How to deal with body acne

Products and routines to get “bacne” off your back

4 minute read

We’re here to tell you what we know, but don’t take it as medical advice. Talk to your medical provider about your specific health concerns.

Body acne is super-common, but obviously that doesn’t make breakouts any less annoying. In fact, it tends to be even more stubborn than pimples and blackheads on your face—so it can take more than just an anti-acne body wash to beat “bacne.” Read on for derm-approved advice for how to banish acne from head to toe.

Body acne causes

As with all forms of acne, there are many possible causes of body acne, from inflammation and hormones to using the wrong products for your skin type. You probably know the spiel by now, but check out our acne guides to learn more.

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 on your body is tougher than the skin on your face, so it can be more difficult to get rid of body acne (ugh, we know), but your body can also tolerate stronger ingredients than your face.

Exercise/sweating

Breaking a sweat doesn’t make breakouts any less annoying. In fact, it tends to be even more stubborn than pimples and blackheads on your face—so it can take more than just an anti-acne body wash to beat “bacne.” Read on for derm-approved advice for how to banish acne from head to toe.

Laundry detergent

If your clothes, pillowcases and sheets are washed with pore-clogging ingredients, that could contribute to body acne. Find yourself struggling to pronounce most of the ingredients on your detergent bottle? That’s a clue you may want to toss it. Switch to a laundry detergent without sodium lauryl sulfate or sodium laureth sulfate.

Over-exfoliating or being too rough with towels, loofahs, or body brushes

Be gentle on your skin! Avoid harsh cleansers and physical methods of exfoliation such as loofahs and back brushes. Irritation can trigger or exacerbate breakouts.

There’s a fungus among us

In addition to all the usual causes of acne, microorganisms like the pityrosporum fungus thrive in warm, moist areas, and these guys contribute to inflammation. If you tend to have a sweaty back, for example, fungus will love it—and that could lead to body breakouts. Tight clothing that doesn’t let your skin “breathe” can give acne microbes an even better environment to thrive in. Opt for clothing with a looser fit that won’t trap heat or cause friction on your skin. And most importantly, cleanse your skin ASAP after breaking a sweat to wash away those gnarly microbes.

Think zinc

We recommend starting with a zinc pyrithione soap because it helps get rid of that acne-causing pityrosporum fungus that lives on the skin. Many people see a difference after just a few weeks of replacing their normal body cleanser with a zinc soap! To make sure the zinc has time to sink into your skin and get to work, leave the soap suds on your skin for about a minute before rinsing it off. This is a good chance to sing shower karaoke or plan what you’re going to have for dinner.

Pro tips

  1. Keep your zinc soap on a perforated holder so it can drain and dry in between uses. You don’t want your zinc soap to live in a damp corner of the tub—that can only lead to more “bad” microbes! Give your soap a quick rinse before using it, to be on the safe side.

  2. If the zinc soap doesn’t do the trick, then add in a benzoyl peroxide (BP) cleanser for an extra kick, alternating between both of them.

Give any one of these zinc soaps a try:

  1. Noble Formula 2% Pyrithione Zinc Bar Soap

  2. Vanicream Z-Bar (Pyrithione Zinc 2%) Medicated Cleansing Bar

  3. Clean &Clear Advantage 3-in-1 Exfoliating Cleanser

The right product matters, as some ingredients can clog pores and make a breakout worse, so keep an eye on the labels to double check ingredients.

Avoid zinc soap bars that contain cocoa butter or coconut oil, because those can clog pores. Look out for isopropyl myristate, laureth-4, and sodium lauryl sulfate on the ingredients list—these can contribute to acne breakouts for some people.

Sulfur and salicylic acid

If the zinc pyrithione soap and a BP cleanser aren’t cutting it, look into adding a salicylic acid to your rotation. Salicylic acid (a beta hydroxy acid) is a common over-the-counter acne treatment available in lotions, gels and serums. BHA is especially helpful for oilier skin types. Among other benefits, BHA helps unclog pores and reduce inflammation.

The Acne Body Wash by Curology is dermatologist-designed to treat and help prevent acne, plus washes your pores of regular dirt and grime. Our body wash is formulated with 2% salicylic acid, just enough to be tough on acne but kind for all skin types—so you can use this lightly foaming goodness every day.

Acne wipes with salicylic acid are perfect for tossing in your gym bag for a post-workout freshening up—but these can be irritating to skin, so proceed with caution if your skin’s on the sensitive side.

If by some unusually bad luck this routine doesn’t help, consider adding sulfur soap to your routine as well. Try not to mind the scent—it can smell kind of like eggs. Sulfur can help break down dead skin cells, and has both antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Benzoyl peroxide for body acne

Benzoyl peroxide or BP is one of the most effective acne-fighting ingredients available without a prescription, but it can be kind of harsh on skin—and it can bleach your clothes, whether you use a benzoyl peroxide cream or a wash. Still, a benzoyl peroxide body wash is an effective way to get the anti-acne benefits because it’s potent enough that it continues to work on your skin even after you’ve rinsed it off.

Give these BP products a try:

If the breakouts on your chest and back are particularly stubborn, and the combination of zinc, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and sulfur seem to improve things, don’t give up! There might be something causing acne that you haven’t figured out yet. Check out our guides to the causes of acne:

Body lotion for acne-prone skin

Make sure any products you use on your bod are non-comedogenic (read: don’t clog pores) and don’t contain irritating ingredients like coconut oil or sulfates. To learn more, check out our guide on how to check the ingredients in your skincare products for pore-clogging or irritating ingredients.

How to get rid of bacne

To treat body acne, it helps to build your routine step by step. Start with a good zinc pyrithione soap for a few weeks. Acne can be caused partly by a common fungus that lives on the skin, and zinc pyrithione helps fight this fungus. Many people see a difference after replacing their normal cleanser with a daily zinc soap.

We’ve got your back

We know it’s easier said than done, but the best way to banish body acne is to be consistent and patient. Give your skin at least three weeks to catch up and show improvement with each step before adding more products to your routine. If you experience any irritation, back off until your skin recovers—overdoing it will just make things worse. Think of it like that old proverb about the tortoise and the hare: slow and steady wins the race, especially when it comes to your skin.

Remember, we’re here for you when the going gets rough, so keep in touch with us and the Curology community on social and ask your Curology provider any pressing questions that aren’t answered in our guides. Any skin strategy works best when you ease into it and take your time. However, in some cases, body acne may take stronger medications to deal with. Check with your medical provider for more options if your body acne is particularly stubborn or is leaving scars.

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