If you’ve ever dealt with an acne breakout on your chest, you are not alone. For some, the chest area breaks out occasionally, while others experience chest acne with the same frequency as facial breakouts. Here’s why you’re getting acne on your chest and what you can do about it.
You’re getting chest acne for the same reasons you get acne on your face.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “Acne appears when a pore in our skin clogs. This clog begins with dead skin cells. [Then] when the body starts to make lots of sebum, oil that keeps our skin from drying out, the dead skin cells can stick together inside the pore. Instead of rising to the surface, the cells become trapped inside the pore.”
This is why you get acne in general, and that same perfect storm of oil, pores, and dead skin can occur on your chest as it does on your face.
“Just as we have oil glands on the face, we also have them on the chest. This explains why the chest is a common location to develop acne,” Joshua Zeichner, MD, director of Cosmetic and Clinical Research at Mount Sinai Hospital, explained to INSIDER.
However, chest acne is also affected by external irritants like exercise.
Dr. Julia Tzu, founder and medical director of Wall Street Dermatology noted that chest acne “can also be exacerbated by heat, sweat, and occlusion,” in ways that facial acne often isn’t. For example, damp exercise clothes can chafe and inflame the skin on the chest, whereas the face is often undisturbed by friction from clothing. For this reason, you should shower immediately after a workout.
Your body lotion might be causing chest acne.
Acne-sufferers tend to seek out oil-free moisturizers for their face but forget their chest and lather it in fragrant or oily body lotions instead.Debra Jaliman, MD and American Academy of Dermatology’s spokesperson cautions against using body lotions and/or oily moisturizers on your chest which could be triggering or exacerbating the acne in that area. Whatever moisturizer you’ve found to work for your facial acne should be applied to the neck as well.
Your diet might be to blame.
Diet has long been linked to acne, and as Dr. Jaliman pointed out – diets high in sugar can lead to an increase in acne. Though sugar alone does not cause acne, chest or otherwise, a 2017 study in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics showed that participants with acne consumed greater total refined carbohydrate (products made with white flour, sodas, sweeteners, etc.) than the participants without acne.
Additionally, a 2012 study in the Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology found that people who frequently consumed added sugars and/or pastries had a 20-30% greater risk of developing acne. Rule of thumb for any acne sufferers, watch your sugar intake.
The type of acne on your chest is likely the same as what’s on your face.
You can get any type of acne (blackheads, whiteheads, cysts, and pimples) on your chest. Whatever is present on the face is likely to appear on the chest as well, though Dr. Tzu finds in her practice that cystic acne (deep under the skin “blind pimples”) are less likely to occur on the chest.
Treatment for chest acne is similar, though not identical to facial acne.
Treating chest acne is largely the same as face acne, with a few modifications.
“Treatment for chest acne might be a bit more aggressive than treatment for face acne, [because] your face might be more irritated and sensitive,” Dr. Jaliman said.
Dr. Tzu treats face and chest acne similarly, though she avoids using topical retinoids[a common acne fighting ingredient] on the chest “due to its more irritating effect on the chest compared to the face.”
So how do you treat chest acne?
Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide-based cleansers are your best bet for conquering chest acne. You can use a body wash or a facial cleanser, as long as they contain one of those active ingredients.
“Salicylic acid helps remove excess oil and exfoliates dead cells from the surface of the skin. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria and helps reduce inflammation,” Dr. Zeichner told us. He also described the best way for applying cleansers which is to “let them sit on the skin while you sing the alphabet, then rinse off. This ensures they have enough time to come in contact with the skin to be effective.
Dr. Jaliman likes salicylic or benzoyl peroxide cleansers that have a glycerin base – which are less likely to dry out the skin. She also recommends tea tree oil as an alternative active ingredient to salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
Lastly, make sure your skin condition is actually acne.
If your chest acne isn’t clearing up, see a dermatologist to make sure it’s actually acne.
Sean Mazloom, MD, of Sadick Dermatology told Reader’s Digest that you might have a skin condition like Pityrosporum folliculitis, a condition caused by yeast taking up residence in the hair follicle, which isn’t acne, although it looks like it.
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