Say goodbye to those pesky pimples on your arms with these treatments

Acne often doesn't discriminate where it sets up shop.

Written by
Teneal Zuvela
Medically reviewed by
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While you might expect a pimple to appear on your face every now and then, it can be a shock when you discover it elsewhere. But, it's important to know that it's not uncommon for breakouts to occur in different areas of the body, including your arms.

In fact, you can even experience pimples on your neck, chest, back and temples too. Unfortunately, acne doesn't discriminate where it sets up shop.

Arm pimples are usually nothing to worry about but that doesn't mean that you want them hanging around.

With this in mind, let's have a look at some of the reasons you're getting breakouts on your arms, as well as the best ways to treat and prevent acne from arising in this area.

Are pimples on arms common?

It's very common to get pimples on your arms and it doesn't mean you're doing anything wrong when it comes to body care. Much like acne on the face, these things happen.

You may only get one or two pimples cropping up every now and then or you might experience more noticeable acne breakouts in that areas.

Usually, these pimples will occur on the back of your arms, shoulders and upper arms but it's nothing to be concerned about if you do find a few on your lower arm region as well.

It's important to remember that everyone's skin is different and we all experience breakouts in different areas of our bodies.

While it's normal to feel a little embarrassed about having acne on your arms, you should know that there's absolutely nothing wrong with your body if you experience acne in this area.

What causes pimples on arms?

Pimples on your arms are generally caused by the same culprits that cause pimples on your face and on other parts of your body, which involves your pores (the tiny openings around your hair follicles) getting blocked with dead skin cells, oils and bacteria. [1]

The pores on your arms are no different and they can easily get clogged with all sorts of bacteria and build-up, leading to the development of pimples.

Why am I getting pimples on my arms?

There are many different reasons that you might be getting pimples on your arms. Some people are simply more prone to arm acne because their body produces too much oil.

For others, arm breakouts are caused by hormone fluctuations, certain medications, conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and even extreme stress.

You might also be getting pimples on your arms due to a number of lifestyle factors, like wearing tight clothing.

Tight clothing is a well-known cause of acne mechanica, which is acne that's caused by materials rubbing against your skin.

This particularly affects people who wear tight-fitting gym clothing as your sweat can get trapped under the material and clog your pores. [2]

If you're using certain products on your body frequently, they could also have a part to play in your arm acne.

Skin products such as body washes, moisturisers and sunscreens often contain ingredients that might not agree with your body and cause your arms to break out in pimples.

Could it be keratosis pilaris?

Keratosis pilaris is a common skin condition that's easy to mistake for acne. It usually appears as a group of small bumps that resemble goosebumps or a plucked chicken's skin.

These skin bumps are usually red in colour and are sometimes described as sandpaper-like because of the rough texture they give the skin. [3]

While acne and keratosis pilaris are both essentially blocked skin pores, the main difference between the two skin conditions is that keratosis pilaris is caused by a build-up of a skin protein called keratin and acne is caused by a build-up of sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria.

For this reason, a skin bump that's caused by keratosis pilaris won't release any substance when squeezed while an acne spot is likely to release pus and fluid.

What's the deal with other bumps on my arms that look like pimples?

There are a number of other skin conditions that can look a lot like acne and it's a good idea to rule out any of these possible skin issues before proceeding with any acne treatment options.

  • Folliculitis: a bacterial or fungal infection of the hair follicle that causes painful red bumps and whiteheads [4]
  • Hives: a rash of welts or itchy red bumps that are caused by an allergic reaction or extreme stress [5]
  • Pyogenic granuloma: a benign red growth on your skin that tends to develop after an injury and bleeds easily [6]
  • Staph infection: a skin infection that's caused by the staphylococcus bacteria; a staph infection can cause painful red lumps, blisters, sores and hot and swollen skin [7]

How to treat acne on arms

Skincare routines are largely focused on your face and neck but if you're getting acne on other parts of your body, such as your arms, then it's important to include these areas in your regular skin maintenance.

The pores on your arms are a lot larger than the pores on your face, which can make body acne a little more challenging to treat. When treating pimples on your arms, it's important to be equipped with the right ingredients to target this area effectively.

This is why Software offers a customised acne treatment, developed by our practitioners for your own specific skincare concerns.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to acne, so our health practitioners consider your skin concerns before recommending a treatment compounded just for you by our partner pharmacy.

Can I prevent pimples from popping up on my arms?

There are plenty of things that you can do to prevent pimples from making an appearance on your arms. You can start by taking a break from any products that are comedogenic and clog pores, which in turn, can cause acne.

You should also keep the following tips in mind:

Shower after exercise

It's important to wash off any sweat or dirt that might have accumulated on your skin during a workout. In the shower, avoid scrubbing your arms roughly and opt for a gentle skin cleanser instead.

Software's Salicylic Foaming Wash is a great option as it targets acne-causing bacteria and skin impurities and can be used on the face, arms, chest and back. Use 2-3 times per week to help keep breakouts at bay.

Wash your sheets regularly

Dust, dirt and even dead skin cells can gather in your bed sheets and play a role in the formation of body acne. While it's easier to put off washing the sheets another week or so, clean sheets can prevent pimples from arising.

Keep hydrated

When you're dehydrated, your skin is more likely to dry out. This leads to your body producing more oil, which can lead to more blocked pores and acne.

Maintain a good body care routine

We've mentioned the importance of a good care routine for treating arm acne, and it is just as helpful for preventing it.

Choose a gentle body wash, exfoliate 1-2 times per week, and remember to moisturise your arms (and your whole body) after showering.

For scrubbing, look for a chemical exfoliant formulated with nourishing skincare ingredients. Avoid using chemical alternatives (like loofahs or scrubs), as these can be too harsh and lead to skin irritation.

Don't pop your pimples

It's tempting, we know, but squeezing your pimples will only make your breakouts worse, whether that is by aggravating them or causing scars to occur.

A good way to resist the urge to pick at your pimples (while treating them from within) is by using pimple stickers such as Software AHA/BHA Pimple Patches.

How to reduce acne scars on arms

One of the worst things about getting acne is the possibility of it leaving a permanent trace of its presence on your skin.

While you might not be able to completely remove an acne scar from your arm, there are still ways to significantly reduce their appearance.

Medical-grade retinoids are one of the most effective acne scar treatments available. These powerful skincare ingredients stimulate the production of new skin cells and increase the rate at which old ones are shed.

This reduces the appearance of acne scarring and leaves you with much smoother-looking skin.

Software's acne treatment uses retinoids alongside other medically reviewed ingredients, such as niacinamide and hyaluronic acid, to effectively target acne scarring and active breakouts.

What's the deal with postpartum acne on arms?

It's normal to experience acne on different parts of your body, including your arms, during the postpartum period.

This is usually due to the hormone drop that your body experiences after giving birth, which can leave your skin more prone to excess oil, inflammation and breakouts.

While retinoids are usually the first choice for acne treatment, this isn't the case during your pregnancy or postpartum period.

It's best to avoid retinoids from the moment you decide to start trying to conceive until you have finished breastfeeding as they can pose a risk to your baby's health.

The good news is that you can still treat acne with skincare that is safe for pregnancy and postpartum and our Software practitioners are able to create a customised formula based on your life stage as well as your skin needs.

Simply complete our online consult and include information that you're breastfeeding or pregnant and a Software practitioner will let you know the best course of action to help deal with that pesky hormonal acne on your arms.

While there's nothing wrong with body acne, know that you don't have to put up with it and there are treatment options available when you're ready.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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