Skin Journal
4 ways to treat neck pimples (and prevent them from returning)
Author:
Rachael Belfield
Reviewed by:

Thought acne vulgaris was just something you experienced on your face? Unfortunately not. Acne can appear in a number of places on the body, including the neck, breasts, legs, butt and arms.

The neck — the bridge to the body — is an important area that is often overlooked in skincare regimes, leaving it vulnerable to clogged pores. We've all been guilty of forgetting to wash makeup and dirt from our necks.

We get it — it's frustrating to have to worry about our backs, chests, shoulders and necks, let alone faces, but body acne and, specifically, neck pimples are a very common skin condition and treatable with the right combination of products.

Let's explore everything you need to know about neck pimples.

Why are pimples showing up on my neck?

Pimples are swollen, small, hard lumps that are actually acne lesions. Different types of acne include comedones (blackheads and whiteheads), papules, pustules, nodules (blind pimples) and pseudocysts, which are considered severe acne.

Let's talk about the neck. Just like the face, the neck also contains pores and oil glands in a high concentration. Hair follicles become irritated from excess oil, dead skin cells and bacteria, leading to clogged pores. In fact, the neck is a perfect environment for acne as it's also prone to irritation from clothing, long hair and touching.

Luckily, we can treat neck acne in the same way we treat facial acne. But, to make things more complicated, the skin is thinner on the neck than on the face, so caution and a gentle approach need to be taken when using skincare on the neck.

What causes pimples on the neck?

There are a number of reasons why you might be experiencing pesky pimples on your neck. Here is a non-exhaustive list of what might be causing your breakouts:

Hormone imbalances

Neck pimples are, more often than not, a manifestation of hormonal acne. Hormonal acne can occur during different times in your life including puberty, menstruation and menopause as well as other significant hormonal changes in your life — for example, IUD insertion.

Hormonal acne is prone to appearing on the jawline, lower face and neck. Often, hormones contribute to cystic acne, making pimples painful and puffy.

Not washing your neck regularly

Your neck will thank you for a good wash with the right products. Many people apply makeup to their necks in order to even out skin tone imbalances. But, not washing the makeup off your neck at the end of the day can wreak havoc, resulting in significant pore-clogging.

And, it's not just makeup that hangs around the neck either. Because your neck skin is thinner and therefore drier than the skin on your face, flaky, dead skin cells will need washing off at the end of every day.

Stress

More research needs to be done on the link between stress and acne, but emerging peer-reviewed studies are showing stress can significantly impact the prevalence of acne [1].

Evidence suggests the release of cortisol (the stress hormone) into the bloodstream can cause excess sebum production.

This can eventually lead to clogged pores, a spread of acne-causing bacteria and inflammation. When we're stressed, we also forget to look after ourselves a little more, and our skincare regimes can be low on the priority list as well.

Makeup, sunscreens and hair products

There's no need to give up makeup, hair products and sunscreen in order to protect the neck from acne. In fact, the neck is just as likely to receive sun damage as the face is, so this is your reminder to use SPF on the neck every day, too [2].

But failing to wash off these heavy products at the end of the day can certainly result in pimples as makeup, sunscreen and hair products usually contain elements that can clog pores and hair follicles [3].

If your products include certain artificial scents, flavours and chemicals, they can irritate the skin, which can lead to hair follicle irritation and eventually, pimples.

Certain body washes and cleansers

It's common for many over-the-counter products, like body washes and cleansers, to promise the world when it comes to "clean" skin.

But, many body wash products actually contain harsh detergents that strip the skin of its natural oils, triggering the body to overcompensate and produce even more sebum, which can turn into a vicious cycle that won't help to clear your acne.

Ensure you're picking up the right kind of products with ingredients that are conducive to unclogging pores and clearing the skin of dirt — look for products that are non-comedogenic, which means they won't block your pores.

Exercising and sweating

We all sweat, and one of the first places that sweat shows up when we're in the middle of a workout, or outside on a hot day, is on the neck.

