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It’s a good thing—correction: a great thing—that skin on the body tends to be tougher than the skin on the face. Acne is a head-to-toe beauty woe and unfortunately, pimples below the neck enjoy wreaking the most havoc this time of year. The irony and unfortunate reality are that summer is when we want to wear less because it’s hot outside and anything more than shorts and a t-shirt feels like torture. So when butt pimples and chest blemishes demand the spotlight, body acne products become as important as your sunscreen or deodorant.
According to NYC dermatologist Dr. Hadley King, body acne is so common that more than half of people with facial acne have it. The body parts affected most tend to be the back, shoulders, chest, neck and upper arms, though it certainly isn’t limited to those areas.
“Just like facial acne, the main causes of body acne are genetics and hormones. Stress can play a part as well and for some people, diet may make a difference too–particularly foods with a high glycemic index and some dairy products,” says Dr. King. “Some studies show that body mass index correlates too. And for body acne, comedogenic topical products can contribute, and occlusive clothing, particularly over sweaty or oily skin, can also contribute.”
Anti-chafing products can also leave you with painful pimples between the thighs, especially if they’re oil-based. (Look for a non-comedogenic alternatives instead.)
When to See a Dermatologist
For the most part, body acne can be handled on your own with the help of over-the-counter treatments, but if your blemishes start to impact your general health or become distracting, it’s time to see a doctor.
“If you have acne lesions that are inflamed, painful and potentially causing scarring then you should see a dermatologist to discuss treatment options,” says Dr. King. “Also if there are signs of infection, then see a doctor– these include warmth, tenderness, swelling, redness, and pus.”
Thankfully, treating body acne isn’t much different from facial acne. In fact, it might be easier since you don’t have to worry as much about cocktailing with non-complimentary products. Plus, your skin below the neck is a lot more boss than the sensitive kind on your face. That means you can go H.A.M. and get rid of blemishes quickly. Here are the best zit-zapping ingredients according to Dr. King.
BZ is an OG in the skincare game. It’s been used to treat acne for more than 60 years because of its keratolytic, moderate comedolytic, and antibacterial properties. That’s just a fancy way of saying that “benzoyl peroxide is helpful for treating acne because it not only kills bacteria that contribute to acne, but also helps to prevent and clear out clogged pores.”
Dr. King’s favorite benzoyl peroxide treatment is AcneFree’s Oil Free Acne Cleanser.
Another blemish-clearing ingredient that exfoliates the surface of the skin and penetrates into the pores to remove oil is salicylic acid. If you’d categorize yourself as an oily skin type, it’s a particularly satisfying solution for comedonal acne (blackheads, whiteheads, milia).
“Salicylic acid is a beta-hydroxy acid. Beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) are similar to alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) in that they are used for chemical exfoliation of the skin. They dissolve the bonds that hold dull, dead skin cells on the surface of the skin so the skin will gently shed, revealing smoother, brighter skin underneath.,” says Dr. King. “The difference is that while AHAs are water soluble and work on the surface of the skin, BHAs are oil-soluble so they can penetrate into pores.”
BHAs also have anti-inflammatory, skin-calming properties that will go to work on pimples that are irritated, but not enough to warrant a trip to the ER.
Lastly, there are a slew of topical retinoids that also get the job done. That’s because they have a comedolytic effect, meaning that they help to prevent and treat clogged pores.
“This is because they increase the turnover of skin cells and reduce the tendency of cells and keratin debris to clump together and clog up pores,” says Dr. King. “They also decrease the discoloration that can be left after a pimple, and because they increase the turnover of skin cells, this reduces the healing time for acne.”
While tretinoids, tazarotene, and adapalene are options that almost always require a prescription (along with oral antibiotics and hormonal treatments), there are still popular picks made with one or a combo of ingredients that’ll keep body acne from killing your summer vibe. Keep scrolling to them all.
Alba Botanica AcneDote Face & Body Scrub
$6.18 at Amazon
CeraVe SA Body Wash
$12.99 at Walgreens
Clinique Acne Solutions Cleansing Face and Body Soap
$16.50 at Sephora
Klavuu Green Pearlsation Tea Tree Care Body Spray
$14.49 at Soko Glam
Mario Badescu A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap
$8-$14 at Ulta
Murad Acne Body Wash
$43 at Sephora
Neutrogena Body Clear Body Scrub
$8.99 at Ulta
Peter Thomas Roth Acne Face & Body Scrub
$28 at Sephora
Proactiv Deep Cleansing Wash
$35 at Ulta
SheaMoisture African Black Soap Soothing Body Wash
$10.99 at SheaMoisture
The Body Shop Tea Tree Mattifying Lotion
$15 at Ulta