When the warmth of its rays hits your bare back, sunshine feels good—and some say it has benefits for body acne. But the relationship between sun exposure and acne is complicated. It’s true that brief exposure to natural sunlight can have health benefits (and we need it to produce vitamin D), but that doesn’t mean you should book some tanning appointments.
So is the sun itself good or bad for acne? It’s actually both—while UV rays can harm skin and cause signs of aging, a little bit of sunlight can help reduce inflammation (which can help acne). That said, practicing sun protection is absolutely essential to your skin’s overall health and skin cancer prevention. If you’re struggling with body acne, you should take steps to fortify your skin against UV rays!
Many types of light (including sunlight) can have an anti-inflammatory effect on skin, and treatments like blue light therapy are becoming increasingly popular among people with acne. It’s sometimes said that around 5 minutes of sun exposure may help improve acne, but we don’t recommend laying out to treat body acne. That’s because UV rays cause damage to skin beyond just sunburns—sun damage has a delayed effect on skin and can take years to show up.
It’s also true that natural sunlight helps your body produce vitamin D, which is vital to your overall health. The American Academy of Dermatology does not recommend you seek out sun exposure or tanning for health benefits. But a little sunshine is generally okay, especially if you take steps to protect your skin from sun damage:
Wear broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen daily.
Re-apply it once for every 2 hours of sun exposure.
Use the two-finger rule to be sure you’re applying enough.
You can also wear sun-blocking clothing and seek shade!
Some people like to tan because it may reduce the appearance of acne scars and hyperpigmentation, or dark spots—but overexposure to UV rays can make those skin concerns worse. Both tanning beds and laying out in the sun can damage your skin, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on the bronzy glow! Just use a self-tanner that’s free of potentially pore-clogging or irritating ingredients.
Body acne is common on your chest, shoulders, and neck because the sebaceous glands that produce oil in our skin are more prominent in these areas. The skin in these areas is thicker than the skin on your face, so what works for your face may not work for your bacne. To help get rid of body acne, you’ll want to make simple lifestyle changes and use acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid.
We recommend using an acne body wash or soap to help unclog pores and fight breakout-causing bacteria.
A non-comedogenic sunscreen is also important for your skin’s health and tends to be safe for acne-prone skin, so be sure to apply one on areas that are exposed to the sun.
Friction and moisture (like sweat) can cause body acne, so there are a few more simple steps you can take to help reduce body breakouts:
Shower after working out or sweating a lot.
Wash gently—don’t scrub too hard with loofahs or other tools.
Clean sheets and pillowcases about once a week.
Got questions? We got answers. Send a message to your Curology dermatology provider for personalized advice on how to treat your body acne. If you’re not already a Curology member, you can get your first month of custom, prescription skincare for free*—just pay $4.95 (plus tax) to cover shipping/handling.
*Subject to consultation. Subscription required.
We’re here to tell you what we know. That’s why our information is evidence-based and fact-checked by medical experts. Still, everyone’s skin is unique—the best way to get advice is to talk to your healthcare provider.
Empowering you with knowledge is our top priority. Our reviews of other brands’ products in this post are not paid endorsements—but they do meet our medically fact-checked standards for ingredients (at the time of publication).
Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C