Sweat can actually be beneficial for the skin as it moisturises and helps cool you down. But, moist, sweaty areas on your skin are also the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Allowing sweat to dry on your skin can lead to clogged pores and in turn, pimples.

Showering under warm water and drying yourself with a clean towel immediately after exercising will help wash away acne-causing bacteria [4]. During your workout, using a clean towel to wipe your face will also help.

The goal is to keep the skin as clean as possible during a workout, which helps to lower the risk of developing pimples on your neck.

Wearing clothing that rubs your skin

Acne can occur when the skin is pressed or rubbed against clothing or fabric. This is known as acne mechanica, where friction, pinching or rubbing is happening on the skin [5].

If you tend to wear turtlenecks, large chocker necklaces, scarves or chin straps for marks or helmets, this can often exacerbate the prevalence of pimples on the neck.

Beards

Beards look great and are often a nice way to change your look. But, they are also excellent at collecting dust, bits of food, oil and bacteria that can cause pimples to thrive.

On top of this, beards can cause sweating on the neck as there's less room to breathe. This is why keeping your beard clean is vital to steering clear of neck acne.

What's the connection between neck acne and PCOS?

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a common endocrine disorder that affects the hormone levels of women. People with PCOS tend to have higher levels of insulin, which in turn, is believed to increase the levels of male hormones, which are known as androgens, in the body [6].

Acne is a common manifestation of PCOS, with many women experiencing acne lesions on the face and up to 50% experiencing acne on the neck, chest and upper back as well. This is largely thought to be caused by the increased levels of androgens, which can increase sebum production, resulting in the formation of acne.

So, if you're dealing with PCOS and neck pimples at the same time, these two conditions are probably connected.

How to treat neck pimples

While the skin on the neck might be thinner than your face, neck pimples can be treated similarly to pimples on your forehead and temples.

There are a number of ways to tackle pimples on the neck, these include:

Hormonal therapies

If you think you're experiencing fluctuating hormones, oral contraceptives can be highly effective for treating acne.

The pill contains estrogen and progestin, the synthetic form of progesterone, which lowers the effect androgens have on the skin and limits sebum production [7]. Evidence shows that any kind of contraceptive pill can help with acne [8].

Keep your neck clean and let it breathe

We've touched on the myriad of ways pimples can appear on your neck, but much of the research suggests keeping it clear of harsh detergents, makeup, dirt, dead skin cells and other irritants will keep your neck happy.

Using a cleanser, toner, exfoliant and moisturiser in your skincare routine can help prevent the return of neck pimples [9].

It's also important to let your neck breathe as often as possible to limit acne and when it comes to your clothing options, opt for fabrics like cotton, while avoiding total neck coverage.

Exfoliate

Clearing away acne-causing bacteria and unclogging your pores is the biggest step to fighting neck acne, and the best way to do that is with a gentle, chemical exfoliant that contains ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.

This is why Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash was created. This gentle exfoliator uses the dual action of beta-hydroxy acid and poly-hydroxy acid to unclog debris and trapped oils in the pores, clears away bacteria and reduces the formation of blackheads and whiteheads.

The wash can be used across the whole body — from the face to the neck and the back — two to three times per week and will help heal existing acne while preventing further breakouts from occurring.

Topical prescription treatments

There is a myriad of over-the-counter acne treatments that are designed to treat breakouts but not all will be effective for the neck.  

At Software, we provide clinical-grade treatment options that are tailored to suit your skin's needs based on the recommendations of our dermatologists and GPs.

Everyone's skin is different and, even your neck skin has its own unique combination of cells. Software's personalised, prescription acne treatment is your best bet against treating recurring pimples that appear on the neck and preventing the formation of new breakouts as it takes your own skin needs and goals into account.

Our formulas target breakouts at the root with highly specialised ingredients like prescription retinoids, niacinamide, hyaluronic acid and azelaic acid.

Our Australian doctors can help you find the right treatment to suit your skin and create a personalised treatment to meet your unique skin goals.

Photo credit: Getty Images

Start consult