Chest acne might not appear in the same place or have as clever of a name as bacne, but chest acne (chacne? nope) will still come outta nowhere to kill your low-cut dress dreams. The good news? According to board-certified dermatologists Kristina and Gary Goldenberg, M.D., and Doris Day, M.D., you can pretty easily treat your current breakouts and prevent more from coming back with help from a few tricks and products—you just need to know where to look. And that's where I come in. Below, answers to all your questions about getting rid of your chacne (ugh, never mind), so you can go back to worrying about bigger problems.
What causes acne on the chest?
Much like the breakouts you get on your face, chest acne can be caused by many, many different factors, like your genetic makeup, a hormonal imbalance, and your lifestyle (high-sugar diet, excessive sweating, or tight-fitted clothing). Dr. Kristina Goldenberg says for women, chest breakouts can be cyclical with the menstrual cycle, but both men and women can experience mild-to-severe cases. Because the causes of acne are so vast, chest breakouts are a really common and totally normal concern to have, but that doesn't mean you gotta live with it.
How do you get rid of chest acne?
Dr. Day recommends exfoliating regularly (once or twice a week) with a gentle scrub to remove dead skin cells and pore-blocking buildup that could be causing your breakouts. If a gritty scrub feels too abrasive for the delicate skin on your chest (you'll know if it stings, burns, or feels raw), try a chemical exfoliator, instead, which relies on acids instead of scrubbies to dissolve dirt and oil. My favorites:
Whatever you do, don't pop anything. If you’re thinking that a quick pick will hurry along the healing process, NOPE! “The chest and back are two areas on your body that heal more poorly and can scar more easily, so hands off,” Dr. Day says. If the sight of your pimple is too tempting, cover it with a concealer or a pimple patch. Sure, your zit might stick around for a few days, but the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) that appears after popping? That ish can last a long, long time.
Instead, as soon as you feel a pimple popping up, reach for a spot treatment that's filled with salicylic acid (which exfoliates) or benzoyl peroxide (which fights bacteria) to minimize the breakout, and apply it before bed to maximize its potency (your body heals better at night). Heads up: Benzoyl peroxide is infamous for bleaching your clothes and sheets, so wear a shirt you don’t care about when using it.
How do I prevent chest acne while working out?
In short, you gotta shower more. You don't have to change how often you wash your hair, but body showers need to be a regular step in your post-gym (or post-sweaty-day) routine, says Dr. Gary Goldenberg. “I always ask [patients] if they eat first or shower first after exercising,” he says. “It's usually those who eat first who have more acne on their bodies, since they sit in their sweaty clothes longer."
If you're not near a shower, bring a change of clothes and wipe down your chest and boobs with a cleansing wipe. As soon as you get home, hop in the shower to rinse off with an anti-bacterial body wash that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, both of which will treat existing breakouts while working to prevent more. Even though breakouts on the face are similar than ones on the chest, Dr. Kristina Goldenberg says you can use stronger antibacterial soaps for the chest, shoulders, and back, that would be much too irritating or drying to use as an acne face wash.
What foods cause chest acne?
While there's no acne-approved eating plan that works for everyone and simply eating foods for clear skin may not magically get rid of your chest acne, there are a few foods that have been linked to acne, like dairy and sugar. Both can mess with your hormones and promote inflammation—yup, even your wine and cheese night—so Dr. Gary Goldenberg suggests limiting or cutting out dairy, watching your sugar intake, and eating organic foods that don't contain hormones or antibiotics. "Any added hormones in food can potentially interfere with your own body’s hormones," he says.
How long does chest acne last?
The funny thing about acne (and by "funny," I mean not funny at all) is that after you've cleared up your active pimple, you're left to deal with the aftermath, aka PIH. "Pigmentation will slowly improve if left alone, but it can take months for that to occur," Dr. Kristina Goldenberg says. "Sun protection is vital for pigmentation to resolve."
To that end, she recommends sticking with SPF 50 or higher on all sun-exposed areas and reapplying your sunscreen every one to two hours. As far as fading treatments go, you can try a dark spot corrector (although she doesn't recommend bleaching creams, which can cause white spots) or in-office procedures, like lasers, chemical peels, and microneedling with PRP, to encourage fading.
Does chest acne go away?
If you follow all the above expert advice, your chest acne should improve over time, but Dr. Kristina Goldenberg says it really depends on the the severity. "For some patients, making lifestyle changes will improve or even resolve their chest acne," she says. "However, more often than not, patients do require treatment from a dermatologist to clear the acne."
If your chest acne doesn't go away after six weeks, consult your dermatologist for a stronger solution or to figure out if you're even dealing with acne at all. But don't feel like a derm is your last resort—a doctor should, in an ideal world, always be your first line of defense.
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