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. Regardless of where they appear, breakouts can be frustrating, painful and a source of anxiety. Because not all acne is created equally, 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 | Pimples On Waistline

What Is Body Acne?

Much like it sounds, body acne refers to breakouts that occur anywhere other than the face, including the back, neck, chest, shoulders, arms or anywhere else. 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), its common on the torso, 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 body breakouts. 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 off thoroughly with a clean towel

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

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. 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 also 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. Less moisture on the skin can actually cause oil glands 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. 

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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 of the Clear Skin Probiotic Mask: “I couldn’t believe how much better my skin looked after just using it two or three 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.”

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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 “bacne.”

Now that you know how to get rid of acne on your neck, back and shoulders, we want to talk about pimples on your waistline. This is rarely talked about, but pimples frequently have been known to show up on the waistline because of tight clothing or other variables. Let’s look at this next.

How To Get Rid Of Pimples On Your Waistline

Sometimes we’re stuck with dealing with unexpected pimples, not just on our face but also on our waistline. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know:

Causes of Pimples On Your Waistline

Tight-Fitting Clothing

Tight-fitting clothing, such as workout gear and gym attire, can contribute to skin issues due to increased sweat and friction. When these garments hug the body closely, they trap sweat against the skin, creating a moist environment that can clog pores and encourage bacterial growth. Additionally, the constant friction from tight fabrics can irritate the skin, leading to the formation of pimples, particularly around the waistline. This combination of sweat, bacteria, and friction disrupts the skin’s natural balance, often resulting in breakouts in areas where the clothing fits most snugly. To minimize these effects, it’s essential to choose breathable, moisture-wicking fabrics and to shower promptly after workouts.

SLSs in Shampoos & Shower Washes

Sodium Lauryl Sulfates (SLSs), commonly found in shampoos and shower washes, can be harsh on the skin. These ingredients are effective cleansers but can strip away the natural oils from the skin, leading to dryness and irritation. When the skin becomes overly dry and irritated, it can trigger an overproduction of oil, which clogs pores and causes pimples.

Damp, Unclean Sponges & Loofahs

Using damp, unclean sponges and loofahs can significantly contribute to skin problems. These items can harbor bacteria, mold and mildew when they are not properly cleaned and dried after each use. When used on the skin, they transfer these microorganisms, leading to infections and clogged pores. The friction from scrubbing with contaminated sponges and loofahs further irritates the skin, resulting in breakouts.

Laundry Detergent Residue

Residue from laundry detergents left on clothing can also be a hidden culprit in skin irritation and pimples. Many detergents contain fragrances, dyes and harsh chemicals that can linger in fabric fibers after washing. When these clothes come into contact with the skin, especially in areas where there is friction or sweat, they can cause allergic reactions, rashes, and breakouts. Opting for hypoallergenic, fragrance-free detergents and ensuring a thorough rinse cycle can help mitigate these effects.

For product recommendations, watch Natalie outline the best products for treating pimples on the waistline below.

Understanding these various causes is crucial in identifying the right approach to treat and prevent pimples on your waistline.

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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