Body Acne: How To Get Rid Of Breakouts On Your Back, Chest & Shoulders


While acne breakouts on the face tend to steal the spotlight, there’s a good chance that if you’ve experienced acne on your face, pimples have also popped up south of your chin. Here’s a breakdown of what causes body blemishes, how they can differ from facial acne and some effective strategies for treating them.

What Is Body Acne? | What Causes Body Acne? | How To Treat Body Acne 

What Is Body Acne?

Body acne is acne that occurs on parts of the body other than the face, such as the back, neck, chest, shoulders, arms or any other area where pimples can emerge. These breakouts are classified similarly to acne on your face. They are often accompanied by oily skin, scarring and blackheads. While body acne can appear anywhere (aside from oil-free zones on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet), it tends to show up most commonly on the back, chest and shoulders where there is a higher density of hair follicles and oil-and-sweat-producing glands. To make matters worse, the pores and hair follicles on your body are much larger than those found on your face and the skin on your back is extremely thick. These factors heighten the potential for dirt and oil to become trapped, block pores and cause breakouts.

How To Improve The Appearance Of Back, Shoulder & Chest Acne

Eminence Organics Lead Skin Care Trainer Natalie Pergar tells us that the primary causes of body and facial acne are in sync: “Body acne is caused by the same factors as facial acne – bacteria, overactive oil glands and excess dead skin cells.” As with facial acne, oil and dead skin cells block a pore, mix with acne-causing bacteria and trigger an immune response that presents as pimples, blackheads, redness, cysts or a combination of these. There are a few additional factors that contribute to breakouts on your back, chest and shoulders. These include:

1. Shampoo & Conditioner

Believe it or not, keeping clean can actually contribute to body acne. As you rinse shampoo and conditioner from your scalp, the oils and other ingredients from your hair products can run down your back and clog pores. And the location of body breakouts doesn’t help. Unless you’re an expert contortionist, it’s likely that you’re missing patches of hair product during your daily scrub. A few tips to keep in mind:

Rinse shampoo and conditioner off to the side
Wash your body after your hair care ritual to make sure you catch any lingering residue
Use a clean body brush to access hard-to-reach spots
Dry the area thoroughly with a clean towel after your shower

2. Sweaty & Tight-fitting Workout Wear

One of the most common contributors to body acne is sweaty, tight-fitting clothing. While they can be great for the gym, clingy fabrics trap sweat and bacteria on the skin, which can lead to clogged pores and body breakouts. Natalie adds: “When acne affects the body, it’s also good to note that the rubbing of clothing and sports equipment can add to irritation due to the extra heat and sweat.” The best way to tackle this trigger: Opt for loose-fitting workout wear when possible and remove it (and hit the showers) immediately after you hit the gym.

3. Dirty Shower Accessories

Dirty shower accessories can quickly undo the good done by your daily cleanse. Wet loofahs, damp towels and moist bath brushes are a breeding ground for bacteria which can compromise clear skin. You should always allow time between uses for your tools to dry, use a clean face towel each time and if you’re using a loofah, you’ll need to replace it every three weeks. Better yet, if you like manual exfoliation, ditch the loofah altogether and use one of our body scrubs. 

Body Acne Infographic

How To Treat Back, Shoulder & Chest Acne

Body breakouts may be caused by the same triggers as problem skin on the face, but they can be more challenging to improve. Because hair follicles and pores are spaced further apart, the skin tends to be tougher in these areas, making it difficult for topical products to penetrate the skin and work as quickly as they do for problem skin on the face.

