How do I get rid of body acne?

Body breakouts can often be a little trickier to treat than facial acne.

Written by
Marni Dixit
Medically reviewed by
min read
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Did you know that acne is one of the most chronic skin conditions globally? In Australia, 93.3% of people aged 16-18 experience acne, while international studies have found that it affects 85% of people 12-24, 64% of 20-29-year-olds and 43% of 30-39-year-olds [1].

Acne can come in several different forms, from mild to severe, with all types of acne involving a blockage of the hair follicle and inflammation [2].

And, because we have hair follicles all over our bodies, it means acne can really pop up wherever it wants. While you might expect to experience acne on your face — in places like your jawline, temples and forehead — it can be surprising when acne appears on your arms or for women, on their breasts.

Body breakouts can often be a little trickier to treat than facial acne due to simple logistical reasons, such as reaching your back. Plus, body blemishes can often be deep and stubborn, making them more difficult to treat.

However, you will be pleased to know that there are a variety of ways to minimise body acne, so let's take a look into how to get rid of it.

Where does body acne usually occur?

Acne can appear anywhere that you have pores, so this could be your face, neck, shoulders, back, chest and lower body. Pimples can pop up anywhere from your butt to your thighs and legs.

While acne is a common skin condition, it's important to differentiate it from other conditions like folliculitis,  characterised by inflammation around hair follicles, especially when it appears in unusual areas.

In saying that, breakouts don’t typically tend to appear on the palms of your hands or the soles of your feet.

There are many reasons why you might have body acne, including your age, stress levels, sleeping patterns, weight, drug and alcohol consumption, genetics, and menstrual cycle.

You’re more likely to develop acne during your teenage years, however, if you have oily skin, you may still have a high chance of developing it in your early to mid-20s as well.

Acne can be uncomfortable and cause low self-esteem and anxiety, especially in young people. So, if you have concerns about your acne, it’s always a good idea to seek professional help to get to the root of the problem.

What are the different types of acne that can pop up on the body?

There are a number of different types of acne that can appear on the body, with some of the most common being acne mechanica and acne cosmetica.

Acne mechanica

This is the term for acne that is caused by friction from the repetitive rubbing of the skin and is often accompanied by heat and pressure [3]. Typically, this is a result of tight sports equipment or activewear that combines with heat and sweat to rub against the body.

Acne mechanica usually presents as pimples, but it can develop into inflamed papules and pustules in more severe cases.

The location of the breakouts will depend on what is causing the friction. If you're a dancer, for example, you may experience breakouts on your back and chest from wearing synthetic fabric for hours on end.

If you tend to carry a backpack around, you might experience an acne mechanica breakout on your shoulders and back.

If you often wear a hat or helmet, it could lead to breakouts on your forehead and chin. Soccer players may also find shin guards cause acne.

Even musicians who have straps or hold their instruments against their bodies may find they develop acne mechanica.

It's safe to say that this type of acne can affect any person and is a result of environmental factors versus hormonal or genetic.

If you are experiencing sweat and friction-induced breakouts on your body, make sure to shower immediately after exercising or sweating excessively and be sure to wash your workout clothes regularly.

Acne mechanica can be closely compared with acne vulgaris, the most common type of acne, both are caused by clogged pores.

But, while acne mechanica is contained to specific areas due to friction, acne vulgaris typically develops on the face, neck and back, where there are more oil-producing sebaceous glands.

Acne cosmetica

Acne cosmetica, on the other hand, is caused by products that contain oils and silicones, such as your hair or makeup products [4].

Hair products, for example, can clog your pores and cause acne on your hairline and back of your neck. It may also extend to your back, shoulders, and chest if your hair is long.

If your breakouts are concentrated around your upper cheekbones and eye area, you may find that it’s an eye product that’s to blame. However, if you have breakouts over your entire face, this could be due to a moisturiser, primer or foundation.

To help alleviate this, be sure you’re purchasing products that are right for your skin type and non-comedogenic, which means they don’t clog pores. Those with sensitive skin need to choose products carefully to avoid exacerbating acne cosmetica, opting for anti-inflammatory and hypoallergenic formulas to soothe irritation and prevent skin from drying out.

Avoid sharing makeup or makeup applicators with others as this can also transfer germs, bacteria, and dead skin cells to your skin.

Discontinuing the use of these products in favour of non-comedogenic products is the quickest way to remedy this type of acne.

However, these blemishes can take a longer time to appear, making it difficult to see the connection between the product and your breakout.

When it comes to treating acne cosmetica, look out for products that contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and adapalene, which help clear away oil and unblock pores.

Other types of acne

  • Blackheads: a blocked hair follicle that appears as a small dark-coloured spot on the skin.
  • Whiteheads: a blocked hair follicle that is covered by a thin layer of skin and appears as a white bump.
  • Papules: a small, red inflamed spot on the skin.
  • Pustules: a pus-filled spot that is usually yellow or white on top and surrounded by inflamed skin.
  • Nodules: an acne lesion that develops under the skin and can feel hard to the touch.
  • Cysts: an inflamed acne lesion that contains pus and may require medical attention to remove safely.

