How to Avoid Body Acne Triggers

by Emily Linehan on June 19, 2020
Updated February 14, 2023

If you’re familiar with the term “bacne”, you likely already know how frustrating body acne can be. And while that term refers to acne on the back, breakouts can happen all over the body.

Whether you’re battling breakouts on the back, neck, chest, or anywhere else, it can be uncomfortable and challenging to deal with. Luckily, there are some ways to keep body acne at bay. So, keep reading to find out what causes body acne and how to get rid of it!

What Causes Body Acne

Like acne on the face, breakouts on the body are caused by a combination of excess sebum, dead skin cells, and bacteria that clog the pore. Similar to how the cause is the same, there are also several common factors that can trigger or worsen breakouts on the body. Here are the most common body acne triggers:

  • Stress and hormone fluctuations - If you have ever felt like you had more breakouts during stressful times, that’s no coincidence. This is because stress greatly affects our hormones and their effect on the skin. In response to stress, our endocrine system secretes increased levels of cortisol and androgens which escalate our production of sebum (the oil our skin produces). Because our skin’s natural oil is the food that acne bacteria need to grow and proliferate, stress literally adds fuel to the fire when it comes to acne breakouts. If you’re struggling with stress-induced acne, here are 10 Ways to Help Clear Stress Acne.
  • Using pore-clogging hair care or body products - If you find yourself struggling with body acne, hair care products are likely the main culprit. Many times, acne that forms along the forehead, close to our ears, neck, cheeks, back, and chest may be due to pore-clogging ingredients found in hair care products. Conditioners and leave-ins are big culprits of containing pore-clogging ingredients, especially those that contain coconut, argan, and Moroccan oils. It’s in your best interest to inspect your hair care products for any non-comedogenic ingredients. To make things easy, you can always reference our Acne-Safe Hair Care List.
  • Friction from clothing - Friction from a bra strap, sports bra, shoulder pads, or tight clothing can trigger breakouts called acne mechania. As the name implies, acne mechania is directly caused by “mechanical” means.
  • Sweating - While sweating is great for the body, hanging out in sweaty skin after workouts can lead to breakouts because it creates the perfect environment for acne bacteria to thrive. Not only does the salt in our sweat irritate the skin and exacerbate inflamed breakouts, but our sweat mixed with our oil and dead skin cells contributes to clogged pores. Also, acne bacteria need nutrients to thrive, and one of its favorites is water-soluble biotin, which is excreted through our urine and sweat. So, as we sweat, biotin becomes more concentrated, giving acne bacteria an excess of one of its key sustaining nutrients. This is a major trigger that keeps clients from clearing which is why it is important to shower ASAP and change into clean clothing after working out or sweating. If showering immediately after sweating is not possible, wiping down with fragrance-free baby wipes is second best and can minimize the breakouts (my favorite fragrance-free baby wipes are the Kirkland Fragrance-Free Baby Wipes or Water Wipes Baby Wipes). However, you will still want to shower as soon as possible for the best results.
  • Laundry Habits - From the towel you use to dry off after showering to the clothing you wear, there are two reasons your laundry habits could be sabotaging your skin. First, the fragrances and dyes in laundry detergent can be irritating to your pores creating an acneic response. Therefore, it is important to use fragrance & dye-free laundry detergents such as Tide Free and Gentle or All Free and Clear. Second, fabric softeners (dryer sheets & liquid fabric softener) leave a waxy residue on your laundry which will clog the pores and irritate the skin. So, you will want to avoid all fabric softeners, even unscented ones. In addition, wool balls naturally contain lanolin which is also very pore-clogging. So, if static cling is an issue, you can use Anti-Wrinkle and Anti-Static Dryer Balls. Learn more about how your laundry habits can trigger breakouts and additional tips here.

How to Clear Body Acne

If you find yourself struggling with body acne, I would first suggest making some changes to your hair products by checking out my list of acne-safe haircare products. You’ll also want to understand the other triggers mentioned above and adjust your habits accordingly. Aside from that, here is a tried and true body acne routine that I recommend -

  • In the Shower: Start with an acne-safe body wash. If the body acne is more stubborn or severe, you can use my medicated Clear Body Scrub, just be sure to only use it on the areas affected with body acne. Additionally, you will want to make sure you rinse the conditioner out of your hair before you use your body wash so that the residue from the conditioner does not remain on the skin. So, after rinsing the conditioner, put your hair up in a bun and then use your body wash to wash your back and/or other affected areas.
  • Morning Routine: After showering in the daytime, apply Clarifying Serum on the affected areas and follow with an acne-safe body lotion.
  • Night Routine: At night, after showering, you can apply Acne Eraser to the affected areas on the back. If you continuously have new breakouts forming, apply the Acne Eraser to the whole area to clear the active acne and prevent new breakouts. Just make sure you wear a white t-shirt to bed when applying the Acne Eraser to the body as it will bleach fabrics.
  • Neck and Décolleté Special Treatment: Avoid using the Clarifying Serum and Acne Eraser on the neck as it can be too irritating for that delicate skin. You can, however, use the Clarifying Serum on the décolleté, which doubles as a very anti-aging/brightening treatment! If you are treating the décolleté or neck, I also recommend spot treating with The Pink Potion since it is gentle enough for the sensitive skin on those areas.

Staying consistent with these tips will ensure that you'll be on your way to clear, smooth, even-toned skin you’ll want to show off!

xoxo, Emme

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