Body Acne vs. Face Acne: What's the difference?

If you get breakouts on your face, you've likely also noticed breakouts on other areas of your body like your back, chest, shoulders, or butt. This is because the same factors (thanks hormones!) that cause acne on your face cause acne on your body. There are a few subtle differences between body and facial acne, but, thankfully, the acne-treatments approved for fighting facial acne can also be used on your body. Read on to learn what makes body acne different from facial acne and how to treat it best. 

What causes body and facial acne?

Like facial acne, body acne begins with clogged pores. Typically, clogged pores occur when hormones increase oil production. This excess of oil combines with dead skin cells and debris to plug follicles, forming whiteheads and blackheads. The red, inflamed, painful bumps we commonly associate as pimples occur when these whiteheads and blackheads become infected with the bacteria, C. acnes.

Unlike facial acne, however, your body tends to have more exposure to sweat, non-breathable clothing, and harsh products, leading to breakouts. This primarily occurs if you stay too long in sweaty clothes or carry around heavy objects like a backpack or sports equipment. These types of breakouts are known as acne mechanica and happen when your skin is exposed to friction and a lack of air, again leading to clogged pores.

How should body acne be treated differently than face acne?
Use a higher concentration of active ingredients

The same FDA-approved over-the-counter ingredients to treat facial acne, like salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur, will also treat body acne. The FDA approves up to 2% salicylic acid and up to 10% benzoyl peroxide in over-the-counter acne treatments. Since the skin on your body is thicker and less sensitive than the skin on your face, opt for higher concentrations of acne-fighting ingredients to increase the treatment's effectiveness.

Pay attention to your clothing

If there's one acne-associated lesson we've learned in 2020, it's that maskne is a thing. Similar to why wearing a mask causes you to break out on your face, clothing can cause acne mechanica on your shoulders, back, and chest. Choose loose-fitting clothing made of natural fibers, especially during the sweaty summer months and during a workout, and change ASAP out of any sweaty clothes. Also, if lugging around a backpack or heavy equipment is part of your daily routine, look for rolling alternatives to ease your skin's stress.

Shower often

Your body is exposed to various surfaces throughout the day like clothing, sheets, towels, and sweat that all carry pore-clogging debris. Shower daily or after an intense sweat session using an exfoliating body wash to remove pore-clogging sweat and dirt. You can find a list of our favorite acne-fighting body washes here. Also, regularly clean any sheets, towels, or clothes that come in contact with your body.


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