When you hear about acne, most of the emphasis is on blemishes, pimples, and breakouts on the face. But acne commonly appears on the body as well, especially the back and buttocks. It’s not just a teenage skin disease, either. Adults suffer from acne too, especially women. In fact, up to 15 percent of adult women in their 30s and 40s will experience adult acne.
Those numbers seem to have gone up with the Covid-19 pandemic, too. Stress raises your body’s cortisol levels, and these hormonal changes can lead to acne on the face and body. So if you’ve found yourself breaking out, you’re not alone.
That said, other conditions can cause breakouts on the body that look like acne, but actually aren’t. Let’s take a look at some common types of pimples on the body and how to get rid of them.
Back Acne or “Bacne”
Back acne commonly develops on the upper back, chest, and shoulders and is caused by the same factors as facial acne, namely excess oil production and clogged pores caused by hormones, genetics, and lifestyle. Moderate bacne is a combination of whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples. More severe bacne can include painful lumps deeper in the skin.
Acne on your butt may not be acne
Breakouts on the buttocks are common, but these are usually due to a condition called folliculitis (inflamed hair follicles) rather than true acne. Sweat combined with tight-fitting non-breathable clothing and a lot of time in an office chair can irritate hair follicles leading to pimple-like outbreaks all over your backside.
Keratosis pilaris can be confused with body acne
Fine, rough bumps across your upper arms, buttocks or thighs might be keratosis pilaris. This condition runs in families and tends to be worse during childhood and adolescence, but fades over the years. Keratosis pilaris is harmless and doesn’t require treatment.
How to make body acne go away
If you do have body acne or folliculitis on your buttocks, we can treat it effectively with traditional acne medications like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or tretinoin. Because body skin is thicker than facial skin, using physician-strength medications available through your dermatologist is important as over-the-counter products may not get you the results you desire. Your doctor may recommend an exfoliating cream to accompany your acne creams, or oral or topical antibiotics.
To apply lotions to difficult-to-reach areas like your back, you may want to invest in a lotion applicator for the back, also called a lotion applicator wand. Follow your doctor’s instructions for your medications and keep at it! Sometimes it can take awhile for acne medications to show full results.
Things you can do at home to prevent and clear up body acne
To help your body acne go away or to prevent it from coming back, try these dermatologist-recommended tips:
- Shower after sweating. When your sweat evaporates, what’s left behind are salt and impurities that can clog pores. Shower as soon as possible after working out or in other sweaty situations.
- Wear loose-fitting, breathable clothing. Nylon, Spandex and other similar synthetic clothing doesn’t let your skin breathe or moisture evaporate. Stick with cotton, especially when it comes to underwear.
- Wash workout clothes after each use. Don’t don the same sweaty, stinky workout clothes you left in your duffel from yesterday. This can lead to clogged pores and bacteria buildup.
- Don’t pick or pop pimples. This can spread the bacteria, causing more pimples. It can also lead to permanent scarring.
- Don’t scrub. It’s tempting to want to attack those back pimples with loofahs, buff puffs or other harsh scrubbers as well as antibacterial soaps and astringents. By irritating skin, however, these products tend to make acne worse. Use a dermatologist-approved gentle exfoliant and the prescribed medications for best results.
- Avoid friction. A backpack rubbing against your back can worsen back acne. Spending too much time with your bottom in a chair or on a couch can worsen buttock acne. Whenever possible, give the skin on your problem areas a chance to breathe and be free of friction.
- Check your diet. Some foods that are associated with acne outbreaks include greasy fast food, white flour, sweets, and dairy products. Even if you don’t change your diet, be sure to drink plenty of water for overall healthy skin.
- Check your meds. Some medications are known to trigger acne. These include corticosteroids, antidepressants, and epilepsy medications.
- Change your sheets. Wash your sheets weekly and change pillowcases twice a week to clear away dead skin cells and bacteria that can feed body acne. Be sure to use a fragrance-free detergent.
If your body acne is bothering you, we encourage you to come in for a consultation. Chronic acne can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing. We offer a number of acne treatment options to help you feel confident with clearer, smoother, healthier skin all over.