How to Clear Up Back and Chest Acne
Never Worry About Summer Body Breakouts Again
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Sure, body breakouts are embarrassing. But on exposed Summer skin, they're straight up unacceptable. Allure got to the bottom of the issue so that you can confidently wear that backless dress sans bacne.
I'm someone who loves Summer and the heat. I love getting extrasweaty at Soul Cycle. I love hanging out at the beach (covered in sunscreen, of course). What I don't love, however, is the back and chest acne that can come with all of that. Every Summer, after six months of being zit free, I break out like crazy on my body. And I know I'm not the only one. That's why I asked New York-based dermatologist Valerie Goldburt how to get rid of my embarrassing bacne (and chest-ne?) once and for all.
So what gives? Why do I only get body acne in the Summer? "During the Summer your body produces more oil, and you sweat more, so when you combine oil and sweat, well, you get acne. Then there's sunscreen. Sunscreen is great, and it is nonnegotiable in the Summer, but it can cause breakouts, especially since you're wearing more of it. You're not alone, though. I definitely see a lot more patients for body acne during the Summer months."
Is it the same as the acne on my face? "The breakouts on your chest and back tend to be a little different than the acne on your face. They're technically called folliculitis, which is when the hair follicle becomes infected. However, it looks the same as facial acne and can be treated with the same products and ingredients. In some cases, it can actually be rosacea triggered by coffee or dairy, but it isn't that common on the chest and back."
So tell me — how do I get rid of it? "First, you want to shower as quickly as possible when you get back from the gym or the beach. You're rinsing off all the oil, sweat, and sunscreen that can build up around the hair follicle. And use a gentle body wash that contains salicylic acid, like Dial Acne Control body wash. Also, use it consistently. If you use a salicylic acid body wash every day, it helps reduce inflammation and unclog pores." [Ed note: Goldburt is a spokesperson for Dial.]
If I have an acne-fighting face wash can I just use that? "Sure, but make sure it contains salicylic acid and not benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide is fine for treating breakouts on the face, but I don't recommend it for the body because it tends to bleach fabrics. I've had a lot of patients come in complaining of tie-dyed sheets and spotted shirts. You can also use a spot treatment or gel on your chest and back. I really like Clinique's Acne Solutions Spot Healing Gel ($25). It contains five percent salicylic acid, and I find it very, very effective. And if none of that works, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. There are medications and wipes that we can prescribe to help treat more serious cases of body acne."
Do scrubs help with body acne? "I get nervous about exfoliating with grainy scrubs because people tend to be too rough. If you scrub too vigorously, you end up overdrying the skin, which causes the skin to produce more oil, subsequently causing more breakouts. Also, the skin on your chest is extremely thin and can scar easily if you accidentally remove the skin — which I've seen patients do. What I do recommend, and what I actually do myself, is use a shower puff once a week with the salicylic acid wash. I use a soft scrubbing motion over my chest and back, and when I'm out of the shower, I immediately wash the poof since they are hotbeds for bacteria growth."
More from Allure:
These Routine Mistakes Are Causing Your Breakouts
How to Pop a Pimple Like a Professional
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