Welcome to The Spot, a monthly column tackling acne and our relationships to it. Here, we ask women how they deal with blemishes at home—and consult with skin care experts to find out what really works.
Acne can pop up anywhere on our bodies. It can happen on our backs, our butts, and even our boobs. Reasons for boob acne mostly include sweat and using the wrong skincare products, but luckily for us, it's pretty easy to prevent and treat. All you need to do is think about skincare for boobs. (Yes, this is a real thing).
To get a real game plan on how to treat boob acne, we turned to two skincare experts. We spoke to board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology, Marisa Garshick, M.D., and board-certified dermatologist at LM Medical NYC, Morgan Rabach, M.D. See what they had to say below.
1. Change clothes and shower after sweating a lot.
Sweat and excess oil can get trapped in pores and clog them, leading to breakouts. "Boob acne is a similar mechanism to regular acne that you see on the face," says Dr. Rabach. "Acne occurs when pores are clogged from sweat, extra skin, and debris."
Dr. Garshick agrees and says if you exercise—or simply sweat—frequently without changing your clothes right away and showering, you'll be more prone to acne—especially in the chest area. So always remember to jump in the shower after that HIIT class or if you've laid out in the sun for a long time.
Another thing to consider is hormones. She says those who are prone to hormonal breakouts may also experience acne on the chest and back.
2. Use products with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide.
Your first hero ingredient in treating boob acne is salicylic acid. This beta hydroxy acid (BHA) penetrates deep into pores to unclog them and help prevent breakouts. Dr. Garshick recommends body washes like the Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash. "This salicylic acid body wash is a great option for those with acne on the chest as it helps to unclog the pores, improving the appearance of blackheads and whiteheads," she says.
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The second hero ingredient to look out for is benzoyl peroxide. This will help kill acne-causing bacteria. "[It's] a great option to help both prevent and treat breakouts, especially red inflammatory pimples," she says.
She recommends something like Panoxyl's 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Wash. "[This] is a great option for those with breakouts and is safe to use on the face, back, and chest as it helps to kill acne-causing bacteria," she says "It helps to prevent new breakouts and treats existing breakouts."
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Other ingredients that will help treat boob acne include sulfur-based cleansers and azelaic acid. She says these will also help with any clogged pores. And if any of these options don't deliver, she says it might be time to go to a dermatologist to see if you need something stronger like prescription medications.
3. Avoid oil-based products.
Just as anything oil-based clogs pores on your face, it will do the same on your chest. Both Dr. Garshick and Dr. Rabach advise avoiding these types of products and opt for something oil-free and gentle for sensitive skin.
Dr. Garshick recommends something like CeraVe's Foaming Cleanser Bar, especially for those with normal to oily skin who like to use soap bars. "This bar contains kaolin clay to help absorb excess oil, helping to prevent any breakouts, in combination with niacinamide, hyaluronic acid, and ceramides, so it's soothing and won't leave the skin feeling irritated or dry," she says.
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4. Use spot treatments carefully.
Good news: you can grab your favorite spot treatment—just be careful. "While you can use a spot treatment, it is important to remember that the skin on the chest is sensitive," says Dr. Garshick. "It may cause irritation, redness, or sensitivity."
She also says that spot treatments only treat existing breakouts and won't prevent new ones; she encourages using the right products and curating a regimen from the get-go. Dr. Rabach adds that if your spot treatment contains benzoyl peroxide, it may bleach clothes, so just be aware.