What causes chest acne and what's the best way to deal with it?

If you've been struggling with chest acne, you're not alone.

Written by
Sarah Stivens
Medically reviewed by
min read
twitter iconpinterest iconfacebook icon
Table of contents

In the age of airbrushing and filters, it's easy to feel pressured to have perfect skin. The kind of skin celebrities go all Vampire Diaries for (hello, plasma), or start using escargot (aka snails) mucus on their faces to achieve.

Let's be real (because Photoshop certainly isn't) — skin blemishes happen to everyone. Even the Kardashians. For some of us, breakouts can happen more frequently or severely, and we develop acne. Acne can show up anywhere on the body (including the neck, temples, breasts and arms!), but the most common areas are the face, neck, back, and chest [1].

If you've been struggling with chest acne, you're not alone. Let's take a look at some of the most common causes of acne, how to treat chest acne, and how to prevent breakouts from coming back.

What causes acne?

Forget what you might've heard when you were young — acne has nothing to do with dirty skin or being unclean, and it's definitely not contagious [2]. It's a medical condition and one that needs the right treatment. But what causes chest acne breakouts in the first place?

Time to dig into the science. Acne is mainly related to your hormones and genetics. Certain hormones (androgen ones, if we want to get technical) cause the oil glands in your skin to get bigger. They also make these glands start producing more oil [2].

Then, a perfect storm happens — your pores get blocked, bacteria on your skin start growing in the clogged pores, and this causes inflammation. Cue the inflamed pimples we know as acne.

While acne is usually associated with teenagers, the hormonal changes that trigger it can also happen during your menstrual cycle, in times of stress, or with certain health conditions [3].

If people in your family have also had acne, you might be more likely to develop it. Also, when we talk about acne — we don't just mean the occasional few spots that go away on their own (3).

While acne is usually related to hormones or genetics, there are other factors that might trigger it. But why does it show up on your chest?

What triggers acne in the chest area?

Remember those oil glands we mentioned before? Well, where there's oil, there's acne. This means that in areas of the body where these glands are more active, you might notice acne breakouts [4].

And guess what? Your chest is one of those places where oily skin happens more easily, hence the chest breakouts. Here are some other things to keep in mind if you're dealing with chest acne.

Stop using oily moisturisers, lotions, or sunscreens

Definitely on the 'to avoid' list. Try to find oil-free moisturisers instead, or sunscreen that doesn't leave your skin feeling greasy and make sure the products you use are non-comedogenic, which means they won't clog your pores [3].

Wear clothing that lets your skin breathe

Avoid clothing that is too tight, that rubs or creates friction against your skin or that causes excessive sweating. All of this will irritate your skin, and give acne-causing bacteria a chance to wreak havoc.

Bathe regularly, but don't go overboard

Keep your skin clean, but don't wash it too often or with harsh soaps. Your mum might've taught you to scrub your life away in the shower, but rough scrubbing and harsh chemicals can actually make your acne worse [5].

You want to remove dead skin cells to reduce clogged pores, but not in a way that irritates your skin. And, if you've been working out, remove your sweaty clothes and have a (gentle) wash as soon as you can.

Know your personal triggers

All bodies are different. For some people, things like laundry detergent, body washes, body lotions, perfumes, and high-sugar foods can all cause an acne breakout.

While there's not a huge amount of evidence suggesting that your diet causes acne [3], some people might find certain foods affect their skin. Knowing what makes your chest acne worse makes it easier to avoid triggers, and prevent acne in the long run.

Whatever you do, don't squeeze or pick

We know you want to. We've been there. But seriously, don't pick or pop your pimples. The scarring or extra breakouts aren't worth it!

Is the type of acne on the chest the same as on your face?

Before we kick it to the curb, let's indulge in a little acne-Mythbusters-moment. A lot of people think that body acne is super different to facial acne, or that treatments need to be more complicated.

The truth is, chest acne starts in the same way as the stuff that shows up on your face and a good acne treatment will clear things up in no time [5]. Plus, some treatments can be used on both your face and body.

