Summer Survival Guide

How to Get Rid of Body Acne

Man body acne treatment and prevention
Man body acne treatment and prevention

Acne doesn’t play fair.
It knows no boundaries and somehow manages to pop up at the worst times, in the most noticeable places, right? And even if you've gotten past the awkward phase of fighting zits on your face, that doesn't mean you won't have the occasional pimple on your back, your chest or ass. Especially as we go into the hot and humid months of summer. Suddenly, the seasonal conditions create the perfect breeding ground for breakouts.

And during a time when we're supposed to be shedding layers and living carefree, bacne or other body zits can be a real confidence killer. Even a swole, shredded dude can be too embarrassed to sport a tank top if his traps are bumpy and inflamed. The good news is that this is normal and that spray of pimples is totally treatable. You simply have to understand it and fight it the right way.

We consulted experts and road-tested a handful of products to provide this handy guide. Follow this advice and watch those annoying zits and redness disappear—making the act of stripping out of your clothes (be it at the beach or in the bedroom) a whole lot more fun.

What Causes
Body Acne?

New York-based dermatologist Dhaval Bhanusali, M.D. says that just like the pimples on your face, bacne and other acne on your body is often caused by a combination of bacteria, sweat, oil and clogged pores. But it's important to remember that body acne is not the result of poor hygiene. And sometimes, you can do everything right and still have an angry zit pop up.

Genetics play a role, too. If you tend to have oilier skin on your face (especially during the summer), you will likely have more oil production on places like your chest and back. Other factors, like hormones, can play a role too. But during summer, when we're more active outdoors, sweat can be a real factor. And the doc says that the longer sweat sticks around on your skin, the more chance you have for bacterial overgrowth. That's why it's so common to get pimples in places where you have skin pressed against sweaty clothing—be it from a chair or backpack.

Start in
the Shower

Dermatologists often tout benzoyl peroxide as their top suggestion for clearing bodily acne, since its so effective at killing the bacteria that cause you to break out. A body wash or soap formulated with 5-10% benzoyl peroxide will help clear existing pimples and prevent new breakouts from forming.

CeraVe Acne foaming wash

Acne foaming wash,
$19.99 / $13.99 by CeraVe

111MedCo 10% Benzoyl peroxide bar

10% Benzoyl peroxide bar,
$8.99 by 111MedCo

PanOxyl Maximum strength acne foaming wash

Maximum strength acne foaming wash,
$9.77 by PanOxyl

But if those aren't working, Dr. Deborah Elder, a board-certified dermatologist in Charlottesville, Virginia, has another over-the-counter remedy. She says that some bacne isn't acne in the traditional sense. It's actually pityrosporum folliculitis—an overgrowth of a yeast normally found on our skin. Using zinc-infused antifungal shampoos or body washes can be really effective. She suggests using it daily for 10 days, then weekly for maintenance, to keep your skin clear.

Jupiter Dandruff shampoo

Dandruff shampoo,
$25 by Jupiter

Noble Formula Emu oil and pyrithione zinc soap

Emu oil and pyrithione zinc soap,
$13 by Noble Formula

Typology Purifying cleansing gel

Purifying cleansing gel,
$32.90 by Typology

Exfoliation Helps

You don't want to give bacteria any place to hide. The doctors say that shedding dead skin is a surefire way to keep skin healthy and blemish-free. You can do this both physically (with an exfoliating body brush or cloth) and chemically (with a retinoid cream). Apply the cream all over the problem area, not just as a spot treatment, to prevent future breakouts.

Tooletries Silicone back scrubber

Silicone back scrubber,
$32.99 by Tooletries

Modu Korean exfoliating cloths

Korean exfoliating cloths,
$8.99 (for a 4-pack) by Modu

Differin Adapalene 0.1% treatment gel

0.1% treatment gel,
$17.99 by Differin

Treat Individually
When Necessary

Typically, you want to treat body acne overall—using products that can easily cover a large area. But, if you have just a few zits that have suddenly popped up—or one that's especially inflamed—you can use the same spot treatments that you might use on your face. The doctors recommend salicylic acid (ideal for both clearing away blockages and controlling oil) and hydrocolloid patches to pull out the gunk and help them heal faster.

Clean & Clear Salicylic acid spot treatment

Salicylic acid
spot treatment,
$10.99 / $6.47 by Clean & Clear

Hero Hydrocolloid patch

Hydrocolloid patch,
$17.89 / $16.10 by Hero

Best Practices

Shower head water

You want to keep skin clean and sweat-free, so showering immediately after a workout or whenever you get home from a long, hot day outside is key. And wearing sweat-wicking clothes that wick moisture away from your skin can help keep sweat away from your pores before it has a chance to cause trouble down the road.