Body Acne? Here's Your Natural Solution, According To Experts
In a few weeks, the temperature is going to start climbing upward, the beaches will beckon, and the temptation to shed a few layers will be too much to resist.
And if you have a few breakouts across your back, chest, or shoulders, don't worry: It's incredibly common—and treatable.
According to board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, M.D., it's caused by the same reason you might have it on your face: "In people who have acne, cells within the follicle stick together blocking the pores. This leads to a blockage of oil, allowing acne-causing bacteria to grow to high levels. Collectively this all promotes inflammation," he says. "Acne tends to occur in areas of the body where there is a large number of oil glands, explaining why it typically developed on the face, chest, and back. It is estimated that up to 50 percent of people who have acne on the face also have acne on the chest and/or the back."
Your best bet is to look for body washes with salicylic acid, much like you would for the face. Salicylic acid is a naturally occurring beta-hydroxy acid, typically harvested from willow bark. It works by breaking down the oil and removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, ideally, leading to clear pores. An option that's basically cult status: SAL3 Acne Bar Soap is natural, eco-friendly, and contains not only salicylic acid but also sulfur (to help draw out impurities).
"When you're in the shower, make sure you are leaving your body wash or treatment on for a moment," says herbalist and board-certified dermatologist Steven Wang, M.D. "Don't just apply it under the water so it washes off immediately; it should sit there so it can do its job."
You can also exfoliate weekly, but be mindful of how aggressive you are being while doing so. Many people assume scrubs should be pressed into the skin: Stop. Doing. That. "This can lead to more irritation and inflammation, making treating acne difficult," says Zeichner. Always use a light touch, evenly with your whole hand—just imagine you are giving yourself a gentle massage. (Try Alba Botanica AcneDote Face and Body Scrub.)
After washing, remember to hydrate the skin. (Again, like you would your face. Are you seeing a trend?) "Stay away from heavy moisturizers that won't leave your face or body feeling greasy," says Zeichner. A good tool? Look for anything that says "noncomedogenic," which means it won't clog pores.
For any pimples you need gone quickly, just grab your favorite face spot treatment and tap it on at nighttime. Kamedis Acne Spot Treatment is a natural derm favorite that not only fights the root cause but has a botanical blend that helps soothe the inflammation as well. Basically: You'll wake up with a smaller, less red and angry zit.
But the best advice we can give is if you are someone prone to breakouts, keep a consistent routine on your body like you would your face. Preventive skin care is the best skin care.
This is especially true for those with darker skin tones, or those who scar easily. "When pimples go away, they often leave behind a dark mark in patients with darker skin tones," says Zeichner. "These marks, also known as a post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, may be more of a problem than the original pimple itself. Oftentimes, these dark spots can stick around for several months."
Final step? Sunscreen. "Acne products can make the skin more sun-sensitive, which can lead to burns faster," says Zeichner.
Alexandra Engler is the beauty director at mindbodygreen and host of the beauty podcast Clean Beauty School. Previously, she's held beauty roles at Harper's Bazaar, Marie Claire, SELF, and Cosmopolitan; her byline has appeared in Esquire, Sports Illustrated, and Allure.com. In her current role, she covers all the latest trends in the clean and natural beauty space, as well as lifestyle topics, such as travel. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.