How to deal with body acne, according to a consultant dermatologist

Written by Hanna Ibraheem

Struggle with body acne? Here, a consultant dermatologist shares her advice on the best ways to treat it.

Thanks to the skin positivity movement, blemishes have become normalised. While it’s encouraged many to embrace their acne, which is great; for others, it can be difficult. The psychological impact of acne can have a big effect on self-confidence and self-esteem and so, some still seek ways to reduce it, which is okay, too.

The summer can be a particularly difficult time for those who struggle with body acne. So, we asked Dr Shaaira Nasir, consultant dermatologist at sk:n, to explain everything you need to know, from the best ingredients to treat it to steps to prevent it coming back.

What are the main causes of body acne?

“Body acne occurs in a similar way to facial acne. It’s caused by blockage of the hair follicle by a mix of dead skin cells and oil. This causes whiteheads and black heads (also known as comedones). Bacteria present on the skin can later cause inflammation and irritation to occur.”

“Other causes are genetic tendency, hormonal changes, or external reasons like bacteria, sweat or friction. Certain medication can cause acne, like steroids or certain anti-epileptic medication. Stress can be a contributing factor for making acne worse.”

What are the most common areas of the body where you can get acne?

“The back, shoulders and chest tend to be the areas prone to getting acne but it can occur anywhere on the body.”

What types of products should you use on body acne?

“Antibacterial washes or washes containing acids can be bought over the counter.

“Dermatologists can prescribe topical leave-on treatment such as benzoyl peroxide, antibiotics gel or cream or retinoids.

“If acne is moderate to severe and causing scarring, we tend to prescribe oral medication such as antibiotics for a few months, or even isotretinoin which is a vitamin A derivative.”

What are the best ingredients to use for body acne?

“Use exfoliating ingredients such as acids in body washes (salicylic acid or lactic acid). This will remove dead skin cells and reduce the tendency of skin pores to block up.

“Benzoyl peroxide is another useful ingredient as it dries out oily skin and is antibacterial and has anti-inflammatory effects. This comes in creams, gels and washes.

“Antibacterial washes containing ingredients like tea tree oil, such as Dermol 500 or Chlorhexidine wash, may reduce the bacteria load off the skin.”

  • Best body wash with lactic acid

    Ameliorate Nourishing Body Wash

    Specialists in soothing keratosis pilaris, Ameliorate’s body wash is all about hydration. Combined with omega 3 fatty acids from starflower and camelina oils, it’s a really gentle, yet mildly exfoliating wash.

    £10.50, Look Fantastic


  • Best body wash with tea tree oil

    The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Body Wash

    This high-strength formula gently foams up to reveal clean, less irritated skin. They have a whole range dedicated to tea tree oil if you’re looking for other places to treat.

    £7.50, The Body Shop


  • Best face and body wash with salicylic acid

    CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser

    Having reached cult status in the US and now here, CeraVe is lauded for its simple, nourishing, purse-friendly and effective products. Formulated with salicylic acid to help mildly exfoliate blemish-prone and combination skin types, it also contains ceramides to maintain moisture levels and hyaluronic acid to prevent skin from drying out.

    £12, Boots


Does exfoliating your body help? 

“Yes it does. The best way to exfoliate is by chemical exfoliation with acids. This can be found in shower gels or leave-on products. Mechanically exfoliating using scrubs, loofahs or brushes may cause more damage to the skin and irritation. This can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.”

Are there steps you can take to prevent body acne?

Dr Nasir recommends:

  • Make sure to have a shower straight away after sweating or going to the gym, this will remove bacteria off the skin and prevent follicles from getting infected and inflamed.
  • When working out wear loose fitting clothes and natural breathable fibre like cotton. This will prevent friction against skin which blocks pores.
  • Change your pillow case and bedding regularly as these can collect dead skin and bacteria.
  • Make sure when using a moisturiser that it is non-comedogenic and apply the moisturiser in the direction of the hair growth to prevent blocking pores.
  • Don’t pick or squeeze your spots as this will cause scarring.

Main image: Getty

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