While pimples are most common on the face, that’s not the only place they can show up. Body acne on areas such as the back, butt, chest, and arms is extremely common among kids and adults, and is nothing to be ashamed of.
Pimple formation begins when oil and dead skin cells clog the hair follicles. Once bacteria also enters the area, a pus filled pore expands and expands, irritating the skin around it, which is why the area can look red. The face and upper body are sites with the most oil, produced by glands inside the pore called sebaceous glands, explaining why bacne (or, “back-acne”) and other types of body pimples are so common.
Some people may be more likely to have body acne because of their genetics, but there are other outside factors that could be to blame, and luckily, they are much more easily managed.
The friction caused by tight clothing, especially hot and sweaty sports gear, is one of the main causes of body acne. It even has its own name, called “Acne Mechanica.” If you’re wearing tight clothing like a sports bra, dance leotard, or have equipment like a backpack or on for long periods of time, the back and forth rubbing of the material on your skin can cause irritation. Even regular clothing like your bra can have the same effect! Also, the materials these items are made from are often synthetic, meaning that they aren’t very breathable and trap heat, sweat, dirt, and bacteria. This is the perfect environment for follicles to get clogged, and pimples to form.
It’s important to wash your clothes – both sport or regular – to remove sweat, dirt, and bacteria. It’s suggested to give them a clean when they’re sweaty, have been worn a couple times, or anytime they smell (like BO!). If you’re wearing something like a helmet that you can’t necessarily wash, try cleaning it with disinfectant wipes or sprays. It’s also a good idea to change out of clothes you’ve exercised or gotten sweaty in quickly, and to shower as soon as possible instead of letting the material sit on your skin. Let your skin breathe!
Exfoliating often should help physically cleanse the surface of the skin, but make sure not to do this too often! Over-exfoliation can irritate and inflame skin, making acne worse. If you need something stronger, over the counter products containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, aimed specifically at getting rid of the bacteria that causes zits, can help clear up existing spots of acne. However, it’s always a good idea to speak with a dermatologist (skin doctor!) before trying anything too intense.