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How to get rid of chest and back acne

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Having acne (or any other irritating skin condition or type of stressed out skin) can be upsetting and stressful and cause you all kinds of emotional problems as well as the physical effects of constantly battling against spots and acne breakouts.

Acne can cause us to become so upset with our skin, so much so that we can begin to withdraw from social events and become anxious or depressed about our skin.

Trust us, we know. Being acne sufferers ourselves, we know what it is it to have skin that lets us down. (That’s why we developed our range of skin supporting cleansers and moisturisers featuring plant based, natural ingredients and alkalising silica salts. And we know they work, we’re living proof!)

But until now in this article, we’d be forgiven for just talking about the acne that affects the skin on our faces. However, acne can affect other parts of the body, namely the chest and the back, and cause just as must distress and upset.

So for the rest of this article, we’re going to talk about chest and back acne - what causes them and how we can best treat them.

What does chest and back acne look like?

If you have acne prone skin on your face, you also have a higher chance of developing the condition on your chest and back. In fact, according to the NHS, around 15% of people with facial acne also have acne on their chest and more than half of acne sufferers also have back acne.

Acne develops where the sebaceous glands, that secrete the oily substance sebum (that we need for keeping our skin well hydrated), are more concentrated - this is the face, chest, shoulders and back.

Wherever acne develops, it will look the same and will appear as whiteheads, blackheads, red bumps called papules, pus filled pustules and cysts, angry looking, large pus filled lumps that can have a yellow appearance due to a build up of pus. You may experience some of these types of acne spots, or a mix of all of them.

Acne prone skin on the chest and back can also feel hot to the touch and look red and angry and may feel tender or painful if you touch it.

What causes check and back acne?

Acne on the chest or the back is generally caused by the same factors as the acne that you might also suffer on your face. One of the most common causes is our hormones.

The male hormones, a group of hormones called androgens, are generally responsible for the development of acne. They’re present in both male and female bodies and if they’re circulating around the body in high levels, they can signal to the sebaceous glands to produce more sebum.

This overproduction of sebum can get trapped in the pores, causing a blockage and trapping dirt, old makeup, dead skin cells, pollution and skin bacteria inside. This blockage then leads to the development of the different types of acne spots mentioned above.

Going through puberty, having your period, being pregnant or going through the perimenopause or the menopause all cause fluctuations in our levels of hormones, including the male androgen hormones. This is why you might notice your chest or back acne (or both) getting worse around these times.

Quite often, acne has genetic links too. If one or both of your parents have or had acne, then you’ll have more chance of also having the condition.

Sweat and friction can also lead to acne, particularly on the back. Exercising and not showering afterwards can lead to pore blockages and acne spots, as can wearing manmade fabrics such as polyester that don’t allow the skin to breathe. (Opt for natural fabrics such as cotton, linen and hemp instead.)

Wearing a rucksack or tight fitting clothing can also cause trauma to the skin by friction and lead to the development of acne on the chest and back.

What treatments are there for chest and back acne?

Just like treating the acne that affects our faces, here at Sond, we truly believe in the power of a holistic approach to treating chest and back acne.

Eating a healthy, balanced diet rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, good fats and lean proteins, and keeping processed, high saturated fat, high salt, high sugar foods to a minimum will help to support healthy skin.

You can also help to give your skin the best chance of being happy by taking regular exercise (and showering soon afterwards to remove pore clogging sweat), staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water, getting enough nourishing sleep and avoiding stress as much as possible.

All of these things support the skin, but if you have acne prone skin, then it won’t cure your skin of being susceptible to acne breakouts. Instead, they will help to keep the skin healthy and nourished, and less likely to suffer acne spots and breakouts.

It’s also important to get your skin care right, too. Just like the skin on our faces, the skin on our chest and back can be sensitive to harsh, chemical ingredients, so using natural body washes and moisturisers will help. Body washes that contain tea tree oil can be effective at managing chest and back acne.

Exfoliating with a gentle exfoliating body sponge or using a body product that contains the exfoliating ingredient salicylic acid can also help to clear the pores. Don’t be too vigorous and only aim to exfoliate once or twice a week.

Sometimes, long hair can contribute to acne on the chest or back, especially if your hair is oily or you use oils and serums in your hair. Aim to keep long hair tied up and away from these areas.

If you’re doing all of these holistic things to support your skin, and you’re using skin care products that are designed for your type of skin, you may need to go down the medical route to help treat your chest and back acne.

There are certain medications and medicated topical products that can help manage chest and back acne.

Benzoyl peroxide is available from pharmacies in the form of lotions and creams. Use these with care and only on the affected area as they can dry the skin. Skin products that contain retinoids, a derivative of vitamin A can also be effective but again can cause irritation and dryness.

Sometimes, oral antibiotics can help to kill the common skin bacteria that can lead to acne on the chest or back. Some women also find that taking the oral contraceptive pill helps to manage their acne symptoms by helping to regulate hormone levels.

With a little bit of trial and error, you can get your chest or back acne under control and feel happier in your own skin again!


Hannah de Gruchy BSc(Hons)

About Author

Hannah de Gruchy is a freelancer writer who specialises in health and wellness. She has a keen interest in the biology of skin and loves using her words to help separate the real science of skincare from the pseudoscience of some skincare brands. Hannah has a degree in Human Biology and many years’ experience working in laboratories around London. Using this experience, Hannah enjoys turning complex science into interesting, engaging and easy to digest pieces to read. In her spare time, Hannah runs, practices yoga and loves cooking plant based foods.

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