Below, we’ve gathered the best ways you can adjust your body care routine to battle the look of breakouts on your back, shoulders, chest and beyond. Before you dive in, you can also watch this video from Natalie on how to reduce the look of problem skin in these areas:


1. Avoid Creamy Body Wash

The skin on your back has more sweat and oil gland activity than elsewhere on the body, but it also happens to be the area that is least thoroughly cleansed. Due to the difficulty in reaching inaccessible spots like the skin between your shoulder blades, oil, dead skin, sweat and dirt easily build up and clog pores. For starters, Natalie advises avoiding ultra-creamy body washes and choosing treatments that contain potent ingredients like salicylic acid, glycolic acid (an AHA that dissolves dead skin cells to prevent spots) or lactic acid (a gentle AHA that helps smooth skin and prevent pimples). Cleansers designed to treat acne on the face are safe and effective on the chest, back and arms. Try the Acne Advanced Cleansing Foam or the Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Cleanser. If you have sensitive skin, try the Kombucha Microbiome Foaming Cleanser as it gives you a gentler approach to cleansing. GQ also recommends using a long-handled cleansing sponge or body brush to help reach every nook and cranny.

Cleansers designed to help the appearance of breakouts on the face are safe and effective on the chest, back and arms. Try the Acne Advanced Cleansing Foam or the Mangosteen Daily Resurfacing Cleanser. If you have sensitive skin, try the Kombucha Microbiome Foaming Cleanser as it gives you a gentler approach to cleansing. GQ also recommends using a long-handled cleansing sponge or body brush to help reach every nook and cranny.

2. Moisturize — Lightly

While it may seem counterintuitive to add moisture to already oily and acne-prone skin, it’s a skin care step you can’t skip — even when dealing with body acne. It’s counterintuitive, but less moisture can cause the skin to produce more pore-clogging sebum in an effort to stay lubricated. Keeping your skin’s moisture barrier intact is essential to lock in hydration as well as protect your pores from bacteria and other acne-causing irritants. Yet, not all moisturizers are made equal. Like your body wash, you’ll want to steer clear of rich creams designed for dry skin and, instead, choose a lightweight lotion that will keep your skin hydrated and its oil balance in check. Natalie recommends the Clear Skin Probiotic Moisturizer to clear the appearance of problem skin, while minimizing the look of clogged pores. 

3. Spot Treat Blemishes

The same spot treatments you apply to your face can be used for your back, chest and shoulders. Experts agree that products that contain acne-fighting salicylic acid are your best bet against body blemishes; this superstar ingredient not only clears clogged pores but also helps prevent breakouts from recurring. With regular use, it has the power to keep skin clear and breakout-free for good. Plus: Unlike benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid is extremely gentle and will not bleach fabric. When choosing the right spot treatment, we recommend reaching for products with a light but creamy consistency that can be easily spread across your back, chest and shoulders.

How salicylic acid exfoliates & unclogs pores

For spot treatments, you should try the Charcoal & Black Seed Clay Masque to draw out impurities and leave the skin feeling refreshed. In addition, the Acne Advanced Clarifying Masque is a two-in-one mask that uses potent ingredients to help reduce the look of current blemishes and prevent the appearance of future breakouts. Another great option to help the look of your blemishes is the Clear Skin Probiotic Masque. 

One customer, Megan, says of the mask: “I couldn’t believe how much better my skin looked after just using 2 or 3 times. I’m obsessed. I have oily, combo skin and it helps hydrate as well as reduce the redness. My skin also feels so soft after. It certainly feels like a spa treatment. Couldn’t be happier with my purchase.”

4. Fade Dark Marks

The skin on your back, being more resilient and having a slower cell turnover than facial skin, tends to heal more slowly. This slower healing process heightens the risk of scarring from body acne and prolongs the fading of dark spots. The tendency of back skin to heal slowly and be more prone to scarring makes it especially important not to pick, squeeze or scratch at spots. If you do give in to the urge, counteract the effects by promptly applying a serum like the Bright Skin Licorice Root Booster-Serum. This serum helps the skin appear brighter and balances the look of congestion in the pores.

5. Schedule A Back Facial

Acne facials aren’t just for the face. In fact, many spas and salons now offer back facials to specifically target the hard-to-reach spots you can’t tackle at home. Not only do these professional treatments clean your skin at a deeper level, but they also include professional-strength exfoliation and extractions to encourage skin cell turnover and clear clogged pores. 

If you’re concerned about back acne, watch Natalie in this In The Mix video explaining how to help the look of “backne.”

Keen to learn more about body acne? Visit our spa locator and find out more at your nearest authorized Eminence Organics Spa Partner. 

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