It sucks enough when you have a zit on your face—but down by your boobs?! Life is truly unfair.
Still, you can console yourself with the fact that chest acne is not exactly rare. “The chest is a very common place for acne to form,” says dermatologist Marnie Nussbaum, M.D. “Just like on our face, shoulders, or back, the chest’s sebaceous glands can become overloaded with oil, causing clogged pores, which results in inflammation and the formation of pimples or whiteheads.”
If you’re prone to boob sweat, you might be especially vulnerable: “Breakouts can also occur from dermatitis, which is the result of irritation from clothing friction, exacerbated by sweating,” says New York City dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D.
Also: Most people don’t give their chest the same skincare TLC they do for their face, says dermatologist Bradley Bloom, M.D.
So yeah, time to give your boob region some love. Here’s how to get rid of chest acne, according to dermatologists.
1. Pay attention to your post-workout routine
Fitted workout gear is cute and all, but it can also cause sweat accumulation and friction that leads to breakouts. Wear clothes made of breathable fabrics, suggests Nussbaum, who notes that cotton is best.
2. Change out of those sweaty clothes ASAP.
You’ll also want to change out of any sweaty clothes as soon as your workout is over and shower ASAP to prevent pores from clogging. If you can’t rinse off immediately, change and then wipe down the chest area with a wet or dry cloth until you can, says Nussbaum.
3. Exfoliate regularly
Sloughing off dead skin is just as important for the body as it is for the face. “Exfoliating one to two times a week will buff away dead skin cells that can clog pores and form pimples,” says Nussbaum. Try a body scrub with a physical exfoliant, such as Herbivore Coco Rose Body Polish ($44, amazon.com). The coconut oil and Moroccan rose will help hydrate and soothe even sensitive skin.
4. Try a benzoyl peroxide body wash
Fancy, scented body gels are fun, sure, but if you have a serious case of chest acne, benzoyl peroxide is your best bet here. “Benzoyl peroxide is a great ingredient for acne on the chest because it kills bacteria that live in pores but also helps to unclog them,” says Bloom. You’l notice that it comes in different strengths; Bloom suggests starting out at a 4% to 5% concentration, and moving up to a stronger formula if your skin doesn’t get irritated and your acne hasn’t cleared up.
5. Or go for a salicylic acid cleanser
If even a low-grade benzoyl peroxide wash bothers your skin, salicylic acid is another option. Nussbaum recommends an OTC option, such as Dermalogica Clearing Skin Wash ($37, ulta.com), Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash ($10, amazon.com), or Peter Thomas Roth Acne Clearing Wash ($38, sephora.com). “A dermatologist can also prescribe these body washes in higher potencies if needed,” she says.
6. Check your laundry detergent
“It’s possible that you can be allergic to certain chemicals or scent in the detergent,” cautions Engelman. “Use dye-free, fragrance-free detergents and fabric softeners. It’s often scents and dyes that cause the problem.”
The tricky thing is the majority of laundry detergents and fabric softeners include fragrance, even some marketed for babies. So, be extra careful and read the fine print.
Hot tip: Look for detergents labeled scent/fragrance-free and dye-free.
7. Take a vitamin
Sure, it’s always best to get your nutrients from foods—but if you don’t want to change your diet, it might be worth looking into a multivitamin, Engelman says. “Zinc in the vitamin reduces skin inflammation while vitamin E can help heal your skin,” she notes.
8. Use a spot treatment
“The good news is that body acne can be treated with the same products and ingredients that you use for your face,” Engelman says. “I like Differin Gel (differin.com), which contains a powerful retinoid to clear acne and prevent future ones as well as to prevent acne scarring.”
Apply spot treatments directly on breakouts to clear them up ASAP. Engelman recommends using ones containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. She also like sprays, such as Proactiv Acne Clearing Body Spray ($35, proactiv.com), which contains salicylic acid.