc seeps into your pores. Set the soap bar somewhere it can drain so the pimple-prompters don’t stick around.


Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) can help clear your chest acne. AHAs battle current and future breakouts by making it easier for your body to shed your dead skin cells.

Glycolic acid is an option that can be gentle on your skin. Be sure you talk with your dermatologist before you start using any AHA products. BHAs work similarly, but they can reach a little deeper into your skin to control your oil production.

Frequent Bedding Changes

This one is a super easy fix. Your sheets soak up all the dirt and oil from your body while you snooze. Wash or change them at least once a week to keep the acne instigators away.

Acne — facial and body — can be an embarrassing nuisance, and it can affect your self-confidence. Knowing how to treat the various types of blemishes can put you on the road to clearer skin in no time.

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