Oh and one more myth while we're at it — sunlight isn't going to cure your acne. While some people say it can help in the short term, too much sun exposure can worsen acne in the long run. Not to mention risks of sunburn, skin cancer and all those nasties [2]. Don't forget to wear sunscreen every day!

Why should you treat your chest acne?

It's no secret that acne can have a huge impact on our daily lives. In a recent study, researchers found that over half of the patients they interviewed felt uncomfortable about their acne [6].

Other studies suggest that acne affects up to 85 per cent of young people, but we know it's not just a young person's problem [7]. If left untreated, acne can cause low self-esteem, social anxiety or isolation, depression, and poorer quality of life.

Aside from the way it can make us feel, untreated acne can also change our appearance — if the inflammation isn't managed, it can lead to scarring (1). The best treatment for acne scarring is prevention, so let's get to it!

How to get rid of chest acne

There are lots of different treatments available for chest acne, and the treatment you need will depend on a few factors: how old you are, the type of acne (e.g. blackheads, whiteheads, pimples), and how severe it is [7].

When you hit up Google, the most common treatments you'll find are over-the-counter products you can usually get at your local chemist — benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, antiseptic creams and washes, and other spot treatments [1].

If your acne is more severe or causing you distress, you may need a course of oral antibiotics to clear up the inflammation — make sure you chat to your GP or dermatologist if this is the case [2].

There are a lot of options to wade through, and we don't blame you for feeling overwhelmed. If you want to skip the trial and error phase, check out Software's customised acne treatment.

We'll create a personalised plan to help you banish chest acne for good. The best bit? Our products can be used on your body and your face. That way you're not paying a fortune, or risking the shower caddy collapsing after buying a billion different treatments.

Preventing chest acne from coming back

Now you're a skin saviour extraordinaire, you've got all the tools you need to evict chest acne from the building. But once it's gone, how do you keep it gone?

First, think about the factors that trigger acne we mentioned earlier. Are there things that need changing to prevent acne from coming back? For example, wearing looser clothes, swapping out your old moisturiser, or doing a review of your workout/shower routine.

And the most important bit — whatever acne treatment you start using, stick with it for at least six weeks to two months. Stopping your treatment too soon can get in the way of your skin's recovery [3].

If you find after doing your treatment that things aren't clearing up, or your results are stalling, it might be good to check in with your GP, dermatologist, or skincare expert.

They can help you rule out conditions like folliculitis — an inflammation of the hair follicles that sometimes behaves like acne.

Wherever you are on your skincare journey, overcoming chest acne is possible. No snails necessary. We're here cheering you on!

Photo credit: Getty Images

Your acne-fighting formula
$54 per month for your custom formula
Create my formula
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.
No items found.

Real people, incredible transformations

woman with acnewoman without acne
woman with acne
5 rating stars
Wish I bought this sooner
So I’m currently one month into this skincare and it has made such a difference. My acne has reduced significantly as well as my pigmentation. The instructions are clear to use and their other skincare products work great with the custom made solution.
5 rating stars
Only thing that’s worked!
I have tried everything under the sun to fix my skin, noticed a difference straight away with software and was able to get off the medication I was given by my GP, super grateful!!
fine lines
woman with acnewoman without acne
5 rating stars
Life changing!!! Not exaggerating.
I had horrible pigmentation all over my face and after 4 weeks it had reduced so much, and I’m only half way through the treatment! I can finally look in the mirror without disgust. It has made me feel so much better about myself!

The initial process of Software was so easy and straight forward. Got exactly what I wanted. And I LOVE that you can upload photos of your progress. I recommend software to my friends with pigmentation (melasma) too :)
5 rating stars
Saved my skin
Helped improve texture and pigmentation!! Gone from being too scared to leave the house without makeup, to not even thinking about how my skin looks! Couldn’t be happier.
Loved by patients,
backed by dermatologists
91% of patients see improvements in skin texture & brightness*
* Software lifestyle survey of 116 patients who were using
Software for ageing concerns, June 2022
Create my formula
* Software lifestyle survey of 116 patients who were using
Software for ageing concerns, June 2022