Just when you thought you had acne under control, annoying bumps and breakouts pop up in the most unlikely places: on the chest and arms. Body acne can develop for many reasons and at any age. Learn how to effectively combat these breakouts.
Even after the acne-ridden years of adolescence are far behind you, the battle with blemishes may not be over. Many adults may experience breakouts on the face and beyond – developing unwanted bumps the chest arms and legs, too. Similar to facial acne, the main triggers behind body acne include excess oil production and clogged pores. These skin issues are brought on by physiological changes such as menopause and pregnancy or lifestyle factors like tight clothing and working out. Read on to learn more about the causes and treatments for adult body acne.
Although acne is most often associated with the face, it’s also common to experience breakouts on other parts of the body. But regardless of the location, the causes of adult acne are typically the same.
- Excess oil. Located in the skin, sebaceous glands produce sebum, an oil-like substance. Under normal circumstances, sebum protects the skin from dehydration, keeping it smooth and supple. The trouble starts when the sebaceous glands start working overtime and produce too much oil, which triggers unwanted breakouts. In larger areas such as the arms and chest, there are more sebaceous glands, increasing your chance for breakouts.
So what triggers the overproduction of oil in adult skin? Experts explain that hormonal imbalance is often to blame. For women, this most commonly occurs during life stages when hormones go haywire – including pregnancy, perimenopause and menopause.
- Clogged pores and bacterial buildup. Excess sebum can also cause dead skin cells to clump together and stick to the inside of pores, plugging the opening and creating the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. The result? Inflammation, whiteheads and blackheads.
In addition to overactive oil glands, clogged pores and bacterial buildup, other factors can increase your odds of developing acne on the chest and arms (or worsen existing body acne).
- Tight clothing. Pressure, friction and irritation from your clothes can exacerbate existing acne or irritate inflamed skin. So avoid tight clothes that constrict the skin or rub against it.
Also, keep in mind that some fabrics — especially synthetic fabrics — don’t "breathe" as well as others, preventing the moisture from properly evaporating from the skin. Opt for loose-fitting, breathable clothing that doesn’t constrict or trap moisture next to the skin. Cotton is one of the best fabrics for people prone to body breakouts.
- Damp or sweaty clothes. Whether you power-walk, hit the gym or play team sports, wearing your damp, sweaty clothing after vigorous activity is just asking for trouble: It creates the perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
- Long hair. Unfortunately, your long, luminous locks may be to blame for body acne. According to DermaNetwork, a Web site maintained by dermatologists and plastic surgeons, long hair (past the shoulders) can transfer oil and dirt to the shoulders, back, arms and chest, which can increase the risk for breakouts.
Banish body acne
The good news is that body acne is treatable. Here are several strategies for preventing and treating your breakouts.
In addition, if you suspect that hormonal imbalance due to menopause might be to blame, talk to your doctor about hormone therapy, which can help treat the occurrence of adult acne.
Bottom line – better skin
You’re never too old to experience clear, healthy skin from head to toe. By understanding the causes behind adult acne, you can more effectively adapt your skin care routine to target the triggers of your breakouts – whether it’s on the face, chest, back or elsewhere on the body.
Learn everything you need to know about acne-fighting skincare in our Complete Acne Handbook.