From clogged pores caused by not washing off shampoo properly to wearing tight clothes in humid weather, body acne can have many reasons behind it. We tell you all about them, and what you can do about it.
Your face is not the only place that can have sudden breakouts of pimples or blackheads. Acne can affect any part of your body that has oil-secreting glands or hair follicles, such as your upper back, chest, shoulders, upper arms and even your buttocks. Occurring alone or in combination with facial acne, these pimples are called body or truncal acne. “It has been seen that 50 percent people with facial acne have trunk involvement, and 3 percent had only body acne without facial acne,” says Dr Aanchal Panth, a Surat-based dermatologist with over ten years of experience.
If you are dealing with body acne and are bothered by it, know that you are not alone. According to a study published in European Neuropsychopharmacology in 2018, many people are embarrassed about their body acne and try to keep it covered all the time. You might feel self-conscious about wearing tank tops or putting on something with a low back or neckline. These feelings are completely normal. What’s more: body acne often goes unmentioned and untreated, even by people who are actively treating their facial acne, and this can lead to permanent marks or scarring. Although research on it is sparse, body acne is also treatable. If you are looking for the causes of acne and what you can do about it, we have some answers for you.
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Causes of Body Acne
1. Your body is reacting to acne-causing bacteria
Body acne has a similar pathology to facial acne. When oil or dead skin cells become trapped with a follicle or a pore, it can create a blockage, which forms blackheads. If the blackhead gets affected by a proliferation of acne-causing bacteria like Cutibacterium acnes, then it will take the form of an inflamed pimple. This is an altered immune response. “Unlike facial acne, which has excess oiliness as its main reason, body acne is considered to be mainly caused by the altered immune response,” says Dr Panth.
2. You are experiencing excess sebum production that clogs your pores
As the upper half of your body has many sebaceous glands, it can accumulate sebum (oil) and dead skin cells easily. Excess sebum production can happen because of:
● Hormonal imbalances, such as in puberty, during pregnancy, or because of PCOS
● Dehydration of the skin, caused by very hot showers, harsh soaps or too much exfoliation
● Application of comedogenic products like oil-based moisturisers on the acne prone areas, or not cleaning shampoo or conditioner properly off your body after washing your hair.
3. Your skin is inflamed due to friction from clothing
“Tight clothing, combined with a hot and humid climate and increased sweating are often the reason behind body acne,” says Dr Panth. Tight fitting clothes like athletic gear will rub against or put pressure on your skin, which when combined with sweat and heat, will cause your follicles to get inflamed, triggering an acne breakout.
4. Your diet has too much dairy, sugar or protein supplements
Many studies show that consuming too much of high-glycemic foods and beverages, which causes a blood sugar spike in your body making you more prone to inflammation can cause acne, while low-glycemic diets are good for controlling acne. Research from the American Academy of Dermatology also shows that those who drink 2 glasses of cow milk daily are 44 percent more likely to experience acne. “Protein supplementation, such as through whey protein, can also trigger body acne,” says Dr Panth.
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How to Treat Body Acne
1. Keep your skin clean
Taking good care of your skin daily is the first step to properly treat acne. Take a shower after a workout to prevent sweat from encouraging bacterial growth. “Do not use glycerin-based or harsh soaps to clean your body,” says Dr Panth. “Use syndet bars (a cleansing bar made of synthetic surfactants which are less alkaline than soap, making it more gentle on skin) , which have a pH value of 5.5, on affected areas. Wash off shampoo and conditioner properly from your back.” Also avoid using scrubs, harsh exfoliators or loofahs, which will damage the protective layer of your skin and might worsen the acne.
2. Use over the counter treatments
“If you are experiencing mild to moderate body acne, then using soaps with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid spray twice a day will improve the acne,” advises Dr Panth. These ingredients will help get rid of blemishes and prevent new ones from popping up. Topical retinoids can be applied to your skin at night to unclog pores and reduce the formation of acne scars.
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3. Don’t squeeze or pick at the pimples
Although it might be tempting, picking at or squeezing the acne lesions will only make things worse. You may end up breaking your skin’s protective barrier, causing spots and scars. If your pimple contains infected pus, as body acne sometimes does, then squeezing it might spread the bacteria to another follicle, causing a larger breakout.
4. Make some changes to your lifestyle
“Reducing sugar and milk products from your diet has often been found effective to reduce or prevent acne,” says Dr Panth. “Apart from this, you should try to wear light cotton clothes in summer as much as possible. Change your bedsheets on a weekly basis to avoid bacteria or dead cells from further clogging your pores.”
5. Visit a dermatologist
If self-care does not reduce your acne, then you need to go to a dermatologist to get it treated. “In severe cases, oral medications will be given to you to clear severe body acne,” says Dr Panth.
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