What Causes Body Acne, And 7 Ways To Get Rid Of It For Good

Acne. No matter how hard you fight it or how long you’ve been out of high school, these blemishes can pop up unexpectedly and often (and, usually, at the most inconvenient time.) And it isn’t limited to you face, sending people on a never-ending search for ways to get rid of body acne.

And although you may think you’re alone in the body acne battle, you’re not. According to the National Institute of Arthritis, Musculoskeletal, and Skin Disease, an estimated 80 percent of people have acne outbreaks between the ages of 11 and 30.  And some lucky individuals continue to deal with the blemishes well into their 40s and beyond. (Dang, Mother Nature. Can I live?)

But as annoying as these blemishes may be, they aren't a reason to panic as there are many ways to get rid of body acne. You may need to switch up your cleansing routine, do a little more laundry, or even visit your dermatologist, but the extra effort is worth it if it means clearing up your acne for good.

What Is Body Acne?

But before you embark on a battle with your body acne, it’s important to know what it is you’re fighting. To get the 411 on blemishes, I enlisted the expertise of board-certified dermatologists Sandy Johnson and Michele Green.

To start, Johnson notes that there are two main types of body acne. The first is yeast acne, which, “consists of tiny pimples and sometimes occurs when taking oral steroids or antibiotics.” The yeast pityrosporum is a normal inhabitant on the skin, and it usually doesn’t cause any trouble. But according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, when an overgrowth of pityrosporum yeast occurs, it may irritate your hair follicles and cause acne eruptions. Basically, your body acne may be a result of pissed-off hair follicles brought on by too much skin yeast. Excellent.

The second variety, acne vulgaris, comes in the form of larger bumps, according Johnson. The Mayo Clinic further explains that acne vulgaris is caused by hair folliclesthat have been plugged up with dead skin cells and oil. When this happens, the skin eruptions we all know and hate abound. Today’s lesson: hair follicles have no chill. 

What Causes Body Acne?

One may assume acne is a result of poor hygiene, but  Johnson and Green say a number of factors can contribute to these unwanted blemishes. Johnson says genetic and your environment play a large part in the development of acne. But ultimately, these factors have one thing in common.

“The main causes of body [acne] are hormonal,” Green says. She adds that when a patient comes in complaining of acne, her first step is to “investigate if there is a hormonal reason, such as polycystic ovary syndrome, underlying the breakouts in the body.”

So to sum up, having body acne does not mean that you are an unclean person. It may actually mean that something is slightly off with your hormones.

How to Prevent Body Acne

Now that you know the basic terminology and causes, here are some ways to get rid of body acne.


Dress for Skin Success

Dermologica emphasizes that you should let your skin breathe. Try to opt for natural fibers in your everyday wardrobe. When you work out, choose fabrics that wick moisture away from the skin.


Change Your Sheets

So it looks like all those dead skin cells and dust mites on pillows can aggravate your skin condition. (Protip: Do not Google pictures of dust mites. You may never sleep again.) Putting on fresh sheets every week or two might help clear your body acne. Making your bedroom less dirty is also a good idea, and not just because it keeps your skin acne-free.


Shower Enough (But Not Too Much)

A daily shower with gentle cleanser, particularly right after you have worked up a sweat, is a great way to keep your pores from becoming clogged.

“Exercise and sweat is another common cause of acne on the body,” Green says. “Most people exercise and don’t think about cleaning immediately afterwards.” To prevent post-workout breakouts, Green recommends using a salicylic acid cleanser or glycolic acid pads immediately after exercise. She also adds that several patients have benefited from using benzoyl peroxide, either in the form of a body wash or a leave-on drying agent to help clear the body acne.

But if you shower too often, scrub too hard, or use water that is too hot, you may actually exacerbate your body acne. So when it’s time to scrub down, take the Goldilocks approach: not too much and not too little.  


Look For Acne-Fighting Ingredients

Just as you read food labels, you should read wash and lotion labels to make sure they contain acne fighting ingredients.  The first ingredient to keep an eye on in zinc. An essential micronutrient, some studies have suggested a correlation between zinc deficiency and acne. A topical zinc solution may help fight bacteria that cause acne.

Next, seek out products with salicylic acid. This old standby can help to unclog pores and prevent excess shedding of skin cells. You can find salicylic acid in just about any form, such as lotions, cleansers, and creams. Finally, tea tree oil is an antiseptic that may help fight the bacteria that cause acne. Here are three tea tree oil recipes to help you get rid of acne. Just don’t eat the stuff. Seriously, don’t!



The middle-of-the-road path is the best way to approach exfoliation. In an article for the American Academy of Dermatology, board-certified dermatologist Mary P. Lupo said individuals with non-inflammatory acne may benefit from regular exfoliation. But, she noted,  individuals with inflammatory acne, which includes papules and pustules, should consult with a dermatologist prior to attempting exfoliation.


Get a Bacial

Yes, bacials are a thing. They are presented as a facial for the back and involve the usual cleansing and exfoliating routines of a facial. So if body acne is cramping your style, your local spa may be able to help out.  


See a Dermatologist

If the above tips are ineffective, it may be time to bring out the big guns.

Your dermatologist can take a deeper look into the cause of your body acne and provide more thorough treatments than what’s available at your local drugstore.

Images: Courtesy of Boggy/Fotolia; Lisa Widerberg, Wicker Paradise, espensorvik, Nick Webb, Steve Johnson, PortoBay Hotels & Resorts, audio-luci-store/ Flickr