In some cases, sun exposure can also play a role in body acne. Your skin tends to dry out when it gets burned, and your body often overcompensates by trying to produce more oil, which can clog your pores and cause acne. Simply wearing sunscreen every day can help prevent this from occurring.

Too much sun exposure can also darken acne spots and trigger scarring on the body, which makes sun protection even more important.

What causes acne on the body?

There are a variety of causes of acne in different parts of the body. Let's take a look at what might be causing this.


Chest acne is incredibly common with more than half of people with acne experiencing breakouts on their chest, back and shoulders [5].

There are several reasons you might be experiencing chest acne. These could be hormonal fluctuations, genetic factors, stress, dehydration, excess sweating, laundry detergents, oily products, and makeup or perfumes [6].

Teenagers, young adults, and older women are likely to see breakouts due to hormones. For women, this could mean developing acne on or near their breasts.

Dehydration affects every part of a person's health, and when you're dehydrated, your skin is more likely to become dry and flaky, which signals your body to produce more oil to rehydrate it. If flaky skin gets stuck in oily pores, you're likely to experience acne.

Working out can also lead to chest acne due to friction with clothes and sports equipment. Wear loose-fitting tops, and shower soon after exercising to prevent breakouts.

Certain laundry detergents can cause outbreaks if they contain dyes and perfumes, so using perfume and dye-free detergent can help in this case. Similarly, makeup and fragrances can irritate the skin, causing acne.

Some people may find oil-based moisturisers cause breakouts on their chests as they block pores and trap dirt and bacteria, causing acne. Be sure to swap out your products if you think they are behind your breakouts.


Back acne, or bacne as it is commonly known, provides some unique challenges because you can't easily see your back or reach certain areas to apply body acne treatments.

Like the chest and face, your back contains a lot of sebaceous glands, which produce oil to keep the skin healthy.

When your hair follicles or pores get clogged with excess oil or dead skin cells, it will often lead to breakouts. Hormonal changes and some medications can cause back breakouts, but more often than not, it's caused by lifestyle factors.

Bacne is a common experience because your back is often covered by clothing or equipment like backpacks, and when paired with hot, humid or sweaty conditions, can cause acne to develop.


Similarly to back acne, shoulder acne is caused by blocked pores due to friction from items like backpacks, purses or sporting equipment.

Excess heat and moisture from sweating or irritation and certain fibres in your blankets or pillows can also play a role in shoulder acne. It could even be as simple as your sports bra rubbing on your shoulders, causing breakouts to appear.

If you have shoulder acne and continue using a heavy backpack or bag, the blemishes can get worse due to repeated pressure.


Much like the back and chest, your neck contains a high concentration of pores and oil glands, which is why pimples can pop up on your neck.

And, when coupled with friction and irritation from clothing, constant touching or long hair, it becomes a welcome environment for breakouts.

Tips for treating body acne

There are several different solutions to help you say goodbye to breakouts. Here are some of the best body acne treatments available.

Skincare products

Ensure you're selective with the skincare products you use as it could be your skincare routine that is working against you and causing acne.

Check your moisturisers, makeup and anything else you use on your face, like sunscreen or a primer, and make sure it's non-comedogenic.

Consider incorporating glycolic acid into your body care regimen. This ingredient's ability to prevent dead skin cells from clogging your pores and improve your skin texture makes it a great tool for managing body acne.


Ensure you're showering every day and keeping your skin healthy and clear by cleaning away any excess sweat and body oil.

Use a gentle body wash, cleanser, soap or antibacterial soap if you have pustules. Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash gently exfoliates and sloughs away dead skin cells, unclogs pores and hydrates your skin to clear out any acne-causing bacteria.

It can also reduce breakouts and is low-irritant. Use it two to three times a week on your face, chest and back to target your breakouts.

Avoid using a loofah or sponge across your body as this can spread bacteria and worsen breakouts.


Another thing to consider is your clothing. Wearing sweaty clothes can quickly clog pores, so ensure you're wearing loose, clean clothing.

Tight clothing can also irritate the skin and trap bacteria and oil. If you're experiencing acne on certain parts of the body which are usually covered by tight clothing, it might help to try some loose-fitting attire.

Topical retinoids

If you've tried a salicylic acid wash and your body acne is still not budging, you might want to try a customised treatment with medical-grade retinoids.

Retinoids stimulate the growth of new skin cells and increase the rate that old skin cells are shed, while also reducing the production of oil on your skin. This combination helps to treat acne and prevent further breakouts.

Software's acne treatment harnesses the acne-fighting power of retinoids and customises a formula just for you, based on your specific skin needs. And, you receive ongoing follow-up support from your Software health practitioner, so they can monitor your process.

Complete our online consult and an Australian practitioner will be able to create a formula for you that targets those pesky body breakouts. And, the good news is that this treatment also works wonders to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and scarring that breakouts can leave behind.


Research has found a connection between body acne and things such as chocolate, dairy and fatty foods [7]. If you experience random breakouts, try to pay attention to what you're eating and determine if you have a trigger food.


Stress can be a significant factor in your breakouts as it encourages oil production, which in turn, can clog pores and lead to body breakouts.

While it is easier said than done, reducing stress could prove to be helpful for preventing acne. Practising mindfulness, meditation and deep breathing, as well as going for a walk or being active, can help manage stress levels.

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