Why You’re Breaking Out in Weird Places

Natasha Burton
Alfred Saerchinger/Corbis/ Getty Images

Alfred Saerchinger/Corbis/ Getty Images

As many of us know all too well, acne doesn’t just happen on your face. It can rear its oh-so-ugly head in the strangest of places, causing a range of emotions from exasperation to embarrassment. (Sounds extreme, but as anyone who’s gotten a random pimple in the middle of their chest knows, this reaction is quite accurate.)

So, how can you combat these zits gone rogue? We got the scoop from some top skin experts on how to banish body acne for good.

Neck and Jawline
According to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Michael Lin, hormones are usually the root cause of breakouts on the neck and jawline—and they’re quite common. (Lin cites a study published in the Archives of Dermatology showing that 63% of women with acne have premenstrual flares.)

While birth control pills can often help regulate the hormones that cause these breakouts, some pills can make neck acne worse if they contain androgen or testosterone—so Lin suggests managing hormonal acne with spironolactone. “Although this medication is normally used to treat high blood pressure, it also helps clear breakouts by blocking testosterone,” he explains.

The skin on your upper chest, or décolleté, is very delicate and contains fewer sebaceous glands than the face—which means that oil and sweat can build up, especially after workouts, resulting in chest pimples, says board-certified dermatologist Dr. David E. Bank.

“If you get breakouts, wash with a mild antibacterial soap,” he suggests. “Then, treat pimples with an over-the-counter 2.5 to 10% benzoyl peroxide product that’s tinted to cover as it heals. Follow with an oil-free facial moisturizer or use an AHA cream to keep skin clean, clear, and protected.”

Our backs are filled with tiny hair follicles, which can get clogged, turning into blemishes. “To treat ‘backne,’ wash your back daily with a gentle-bristled scrub brush,” suggests Bank. “For blackheads and little red bumps, wash with a mild salicylic acid cleanser. But don’t try scrubbing serious acne—any large, red, or painful cysts need to be looked at by a dermatologist.”

To treat, he says you can dab on a 2.5 to 10% benzoyl peroxide treatment—if you want to go with a higher dose on that spectrum, only do so if skin is oily and not irritated to avoid over-drying. Also, be careful when using benzoyl peroxide because it can bleach clothing it comes in contact with. 

If you work out regularly or use hair products (which basically covers most of us), breakouts along your hairline and even on your scalp are likely. “My clients oftentimes breakout around the hairline, and I suggest spritzing the area or wiping with an all-natural astringent, such as witch hazel, to gentle wipe the area throughout the day,” says Los Angeles-based esthetician Emilee Wilson. “The neckline, hairline, shoulders, and back are all areas that have sweat glands, and my theory is that hair grows to keep us cool and carry out the sweat—a deadly combo if there is bacteria present.”

She also suggests exfoliating those areas at night with a dry brush because the bacteria can feed on dead skin cells surrounding the hair shaft and follicles, making breakouts worse.

Yep, we’re going there. Bumps on your bum can result from tight-fitting clothes, which can slow the skin’s natural exfoliating process and lead to buildup, Banks explains. “Normally, bacteria sits on the skin but tight-fitting clothing can rub the bacteria back down into the pores, causing breakouts,” he says. “Plus, your normal sweat provides a moist breeding ground on which bacteria can proliferate.”

To fix this problem, wear looser-fitting clothing—i.e. don’t walk around in yoga clothes all day—and wash with an antibacterial soap. “Another remedy is to avoid using fabric softeners in the dryer because the fibers left on your underwear can further irritate the skin,” Banks adds. “I also recommend using an AHA exfoliator to speed exfoliation.”