How to Deal With Shoulder Acne (Because It’s a Thing That Happens)
On the list of most annoying spots acne can appear, the shoulders are right up there next to the back and chest. On the bright side, acne in this hard-to-reach area is not impossible to deal with. Shoulder acne can be addressed similarly to how one would approach facial acne. The key is to start a targeted routine at the first sign of shoulder acne. Ahead, we gathered expert tips on how to stop breakouts and get rid of shoulder acne, once and for all.
What Causes Shoulder Acne?
Shoulder breakouts, while still a form of acne, have little to do with facial acne. In other words, you can have acne on your shoulders — and other parts of your body — and not battle a facial breakout at the same time, or even at all.
“Acne can develop almost anywhere on the body,” says board-certified dermatologist Elizabeth B. Houshmand, MD. “It is not only on the face. Acne on the shoulders is seen in both men and women, but more commonly in men.” While gender can play a role in this skin-care issue, there are other factors that come into play, as well.
Shoulder Acne Cause #1: Not Showering Right After a Workout
After hitting the gym, be sure to hop in the shower and rinse off within ten minutes. “When you have acne on your body and not on your face, it’s often caused by waiting too long to shower after working out,” says board-certified dermatologist Lisa Ginn, MD.
Shoulder Acne Cause #2: Friction From Sports Equipment
It’s so common for athletes to get acne from their sports equipment that there’s actually a name for it: acne mechanica. Anything that rubs — from backpacks to synthetic uniforms — and traps sweat and heat on your skin can cause irritation. To help prevent flare-ups, try placing clean padding between the equipment and your skin to limit rubbing and stick to loose-fitted clothes.
Shoulder Acne Cause #3: Not Washing Your Clothes After Sweating
Sweat, dirt and other bacteria can stick to your clothes if you don’t wash them after a workout. Make a habit of tossing your dirty laundry directly into the wash and also bring a change of clothes with you to exercise, especially if you sweat profusely. Sitting in your sweaty clothing for too long can cause body acne to form. “Get out of gym clothes or anything sweaty as soon as possible,” Dr. Houshmand says. “The faster the sweat evaporates, the less likely you will be to develop bumps.”
Shoulder Acne Cause #4: Bacterial Infection
According to board-certified dermatologist Ted Lain, MD, one major cause of shoulder acne is a bacterial infection. This can occur due to a variety of factors, including not cleansing properly, not exfoliating and dirt or impurities going deep into your pores.
Shoulder Acne Cause #5: Hormones
Due to an increase in sebum production from hormone fluctuations, adolescent women going through puberty are the most prone to a variety of forms of acne, which can include body acne.
How to Help Clear Shoulder Acne
If shoulder acne has made a home on the surface of your skin, here’s how you can help safely clear those blemishes:
Shoulder Acne Tip #1: Use Anti-Bacterial Soaps and Body Washes
As far as body wash goes, the fresh smell of lavender is a popular shower pick but if your skin is sensitive, using products formulated with fragrances may cause irritation. Skincare.com consultant and SkinCeuticals ambassador, Laura Holsey, MD, recommends anti-bacterial soaps and body washes, instead. “To help clear shoulder acne, I always recommend using an antibacterial soap and an exfoliant such as SkinCeuticals Micro-Exfoliating Scrub,” she says. “If patients continue to have problems, I recommend adding SkinCeuticals Blemish + Age Defense to their problem areas.”
Shoulder Acne Tip #2: Cleanse With Benzoyl Peroxide
Benzoyl peroxide is one of the most popular acne-fighting ingredients in skin-care products because it helps kill the bacteria responsible for blemishes. You can find it in face washes, creams, gels, spot treatments and more. If using a benzoyl peroxide wash, let the product sit on your blemishes for a few minutes before rinsing. The skin on your shoulders is thicker so this tactic helps for better penetration of the ingredient.
Shoulder Acne Tip #3: Try an Acne-Fighting Body Spray
Shoulders aren’t the most easily accessible part of the body which is why acne sprays come in handy for targeting blemish zones that are hard to reach. We recommend turning to AcneFree’s Body Clearing Acne Spray as it’s formulated with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin B3 and aloe to help clear body breakouts. Because salicylic acid can be drying, it’s best not to use it in conjunction with other acne-fighting products.
If symptoms persist, don’t hesitate to visit an expert. “There are medications that can be prescribed to help clear acne,” Dr. Holsey advises. “It is important to establish a relationship with a dermatologist or medical esthetician to help guide treatment protocols that can control acne breakouts and accelerate results.”
Shoulder Acne Tip #4: Exfoliate Your Skin
“It is crucial to gently remove the buildup of skin cells on your shoulders by exfoliating when you shower,” says Dr. Houshmand. Dr. Lain also recommends using products that contain alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) or beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), which are chemical exfoliators. These ingredients help gently slough away any dirt, grime or buildup from your skin’s surface.
Shoulder Acne Tip #5: Don’t Pick at Your Bumps
This may sound like a given, but it’s much easier said than done. Picking at your pimples will only worsen their appearance and can lead to infection. If you feel like you’ve exhausted all options, don’t resort to picking at your skin. “Instead, see a board-certified dermatologist for help with acne that won’t resolve,” Dr. Houshmand advises.
Shoulder Acne Tip #6: Apply Broad-Spectrum Sunscreen
Sunscreen is a necessity for protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, yet many people still tend to forget to apply it all over their bodies. No matter what time of the year it is, Dr. Houshmand recommends applying sunscreen daily on your shoulders, face and any other areas of exposed skin. “You’ll want to make sure you’re protecting your skin with a non-comedogenic sunscreen,” she says. “If you have oily skin and are prone to blemishes, make sure your sunscreen is also oil-free.”