At age 32, the days of fretting over spots on my face are mercifully over. But since a few months ago, I started noticing some spots on my shoulder and chest—because acne just doesn’t discriminate which part of your body it lands on. It jumps around! While there are not too many of these to give up wearing low-cut tanks, I also wanted to nip body acne in the bud before it becomes a serious issue.
What causes body acne?
Body acne, like the ones that appear on your face, is caused by over-production of sebum in a blocked pore that gets infected and inflamed by bacteria. But according to TCM, while facial acne is usually caused by both internal and external factors, body acne tends to be more dependent on external factors like washing properly. Phew!
- Neck: Not washing out the shampoo or conditioner property, allergies to hair products, tight collars, laundry detergent, fabric softener, dryer sheets, sweating and not showering right afterwards.
- Back: Sweating and not showering, athletic clothes, backpack straps, bra straps, body lotions, hair products, allergies.
- Chest: Sweating and not showering, friction from clothes, bras, body lotions, fungal infection, allergies.
- Butt: Dirty underwear 🙊, heat and humidity, ingrown hairs.
If you notice, most of these have to do with showering immediately after exercise and changing into fresh clothes. Not speaking from experience or anything, do not re-wear your yoga top even if you didn’t really sweat in that restorative class. It’s just not worth it!!
On the other hand, you might have noticed that just like face acne, some people seem predisposed to get body acne, all other things being equal. I know family members with very good hygiene (better than me, honestly) who still have acne on their back and chest—and they don’t workout vigorously, either. So as with facial acne treatments, dealing with body acne may involve more than just switching up your cleansing routine according to the book. Here are some dermatologist and natural skin guru-recommended ways to get rid of body acne.
Wash after every workout with gently exfoliating cleanser.
Even if you love that creamy, rich body wash, it might not be doing you any favors when it comes to acne. Dermatologists recommend choosing a gently exfoliating cleanser that contains salicylic acid or glycolic acid to remove the dead skin and sebum that lead to congested, inflamed pores. Try Murad Acne Body Wash, which has salicylic acid as well as date seed powder and green tea extract to gently exfoliate and calm inflammation. Cruelty-free and Peta-approved.
Use a natural sea sponge
We’ve talked about the benefits of using a naturally antimicrobial, biodegradable sea sponge in the shower. Synthetic loofas and shower mitts have a short lifespan before it becomes a breeding ground for germs, and replacing them isn’t just costly—it’s also not environmentally friendly. On the other hand, all you need to get rid of any potential germs with a natural sea sponge is soaking it in a baking soda-water solution. For more due diligence, try drying it completely in direct sunlight every once in a while.
Moisturize with non-comedogenic, Omega-6-rich body oil
I’m a big fan of body oil over creams, because these don’t need to contain any binding agents or artificial preservatives. With less additives, your skin is less likely to react with redness or blemishes. Marie Veronique, French chemist-turned-beauty-mogul of her eponymous line, recommends moisturizing with Omega-6-rich oils, which are the closest to the skin’s own sebum and helps keep pores open and flowing. This Detox Body Oil by the Organic Pharmacy boasts sunflower seed oil (one of the richest sources of Omega-6), argan (non-comedogenic and quickly absorbing), carrot oil (vitamin A for cell turnover), rosehip oil (brightening UV damaged cells). Actually, because I deal with both body acne *and* extensive scars from falling down stairs every now and then, this oil sounds like heaven. Cruelty-free and no artificial ingredients.
Dry up blemishes with vegan yogurt
This is a trick I learned from Marie Veronique’s Acne Answer Book, which literally changed my life by giving me the *only* solution that worked against chronic (albeit mild) eczema on my chin. Getting rid of acne isn’t just a matter of killing all bacteria: it’s best accomplished by fostering good microbiome and reducing the bad. Put a thin layer of unsweetened vegan yogurt on your problem area over night. It dries out the ooziness, but also (magically) keeps your skin moisturized—all while rebalancing your skin microbiome. I use Forager’s Organic Unsweetened Cashew Yogurt, which also is delicious with fresh berries. Win-win!