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Bacne treatment: 8 steps skin doctors take to manage body breakouts

June 25th 2021 / Anna Hunter / 0 comment


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From your back to your chest to your bum, acne isn’t content with simply cropping up on your face. Here's how top dermatologists recommend tackling body acne

We're well-versed on how to treat spots on our face, but bacne treatment is a different kettle of fish. If you get spots on your back or chest, you'll know the struggle.

In summer body acne is likely to be worsening (and more on show) thanks to sweaty environments and sitting in our gym kit after a home workout. At any time of year, hair conditioner can be a surprising culprit too, leaving cloggy build-up on our backs. To get a handle on your bacne, buttne or 'boobne' (bit of a long shot there), consider one of the following strategies.

1. Shower, but don’t scrub

Clearly you cleanse every day, but if body acne is an issue, your skin will need more of a helping hand than that litre of family body wash lurking in the shower. Turn to a medicated, targeted wash or bar containing exfoliating salicylic acid, which stimulates healthy cell turnover while calming inflammation.

Use a salicylic acid cleanser on the affected areas, either applied with a soft body brush or have someone help you to apply it. "We often only wash our back with water and using the right products can make a real difference," says Dr Sophie Shotter of Illuminate Skin Clinic in Kent. CeraVe's SA Smoothing Cleanser, £9, for face and body is a good budget choice for a salicylic acid cleanser.

Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Bar for Face and Body, £17, contains 2 per cent salicylic acid to zap bacteria, alongside glycerin to ensure that skin is left soft, not stripped. For a budget-friendly option try the Carbon Theory Body Bar, £5.


Whatever you do though, don’t be tempted to slough away angry body blemishes with a gritty scrub. This will likely aggravate acne and up your chances of scarring, so instead go gently with a liquid exfoliant wash such as Mario Badescu AHA Botanical Body Soap, £7.95, which contains sebum and dead skin cell gobbling papaya and grapefruit extracts alongside oat protein to soothe. It does contain SLS, however, so steer clear if you know that that’s problematic for your skin. Otherwise, sud up.


2. Rinse off your conditioner and then wash your back

How you shower may even be important - Kendall Jenner's dermatologist Christie Kidd said that washing your body while your conditioner gets to work on your hair, and then washing away the conditioner, will undo all that body cleansing and leave an oily residue on your back. Instead, the derm advises rinsing conditioner away first before giving your body a thorough wash. Who knew?

3. Wash after workouts

Another seemingly obvious point, but one that dermatologist Dr Stefanie Williams can’t emphasise enough if you’re battling body acne:

“One really important step is to shower straight after a workout. Don’t travel home and leave it until later- wash your skin thoroughly at the gym.” If the showers at your gym aren't open at the moment, Dr Sophie advises spraying your body with antibacterial spray Clinisept +, £14.99. It reduces bacteria levels in the skin and is particularly good post-gym if you can't change out of your workout gear immediately.

While exercise is beneficial for your skin on the whole, the resulting increase in sebum and bacteria, plus skin tight sports bras and the like (more on that later), are a warm and welcoming breeding ground for acne. Add in sunscreen and summer weather and spots can spread like wildfire. To avoid this, wash skin as above and never sit around in damp kit (we've definitely been guilty of this after working out at home recently).

Even if you’re workouts are water-based, they can still up the potential pimple potential, as chlorine can trigger inflammation and dryness, meaning that skin goes into sebum overdrive. Wash and gently exfoliate post pool session, then treat acne-affected areas accordingly...

4. Spot treat

Giving your bum a facial may seem unrealistic, but applying skincare principles to your body can be the key to clearing up body acne attacks.

Be aware that treatment can depend on the area of your body suffering, for instance, skin is very thin and likely to be more sensitised in the décolletage area, while the skin barrier on your back is thicker, so can be more responsive to potent treatments such as retinol.

Murad Clarifying Body Spray, £36, can be applied to any bodily breakouts pre-moisturizer (it has a genius directional nozzle) spritzing skin with clarifying salicylic and glycolic acid along with all-rounder skin barrier preserving niacinamide.


Go easy at first as it can be drying and don’t neglect hydration. Veto heavy body creams and opt for something light, oil-free and easily absorbed. Thick moisturisers can be occlusive and not let the skin breathe, trapping bacteria in the skin. Cerave's SA Smoothing Cream, £11.99, is a good, lightweight option according to Dr Sophie.

Follow up with a similarly non-greasy sunscreen during the daytime- Bioderma Photoderm Max Spray SPF 50+, £17.50, provides high levels of UVA and UVB protection without the slimy film and acne angering formulation that puts so many sufferers off wearing sunscreen altogether.

To freshen up and keep bacteria at bay during the day, Dr Stefanie rates the cooling, mattifying and lightly astringent powers of La Roche-Posay Serozinc spray, £7.50 for 150ml.


Mist over chest and back, and dab on Clinique Clinical Anti-Blemish Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel, £22, if any isolated zits are rearing their heads. I swear by this stuff for shrinking even volcanic acne outbreaks, although if you do apply during the day always follow with SPF, as the high salicylic acid content will make the skin more susceptible to burning.

5. Anti-blemish attire

Spanx and figure-hugging sportswear can foster spots like nothing else, especially if chafing is a factor. Acne mechanica can occur when clothing rubs against your skin and causes irritation, plus heavy fabrics aren’t helping, as Dr Stefanie highlights:

“Make sure to wear breathable clothing as occlusion may aggravate acne on the body.”

We’re not talking coming to work in a kaftan but get out of your kit once your workout’s over (and straight into that shower) and never “recycle” your sports bra, ever.

The same levels of cleanliness go for your sheets and pillows, especially during warm spring and summer nights. Wash bedding regularly using a detergent designed for sensitive skin.

6. Cut back on dairy and sugar

If you're experiencing a lot of body breakouts Dr Sophie suggests monitoring your dairy intake; "High dairy diets are linked with acne. I'd also look at sugar consumption as this is often related to spots. It's not to say go completely sugar-free but think about cutting back."

7. Take supplements to support your skin

Sophie recommends trying ProClear by Zenii, £50 for 60 capsules. It contains zinc and is effective in controlling breakouts. "Because it's in supplement form it works all over your body better than a topically applied product," she says.

8. Go see a pro

If your off-piste acne simply isn’t shifting despite lifestyle and bedding changes, it may be time to turn to a derm, especially if long-term damage is a concern. Take it from Dr Stefanie

“I would always strongly encourage anybody suffering with breakouts to see a dermatologist to get started on treatment – before scarring occurs. There are now highly effective treatments available, some of which can even switch acne off for good in the majority of patients. Above all, please never feel you’re a time-waster. The only possible waste is the time you’ve spent feeling distressed.”

Fitzrovia clinic Pfeffer Sal offers a treatment specifically for acne on your back, named Back to Front. It targets acne, scarring, blackheads and uneven texture with a peel, extractions and LED treatment to target bacteria and take down inflammation, as well as a massage for a relaxing element. It costs £150 for one hour 15 minutes and our tester said it was the best treatment of her life thanks to the combo of deep relaxation and impressive spot-clearing results.

Dr Sophie recommends clients with body breakouts try blue light LED treatments as it decreases bacterial load and inflammation, or peels. "Peels contain acid to exfoliate, clear and unblock clogged pores and increase cell turnover," she explains. "These don't work overnight but can deliver great results in the longer term."




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