How to Beat Body Breakouts Once and For All

By Jenn Rose Smith

Swimsuit season is upon us, and with it comes a special sort of terror for those who suffer from chest and back acne. But don’t worry — there’s still time to clear this pesky issue up before summer. We met up with Dr. Rachel Gordon, a dermatologist at North Dallas Dermatology, to talk about what causes body breakouts and how to put a stop to them once and for all. “There’s nothing better than watching the change in a person’s sense of self as they become increasingly comfortable and confident in their skin,” says Rachel of her practice. Read on for her tips on how to beat body breakouts and have your best summer yet:

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Are there fundamental differences between the acne that happens on your face and the body acne that happens on your chest and back?

Both are essentially caused by the same things, with some minor differences. Both face and body acne can be caused by blocked pores. The face, chest and back are all areas of the skin where we have a lot of sebaceous (or oil) glands. These oil glands are connected to hair follicles which leave our skin through our pores. The pores become blocked or congested with dead skin cells/sebum from the oil glands and the bacteria that is part of our healthy skin flora. The bacteria live off of the sebum, then digest it to form proteins that trigger inflammation.

One difference between face and body acne is that facial acne (especially for women in their late 20s – 30s) can be more driven by hormonal changes, while acne on the trunk is more often influenced by occlusion.

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In your experience, what are the most effective ways to treat/prevent body acne? 

Check out these 4 all natural methods below for clearer skin on your chest and back:


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Change up your workout wear, and get out of it ASAP after you finish a workout.

One of the most important things you want to do is to limit occlusion, or mechanical pore blockage. This is influenced by the kind of clothes we wear, i.e. workout gear. Get out of those sweaty, tight clothes and shower off when your workout is over, and avoid wearing a back pack for the same reason. This environment also produces friction which can irritate hair follicles and cause folliculitis which looks a lot like acne.

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Start using an anti-bacterial body wash.

Wash with an anti-bacterial body wash a few times a week. My favorites are panoxyl (I go for the 4% over the 10% because it is less drying) and Dial soap – these are both over-the counter and very affordable. It’s a way to cut down on the amount of normal bacterial living on our skin. They may be a little more drying than your usual body wash, so don’t use them everyday and cut back if you have dryness/irritation.

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Gently exfoliate.

Let your skin soak to loosen up the top most layers of skin cells and then scrub (gently) with a loofa or wet wash cloth. You could also use natural salts or an exfoliating wash. The trick is to not overdo it – that would only irritate your skin. The goal is to remove the top layers of already dead skin cells that are ready to come off that could otherwise stick around to block follicles.

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Change up your diet.

Take a closer look at what you’re consuming. Cutting out dairy may be something to consider. The pilosebaceous unit (where acne arises) responds to various types of hormones; milk products do contain testoserone precursors that get converted to hormones that could have a comedogenic effect. In addition to this, high glycemic index foods can raise levels of hormones that increase sebaceous gland activity.