What Causes Chest Acne?
You’d think that the skin care gods would cut us some slack and limit pesky pimples to just our faces (or better yet, nowhere at all), but alas, acne can crop up anywhere on skin, including our chest. The cause of your chest acne could just be the result of a combination of excess oil and clogged pores—not unlike facial acne—or it could be due to one or more of the factors listed below. Read on to discover what causes chest acne and how to stop breakouts on your chest!
CHEST ACNE CAUSE #1: EXCESSIVE SWEATING
One of the most common reasons for chest acne is sweat—whether it be due to exercise or heat—lingering on the skin for prolonged periods of time. When sweat mixes with existing dirt, toxins, and oil on the skin’s surface, it can clog the pores and result in chest acne. Thus, it’s recommended to shower or, at the very least, rinse off within 10 minutes of exercise or excessive sweating.
CHEST ACNE CAUSE #2: REACTION TO SYNTHETIC MATERIALS OR FABRICS
Ill-fitting clothing or clothing made of irritating materials can lead to acne on skin that’s particularly sensitive. Called acne mechanica, it is the result of materials or objects touching your skin and leading to a breakout. Acne mechanica can also be aggravated by moisture, so if you’re sweating and wearing clothes that don’t allow your skin to breathe, a breakout could ensue. Similarly, your chest breakout could be the result of an allergic reaction to a new detergent or cleaning product used on your clothing or sheets. When in doubt, consult a dermatologist.
CHEST ACNE CAUSE #3: HORMONES
Any major hormonal changes—think: puberty, periods, and pregnancy—or fluctuations in the body can send our oil-producing sebaceous glands into overdrive, which can clog pores and potentially lead to chest pimples.
CHEST ACNE CAUSE #4: TOUCHING YOUR CHEST
We’ve heard it over and over again: Don’t touch your skin! Our fingers are covered in oil and bacteria, which can extend onto our chests if we touch it too often. If you apply any skin care products to your chest with your hands, make sure your hands are washed first. Always check the formulas of any products you use on your skin to ensure they are free of irritating ingredients and is safe for your skin type.
CHEST ACNE CAUSE #5: HYPERSECRETION OF OIL
When your skin is dry, whether due to whipping winds, cooler temps, or prolonged sun exposure, it can cause your skin to go into a sort of survival mode where oil is secreted from your sebaceous glands to make up for that loss of moisture. When excess oil mixes with dead skin cells, bacteria, dirt, and debris already on your chest, acne can result. To help counteract this unwanted side effect, make sure your chest is hydrated day in and day out. Many people are guilty of forgetting to extend the hydration below their jaw and are faced with dry body skin, and potentially chest acne, as a result.
CHEST ACNE CAUSE #6: GENETICS
Just like brown hair or blue eyes, some research has suggested that acne can be passed down from generation to generation. In 2017, dermatologists from the University Hospital of Zurich and the Division of Genetics and Molecular Medicine at King’s College conducted a worldwide study that sought to shed some light on the link between genes and acne. They found that there were certain irregularities in types of genes that could cause increased chances in getting acne. If your parents have a history of struggling with acne, whether on the chest or elsewhere, you may have a more likelihood to experience the same.
CHEST ACNE CAUSE #7: YOUR SKIN AND MAKEUP PRODUCTS
The same way your skin can react to certain fabrics or detergents, the skin and makeup products you apply can also cause a breakout to ensue. Depending on their ingredients, some products have a higher likelihood of clogging pores and causing breakouts than others. When shopping for new body lotions, moisturizers or concealers, check the label for any one of these keywords: non-comedogenic, non-acnegenic, oil-free, and/or “won’t clog pores.”
TRIGGERS THAT MAY WORSEN YOUR CHEST ACNE
Now that you’re aware of the factors that can cause chest acne, allow us to brief you on some of the factors that can make blemishes worse.
Diet: Studies have shown that your diet may play a pivotal role in the appearance of your skin, with certain foods capable of worsening acne. While these reports are fairly new, it seems apparent that some foods can affect your skin’s appearance or acne.
Our recommendation? Stick to a colorful diet of healthy fruits and vegetables. You can use our guide here to learn how to snack your way to better skin.
Stress: Do you ever notice pimples cropping up in times of high stress? That’s not a coincidence. According to New York-based dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant Dr. Joshua Zeichner, “stress can promote inflammation and lead to breakouts of a variety of different skin conditions including acne. What’s more, “stress can lead to an increase in hormone levels that cause oil glands to rev up production of pore-clogging sebum, which can cause breakouts.” These chemicals released by the skin’s nerve endings, neuropeptides and neurotransmitters, are released at an increased rate as the body reacts to stress. This uptick can lead to skin irritation that may include acne.
