Raise your hand if this sounds familiar: You put on the latest sports bra or legging set and start working out with excitement. But wait. You have a probability. Once you get comfortable with your figure, you’ll notice a cluster of red pimples on your chest. Ah! Say hello to chest acne, folks.
Wondering what chest acne really is? According to Joshua Zeichner, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, chest acne is basically just pimples on your chest, and it’s usually a combination of all the good stuff: blackheads, whiteheads and red, inflamed bumps.
Meet our experts: Joshua Zeichner, MD, NYC Board Certified Dermatologist, Miriam Vega Gonzalez, MD, Board Certified Dermatologist, Shari Marchbein, MD, NYC Board Certified Dermatologist, Renee Rouleau, a Celebrity Aesthetician and Skincare Specialist
Okay, but how is this different from your regular acne problem? Well, it turns out it’s actually not that different. “In terms of the cause, chest acne is the same as regular acne, but it’s just located on the chest,” says Miriam Vega Gonzalez, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. “It’s the same physiology – clogged pores that sometimes become inflamed.”
So you’ve got acne all over your hands …… er, chest. Have no fear. It’s likely to get under control. Read on for eight ways to cure chest acne for good, according to the experts.
Use acne-specific body wash.
Start by addressing chest acne in your daily shower or bath. If you have mild chest bumps, Dr. Vega Gonzalez recommends using a salicylic acid wash (to remove excess oil and dead skin cells) instead of the body wash you typically use. That said, if you’re more prone to inflammation (think super red, clogged pores) consider opting for a benzoyl peroxide formula, which kills the acne-causing bacteria on your skin. Use the lotion on any acne-prone areas of your chest, let it sit, and then rinse. Easy!
Be sure to exfoliate
Dr. Vega Gonzalez also recommends adding some exfoliation to your routine for extra results ~oomf~. She says it does thin the skin and allows excess keratin that clogs pores to permanently come out. According to Shari Marchbein, M.D., a dermatologist, exfoliation is also effective for treating hyperpigmentation on the chest after acne has disappeared. (Aka, those remaining red marks that look like shadows.)
“Keep in mind, though, that over-cleansing and over-exfoliating can irritate your skin and can make your body think it needs to produce more oil,” says Dr. Marchbein. “I recommend not exfoliating more than one to three times a week.” Famous.
Try topical treatments
Is it that medicinal body wash doesn’t cut it? Turn it up a notch. According to Dr. Zeichner, topical medications such as over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid and adapalene (which prevents skin cells from sticking together and clogging pores) can also be used to treat pesky chest acne. Apply the formula of your choice to the area of chest acne and let it dry before putting on any clothing. Pro tip: Benzoyl peroxide, while helpful, can stain your fabric, so once you use it, make sure you wear light-colored T-shirts.
Switch to prescription oral medications
“In the office, when I see patients with acne on their chest or back, I usually discuss the use of oral medications and topical medications,” says Dr. Zeichner. “These patients benefit from the use of medications that address the problem from the inside out.” Because of the large surface area of the chest, Dr. Zeichner explains that it can sometimes be difficult to fully treat acne with topical formulations or cleansing, especially if you have a more severe case of chest acne. Make an appointment with your skin to get a prescription.
Consider a “breast facial”
Celebrity esthetician and skincare expert Renee Roll says it is sometimes necessary to call in a professional for an extraction if there are a lot of uninfected clogged pores or bumps on the chest. She explains that keeping pores open by removing debris can prevent new pimples from forming. Extractions are often used in conjunction with chemical peels, which exfoliate the skin and loosen clogged pores so the esthetician can easily remove the blemish. With that said, if you can’t make an appointment with a professional, skip the extraction altogether (don’t try to pop it up yourself!) and opt for a chemical peel. “I like to use 20% salicylic peel on my clients, and it helps remove discoloration from old acne scars while helping to keep pores clear,” says Rouleau. There are plenty of at-home exfoliation options in the form of resurfacing pads and dropper solutions.
Evaluate your post-workout routine
Are you someone who likes to sit around after a workout? See, I get it. I get lazy after a good sweat session too. But believe me, you definitely need to reconsider lounging around in dirty clothes. dr. Marchbein recommends showering as soon as possible after you finish your workout. “Sweating and then wearing sweaty clothes can cause and exacerbate body acne,” she says. “It’s important to wash before and after your workout, or at least use a gentle, clean towel.” Bonus: If you’re on the go, wipes are very easy to stash in your bag. Just slide, toss and thump along your chest and you’re done!
Check your lotion
Naturally, you want your skin to be hydrated and smooth. That said, if you’re prone to acne on your chest, you need to be more careful about your body. “It’s important to read labels,” says Dr. Vega Gonzalez. You want to make sure anything you buy says “noncomedogenic” (aka it won’t clog your pores) or “oil-free” (if you have acne, your skin is already producing too much oil, so don’t need to add more).
Don’t squeeze the pimple
I know it’s very tempting, but whatever you do, don’t pop! “As dermatologists, we never recommend squeezing out any pimples because it can lead to scarring, more inflammation and hyperpigmentation,” says Dr. Vega Gonzalez. The combination of the above treatments should be enough to stop your chest from popping, so do yourself a favor and leave that whitehead acne alone. You’re welcome!