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3 Tips On How To Prevent Body Breakouts, According To A Top Derm

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April 11, 2022
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As the sun begins to shine, we can only hope our skin follows. Body blemishes can be a frustrating roadblock, especially when you're looking forward to wearing breezy garments that may put that problem area on display. Just remember: You're not alone. So many people struggle with body acne, whether it be on the chest, back, or elsewhere. 

While there isn't a one-size-fits-all remedy for bacne (or any kind of breakout), there are more than a few expert tips to help you get a better handle on these breakouts and prevent future ones from coming—including the three we're sharing today: 


Don't shy away from chemical exfoliants.

You might have an exfoliating regimen for your face, be it a chemical exfoliant, like glycolic acid, or gentle fruit enzymes. And guess what? Your body can benefit just as much from some of these powerful ingredients. "I find that body acne is very responsive to salicylic acid, as well as retinoids, including prescriptions like tretinoin or over-the-counter retinol serums or gels," board-certified dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., tells mbg. 

If you've tried to use retinoids on your face only to be met with irritation, that doesn't necessarily mean you can't use them on the body. Your body skin is much thicker than the skin on your face, which is why many body acne products have higher concentrations of stronger actives. Just make sure you use a product that's actually meant for your body, not your face. "Using a facial exfoliation on your body may not be strong enough to give you the results you're looking for," board-certified dermatologist Raechele Cochran Gathers, M.D., previously shared with mbg.

Nevertheless, it's worth starting out with something less intense and opting for a more potent product later on, if needed. If you're struggling with breakouts on your back, a spray may be easier to apply than a rub-on cream or gel. One of our favorites is the Clearing Mist Medicated Breakout Tonic from Soft Services. This product contains salicylic acid, zinc, and niacinamide, all of which are known acne fighters. 

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Always moisturize the affected area.

You may not be used to applying moisturizer to hard-to-reach areas like the back, but optimal hydration is crucial in caring for oil- and blemish-prone skin. "Preserving and supporting a healthy skin barrier and microbiome is just as critical for body acne as it is for the face," Bowe says. "While most people can tolerate a retinoid on their chest or back every few nights, it's important to rely on a daily moisturizer with barrier and microbiome supporting ingredients like prebiotics, postbiotics, and ceramides." 

The mbg postbiotic body lotion is a perfect option for this step, as it tends to the skin microbiome and hydrates simultaneously. While this is not a blemish treatment—like an AHA or BHA might be—it can help keep your skin hydrated and in the clear.

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Be mindful of your diet.

Your diet does play a role in skin health. You might associate this skin-diet connection with facial breakouts, but Bowe notes that she finds the skin on the body especially responsive to dietary changes. As with all things skin care, everyone's complexion responds differently to certain factors. However, Bowe has seen a few patterns with specific acne-flaring foods—namely, dairy milk and high glycemic index foods

Instead, she recommends nourishing the gut microbiome with prebiotics, like plant-based polyphenols, especially when it comes to chest and back acne. "I often tell my patients to eat the rainbow or supplement with high-quality dietary supplements that support a balanced, rich, diverse microbiome. As we know, the gut microbiome can impact skin health, and this is [the] case with the face and the body," Bowe explains. 

The takeaway. 

As frustrating as this skin concern can be, there are a few things you can do to help treat current breakouts and stop future ones from popping up. Adding a chemical exfoliant to your body care routine, followed by a microbiome-nurturing moisturizer can be helpful for keeping skin bright and clear. Finally, limiting your consumption of high glycemic index foods and ingesting probiotic-rich foods may be helpful for addressing these breakouts from the inside out. 

Hannah Frye
Hannah Frye
mbg Assistant Beauty Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more. She previously interned for Almost 30, a top-rated health and wellness podcast. In her current role, Hannah reports on the latest beauty trends, holistic skincare approaches, must-have makeup products, and inclusivity in the beauty industry. She currently lives in New York City.