Body acne: Know what it is, and ways to treat the skin condition

Jennifer E. Engen

Acne is one of the most common skin issues people face, but that doesn’t make it any less hassling. It occurs when hair follicles get clogged with oil and dead skin cells.

But, it is essential to know that acne is not just limited to the face. Sometimes, it can also occur on the body, causing discomfort, and if acute, pain. If you are someone who gets acne on their body as well, it is important to understand the causes behind it to keep it away.

Celebrity fitness trainer Yasmin Karachiwala, who trains the likes of Katrina Kaif, Vaani Kapoor, and Sophie Choudry, among others, recently shared a video on her Instagram account wherein she talked about body acne, listing its causes and possible treatments. She cited ‘genetic, hormonal imbalances, oil massage, sweat during workouts or in the heat, protein supplements and anabolic steroids’ as some of the causes of body acne.

Dr Nivedita Dadu, dermatologist and founder of Dadu Medical Centre in Delhi, said: “Body acne is caused by the same factors that trigger facial acne, such as overactive oil glands, excess dead skin cells, and a proliferation of acne-causing bacteria. When oil and dead skin cells become trapped within the follicle or the pores of the skin, it can create a blockage. This blockage becomes a blackhead and can progress to an inflamed pimple if bacteria invade.”

She added that body acne is more common in people who sweat a lot and experience more pressure or occlusion by way of clothing. “Rapid hormonal changes such as pregnancy, menopause, and perimenopause can also contribute to body acne as oil glands become hyperactive during these transitional periods,” she said.

If you are somebody who has body acne, Dr Dadu suggests the following ways to treat it:

  • Use products that contain hydroxy acids like salicylic acid or glycolic acid. These cleansing agents are effective for exfoliating skin and treating severe acne.
  • Look for an over-the-counter product that contains an alpha hydroxy acid, like glycolic acid or lactic acid. Alpha hydroxy acids help to speed cell turnover, rapidly exfoliate the skin, and reduce the number of pore blockages.
  • Choose a body wash that contains hydroxy acid or benzoyl peroxide to target the growth of bacteria, dead skin buildup, and excessive oil production.
  • Add a medicated treatment lotion or spray to treat body acne. Choose sprays that include salicylic acid, which is fast-drying, to protect the skin from excessive dryness.
  • Use retinoids which are derived from vitamin A after a consultation with a dermatologist. It breaks up blackheads and whiteheads and helps to prevent clogged pores.

Both Dr Jaishree Sharad (on Yamin’s video) and Dr Dadu recommend the following tips to keep body acne at bay, as a precaution or after you have treated it.

  • Avoid oil massages.
  • Remove your gym clothes and shower as soon as possible after a workout, or sweating. 
  • Exfoliate your body as it will help to buff out the skin cells and free up the skin pores. It reduces the size and severity of the body acne and also helps to prevent future pimples, whiteheads, and blackheads from appearing.
  • Dry skin can irritate and inflame the skin, which then causes body acne. After taking a shower, moisturise your body with a non-comedogenic lotion.
  • Always take extra care when rinsing hair and gently wash the back, too.  Hair shampoos and conditioners can leave residue on the back which can clog pores and cause body acne.
  • You can also use acne-fighting soaps with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Using cleansers that contain salicylic acid can dry out bumps and reduce their appearance.

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