From your back to your chest to your bum, acne isn’t content with simply cropping up on your face. Discover 8 top tips and advice from the best skin experts on how they recommend tackling body acne
When it comes to treating spots on our face, it’s a conversation we’re used to having and the shelves are heaving with products to treat and also prevent acne scarring. But, knowing how to clear bacne and buttne is a slightly different kettle of fish — if you get spots on your back or chest, you'll know the struggle - but it’s not quite the open conversation that exists around acne.
Annoyingly summer and warm weather can make body acne worse, thanks to sweaty commutes, hot days in the sun and pore-clogging suncream. However, the irony is that summer is also when you’re more self-conscious of bacne and buttne as it’s when those areas of skin are more on show. Throw into the mix painful bum spots can be caused by blocked hair follicles thanks to too long spent in your favourite pair of workout leggings and this time of year buttne and bacne can be rife. Did you know your hair conditioner could also be a surprising culprit too? (By 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. Beauty Pie AcidEnzyme Exfoliating Face & Body Cleanser, £28.50 for members, £60 for non-members* is a great choice for a salicylic acid cleanser.
Carbon Theory’s charcoal and tea tree-infused soap bars have gone viral on TikTok for their “miracle” acne-busting powers and the brand's Exfoliating Body Bar, £7.69, contains added natural vitamin E beads to gently buff away dead skin cells. Beauty Kin's Clarifying Bar, £8.50, is infused with tamanu oil to address scarring, as well as salicylic acid, neroli (to fight redness) and soothing colloidal oat and rosehip. For best results, lather up with your chosen body bar and leave on for two minutes before rinsing.
Whatever you do though, don’t be tempted to slough away angry body blemishes with a gritty scrub. This will likely aggravate breakouts and up your chances of scarring. Instead go gently with a liquid exfoliant wash such as Mario Badescu AHA Botanical Body Soap, £8, 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 (immediately) 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 you are really pressed for time, Dr Sophie advises spraying your body with an antibacterial spray Clinisept Plus Aftercare, £14.50. It reduces bacteria levels in the skin and is particularly good post-gym if you can't change out of your workout gear immediately. Or try Luna Daily's Spray-To-Wipe, £10, a refreshing spritz that’s formulated by gynaecologists with thermal water, prebiotic actives and a vitamin complex to cleanse and nourish the skin barrier. Crucially, it's pH-balanced so is safe for use in intimate areas. Apply directly to the skin or onto toilet paper for a quick freshen-up on the go.
While exercise is beneficial for your skin on the whole, the resulting increase in sebum and bacteria, plus skin-tight sports bras and leggings (more on which later), are a warm and welcoming breeding ground for breakouts. 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, sweaty kit (we're all guilty of this). 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 , £33.90, 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 be sure to keep skin moisturised after use. Swap heavy body creams for something light, oil-free and easily absorbed - thick moisturisers can be occlusive and prevent the skin from breathing, trapping bacteria in the skin. Cerave's SA Smoothing Cream, £15, is a great, lightweight option.
Follow up with a similarly non-greasy sunscreen during the daytime - Bondi Sands Body Sunscreen Lotion SPF50+, £7.99*, 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 keep bacteria at bay during the day, Dr Stefanie rates the cooling, mattifying and lightly astringent powers of La Roche-Posay Serozinc spray, £11.50 for 150ml. Mist over chest and back, and dab on Clinique Clinical Anti-Blemish Solutions Clinical Clearing Gel , £19, 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: don't recycle that sports bra
Spanx and figure-hugging sportswear look great and all, but we all know they can harbour bacteria 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. “Wear breathable clothing as much as possible as occlusion can aggravate acne on the body,” Dr Stefanie adds.
We’re not talking coming to work in a kaftan every day, but as mentioned before, get out of your kit once your workout’s over (and straight into that shower) and never, ever, “recycle” your sports bra. 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, particularly on the chest and back, Dr Sophie suggests monitoring your dairy intake. "High dairy diets have been linked to acne. I'd also look at sugar consumption as this can be related to spots. It's not to say go completely sugar-free but think about cutting back."
7. Take supplements to support your skin
Nourishing your skin barrier from the inside out is the best way to support a healthy complexion all over. Try Advanced Nutrition Programme's Skin Youth Biome (improved formula), £61 for 60 capsules — the new improved formula of these skin boost-ing supps contain probiotics, postbiotics (bacteria by-products that our body needs) and vitamin C to support skin elasticity and overall health.
Meanwhile, Dr Sophie recommends ProClear by Zenii, £42.50 for 60 capsules, a more targeted product which contains zinc to help control 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. Plus, different kinds of body acne are caused by different things.
“I would always strongly encourage anybody suffering with breakouts to see a dermatologist to get started on treatment – before scarring occurs," Dr Stefanie says. "There are now highly effective treatments available, some of which can even switch acne off for good in the majority of patients.”
Look to blue LED light treatments specifically as it decreases bacterial load and inflammation, or peels, suggests Dr Sophie. "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."
The bum facial
Spotty botty getting you down? EF MediSpa has an ultra-luxe treatment for that. "While they may look like acne, butt spots are usually caused by folliculitis, a common condition for both women and men in which hair follicles can become blocked, inflamed and infected, leading to a spotty rash that can become very itchy at times," explains founder Esther Fieldgrass. So she created the Bikini Facial, a highly targeted bum facial with a three-pronged attack to zap away those pesky bum spots. First the skin is deep cleansed to remove impurities and any ingrown hairs, this is followed by a chemical peel containing tranexamic acid, mandelic acid and retinol to exfoliate the upper layer of the skin and finished with a session under an LED lamp to help repair the skin and reduce bacteria. A four-course treatment costs £1650.
The bacne treatment
Over in Fitzrovia, 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 £185 for one hour 20 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.