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Ask a skin expert: how to treat chest acne?

The causes of chest acne and treatment options.

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar
by Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 5 min read
Woman Looking Down
Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar
by Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C
Updated on Jul 6, 2023 • 5 min read
We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

This week on Ask Curology — what causes pimples on the chest? How can you get rid of this stubborn style of body acne?! We caught up with one of our medical providers to get the facts on treatments for chest acne.

• • •

Dear Curology,

My provider said my Curology cream isn’t for body acne, but I’m desperate for answers. My cleavage is breaking out worse than anywhere else on my body! I have whiteheads and blackheads on my chest, which is bad enough on its own — but I also have some wicked chest acne scars to boot. I’ve tried cleansing and moisturizing with the same products I use on my face, but my breakout won’t go away. Please help me!


My Acne’s Too Close To My Heart

Dear Heart,

I’m sorry to hear about your chest acne struggles! You’re definitely not alone. Body acne is very common among the patients I treat, and it’s often just as frustrating to deal with as the acne on our face. The good news is that, between simple lifestyle changes and over-the-counter products, there are lots of treatment options.

Chest acne causes

Whether it’s on your body or your face, we normally can’t blame acne on any one cause. Many factors can contribute to chest acne, including bacteria, fungus, clogged pores, and hormones.

How is chest acne different from the acne on your face?

The obvious difference is the location! Chest acne occurs on the chest, and facial acne occurs on your face. The skin on your body (including your chest) is thicker than the skin on your face, so there are some differences when it comes to treating facial vs. chest acne.

Chest acne treatments

1. Lifestyle

Here are some common culprits behind body breakouts.

  • Sweat. While sweat itself doesn’t cause breakouts, it can play a role in creating the ideal environment for acne-causing bacteria to proliferate — especially where friction is involved, like if you’re exercising in a sweat-soaked sports bra! If you break a sweat, shower or change clothes right away.

  • Fabric. Our clothes and sheets can soak up sweat and pore-clogging product residue, which can play a role in breakouts. Swap out your non-workout clothes, as well as your bedding, more frequently. You can also wear loose-fitting clothing while exercising, and sweat-wicking fabrics could help as well!

  • Laundry. There’s a chance your laundry detergent and fabric softener are contributing to breakouts! Look for a detergent without sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate, like Puracy Natural Laundry Detergent. You can also try skipping fabric softener when washing your pillowcases, sheets, bras, and pajamas — fabric softeners can deposit a waxy residue onto fabric that might clog pores if you’re acne-prone. There’s no medical proof that this helps, but there’s no harm in trying — especially if you’re tackling a tough breakout.

The best products to help treat chest acne

It’s important to be gentle when treating acne on your chest! Avoid harsh cleansers and physical methods of exfoliation such as loofahs and brushes, as irritation can worsen breakouts. Some great options for body skincare include:

  • Zinc Soap. A zinc pyrithione soap, like Noble Formula 2% Zinc Pyrithione Bar Soap, fights both bacteria and fungus that can lead to body acne.

  • Sulfur Soap. — Sulfur has anti-fungal, antibacterial, and keratolytic activity — try Joesoef Skin Care Sulfur Soap 10.

  • Benzoyl Peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide products, like Replenix Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Wash 5%, can help kill bacteria and unclog pores. They also have a mild anti-inflammatory effect.

  • Salicylic Acid, a.k.a. beta hydroxy acid or BHA, can provide exfoliation that helps prevent and treat blocked pores. Curology makes an acne body wash with 2% salicylic acid that might help!

Curology Acne Body Wash bottle against a neutral gray background

Curology Acne Body Wash

How to treat chest acne scars?

We’ve touched on how to deal with acne scars in a previous post — if your body acne is severe or leaving scars, you may need to see an in-person dermatologist to discuss treatment options. But your chest acne scars might not be “scars” at all, but hyperpigmentation! This special brand of brown spots is not considered scarring — they’re called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and they will gradually improve over time.

For PIH on the face, it takes an average of 6 months after the lesion first appeared to resolve, however, body PIH is typically more stubborn and often takes longer to improve than PIH on the face! For PIH on the chest, try an AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) such as Alpha Skin Care Revitalizing Body Lotion with 12% Glycolic AHA to help speed up the process. Also, remember to protect your skin from the sun! This will help the PIH improve as quickly as possible. You can protect yourself with both clothing and diligent sunscreen application.

I hope this info helps! Remember that patience and persistence are key to resolving most skin issues. Your Curology provider is always available to provide feedback and advice for your specific skin issues.

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Best of luck!

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

We’re here to share what we know — but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider if you have questions.

Nicole Hangsterfer Avatar

Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C

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