Skin care is just as much about maintaining a positive mindset as well as a solid routine. Where possible, try to relieve tension with relaxing activities like curling up with a good book or engaging in an at-home spa day. If you notice your skin is acting up as a result of stress, Dr. Zeichner suggests using products formulated with salicylic acid. “This beta-hydroxy acid helps exfoliate dead cells from the surface of the skin as well as remove excess oil, which can help prevent breakouts,” he says. “Even if you are not using the ingredient regularly, you can switch out your cleanser for one that’s formulated with salicylic acid during times of stress.”
COMMON MYTHS ABOUT CHEST ACNE
If you’re dealing with acne, there’s a good chance you’ve heard a myth or two along the way. To help ensure you’re taking the proper steps toward a bright and clear complexion, we took the liberty of debunking six popular chest acne myths, ahead:
Myth #1: Chest breakouts arise solely from bad hygiene.
While it’s true that chest acne may result from waiting too long to take a shower post-sweating, it is not caused by dirty skin. Even those who stick to a perfect routine still battle breakouts around the chest area.
Myth #2: You should pop chest pimples.
This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Pimples— no matter where they surface— should never be popped. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), popping zits can worsen acne and potentially lead to scarring. If the damage has already been done and you need assistance in caring for the affected area, read up on how to handle your acne post-pop.
Myth #3: Showering with hot water can help kill acne-causing bacteria.
Hot water won’t kill acne-causing bacteria. In fact, it can wreak havoc on your skin and cause unwanted dryness. Shower with lukewarm water instead, and follow up with moisturizer while your skin is slightly damp.
Myth #4: You should leave your chest acne alone.
Refraining from taking action in addressing chest acne is the wrong mindset to have. With so many topical solutions out there, why not take advantage of them?
Myth #5: Acne treatments can clear acne overnight.
Don’t set yourself up for disappointment by assuming that your acne-fighting products will zap away zits within hours. Topical treatments for acne typically take between four and eight weeks to show results. If you don’t see a difference in your body acne in at least 8 weeks, schedule a consultation with your dermatologist for a different course of action.
Myth #6: Sun tanning can help clear chest acne.
Sun tanning and tanning beds aren’t doing any favors for your skin. Avoid tanning and be sure to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. If you need a helping hand in finding a tried-and-true sunscreen, check out our list of our favorites here.
Editor’s note: It’s important to note that there currently is not a sunscreen on the market that blocks out 100% of the sun’s harmful UV rays. That said, sunscreen is still one of the most important protectors against it. For more information on sun damage, educate yourself on the facts, here.
Myth #7: Exfoliating will kick acne to the curb.
If there’s one magic word skin aficionados like to use when it comes to care, it’s “exfoliate.” Exfoliation is certainly a key component to skin maintenance, especially since it aids in the removal of dead skin cells to help unclog pores and lessen the chances of clogged pores (and subsequent breakouts) from happening in the first place. But if you’re already dealing with chest breakouts, exfoliation may not be the right step to take. Scrubbing your skin too much may irritate it even more, and in some cases exfoliation can dry skin out further. Exfoliation should be part of your acne prevention plan to keep your skin clear of pore-clogging dead cells and debris, but your acne treatment plan can likely do without harsh scrubs and beads.
Myth #8: All acne scars are permanent.
Most everyone will deal with acne at some point in their life, whether it be on their chest or elsewhere. Aside from the usual concerns that getting acne causes, many worry about what can happen after the acne goes away. Acne scarring is a real concern during the battle against acne, and severity of scarring may differ depending on a variation of factors.
However, just because a scar is severe doesn’t mean it’s permanent. Treatments for scarred skin can include chemical peels, microdermabrasion, lasers, retinoids, and more. If you’re concerned about the look of your acne scars, visit your skin care provider for assistance.
Myth #9: Chest acne can’t always be addressed.
If your skin is prone to acne, even with diligent care efforts, it’s understandably frustrating. But don’t lose hope! Your chest acne may keep cropping up, but there’s a way to get it under control. It’s all a matter of doing your research and finding what products and routine work best for you. Should your condition not improve, you can always consult a dermatologist to see what steps you can take to improve your chest acne.
HOW TO HELP REDUCE THE APPEARANCE OF CHEST ACNE
Eager to eliminate your chest acne? Board-certified dermatologist and Skincare.com consultant Dr. Lisa Ginn likes to use topical products formulated with sulfur to address acne on the skin. Other acne-fighting ingredients that may be helpful are benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid.
Another option for helping to reduce acne flares on the chest area? Turning to AcneFree’s Body Clearing Acne Spray. Formulated with glycolic acid, vitamin B3, salicylic acid, and aloe, this non-sticky spray formula helps clear body breakouts. For best practices, cleanse the skin thoroughly before applying and apply to the entire affected area. Apply once a day and increase use to twice daily, if needed.
Battling breakouts in other places? From hormonal acne to getting rid of acne scars, click here for expert tips on how to address acne-related skin concerns!