Basic Skin FAQs

Body breakouts and how to treat them

Summer is here, and with summer comes sweat. Add to that the stress of the ongoing pandemic, you might be seeing spots in places where you never broke out before. Body breakouts are common and can be uncomfortable. Depending on where the blemishes appear, they can be a bit tricky to treat. What are the causes of body breakouts, and how can you effectively treat them?

The causes of body breakouts

There is a difference between the skin on our bodies and our faces. The skin on our body is thicker and has fewer oil glands. Likewise, breakouts can happen anywhere we have hair follicles.
Breakouts are a combination of increased oil production, clogged pores, and the presence of bacteria.

Our chest and back have more oil glands, and because of that, we are more prone to breakout in those areas. Breakouts or acne on the chest and back are called folliculitis. The hair follicles get clogged with sebum and dead skin cells, which leads to inflammation.

Like with the acne on our faces, only one thing is rarely behind our body breakouts. Some of the other contributing factors include:

  • Lifestyle is a term that encompasses so much. You might be a runner or a regular gym-goer. Or your lifestyle changed drastically over the past year. You might be working from home and sitting at your desk for long stretches (this could be the reason for your bum spots). Or, you might be wearing a backpack/bag with a strap across your shoulders or chest, which leads to sweat and friction.
  • Genetics also plays a part. Some of us have oily skin and more acne-prone.
  • Likewise, the monthly fluctuation in hormones can trigger breakouts.
  • Last but not least – stress. When we are stressed (let’s face it, who wasn’t stressed the past year or so), our body produces adrenaline and cortisol. Cortisol is a stress hormone and can lead to overproduction of oil and inflammation.

How to treat body breakouts?

Body breakouts typically fall into two categories – pustules (whiteheads) and cysts. Whiteheads will come to head (see what we did there? We’ll see ourselves out), while cysts are more painful and deeper underneath the skin. Try and not pick at them.
The way to treat body breakouts isn’t all that different from how you would treat breakouts on your face.

  • Swap your body wash for one with spot-fighting ingredients like Salicylic acid. Since it is a Beta-Hydroxy acid and oil-soluble, it goes deeper into the pores to unblock them. Likewise, because it is an exfoliant, with continued use, it will prevent breakouts from happening in the first place.
  • Some types of shampoos and conditioners can lead to breakouts because their ingredients clog the pores. Alternatively, if your hair products contain sulphates, depending on how you wash and rinse your hair, the foam can travel down your chest, back and bum. In turn, this can dry out the skin and lead to over-production of oil. Swap out your shampoo and conditioner to see if it will make a difference. Also, make sure you rinse yourself well.
  • For a more targeted approach, use products you would use on your face – be it an exfoliating toner or a spot treatment.
  • Don’t forget to moisturise with a light lotion with skin-replenishing ingredients to keep your lipid barrier healthy. It can get disrupted, which, in turn, can lead to an overproduction of oil.
  • If you exercise regularly, try to shower as soon as possible after your workouts and change into fresh clothes. For exercise, opt for moisture-wicking fabrics. Post-workout, opt for loose, breathable clothes to avoid friction.

One thing to keep in mind, spots in certain places are easier to treat. The chest and back will respond faster to treatment than the bum area. Be kind to yourself and have patience.
If your breakouts don’t respond to the changes in your routine, make an appointment with a dermatologist to assess the situation, determine the potential cause, and suggest treatments.

About the author

Roberta Striga

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