You might have observed that you have more face breakouts and body acne in the last couple of months than ever before. Pandemic stress-induced maskne and body acne are prevalent as we noticed that the breakouts were not just prominent on the face but also on the rest of the body. Also, many people have discovered that periods of stress can increase cortisol levels – a stress hormone that can lead to breakouts on any part of the body.
Claire Chang, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York, says that “I’ve seen a rise in body and facial acne during this pandemic. One of the most common complaints in my practice recently is acne.” Whether you’ve long been dealing with body acne or you’ve just discovered the unpleasant surprise of a pimple in a new location, dermatologists say that there are several body acne treatment options that can help eliminate breakouts on the legs, butt, back, and chest.
What Is Body Acne?
Facial and body acne share the same underlying causes, Chang explains. They occur due to inflammation, clogged pores, and excess oil production, among other factors triggered by things like stress, hormones, and individual genetics. But just because you have whiteheads around your nose or cystic acne on your chin does not necessarily mean that it is the type of breakout you will see on your body.
Dendy Engelman, a board-certified dermatologist, says that “body acne tends not to appear as often as blackheads, but instead can be cysts, pimples, and whiteheads.” They often occur in areas of the body that get oily, such as the chest’s upper back and center. Areas with higher oil levels are a perfect environment for bacteria growth, which in turn leads to subsequent acne and inflammation, Chang explains.
Another common area is the buttock due to irritation from tight-fitting clothes and sweating. After shaving, the legs can also be susceptible to acne due to irritation around hair follicles. Acne on the back and chest is known as folliculitis, and it originates pores that are clogged with dead skin, oil, or other wreckages, causing painful hair follicles that look like small inflamed bumps. Dermatitis is another irritation of the skin that is sometimes initiated by sweat combined with clothing friction and can also result in breakouts.
Engelman explains that body acne can be entirely different from acne on the face. So, just because you have body acne does not necessarily mean you will also get bumps on your face and vice versa.
Why Is Acne On The Rise?
From physical to emotional, pandemic-related issues are one of the main contributing factors to the increase in acne breakouts. For some, there’s a lifestyle change. Mona Gohara, an associate clinical professor of dermatology at Yale School of Medicine, explains that you can have butt breakouts since you’re sitting and there’s more friction on your butt. All the butt rubbing on your couch can irritate your butt’s skin and result in breakouts.
The increase in at-home exercises is not helpful either. Spending more time in sweaty clothes after a workout without immediately changing those sweaty clothes can clog your pores. People are also not taking care of their skin as they used to, resulting in the buildup of oil on the body.
Another contributing factor to the rise in acne is our diet. You may be grabbing for those wine, ice cream, and donuts while sitting at home. These poor pandemic-related diets may worsen your acne, Chang says. “Studies demonstrate that dairy and food high in carb and sugar may exacerbate acne.”
Finally, the pandemic has taken an emotional toll on everyone. “The stress caused by the pandemic may contribute to the rise in acne breakout,” Chang adds. Stress elevates cortisol levels and activates the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. “It also increases skin inflammation and promotes oil production, thereby resulting in acne flares.”
Body Acne Treatment
In acne treatment, we are looking into preventing clogging pores and getting rid of the acne-causing bacteria. Dermatologists offer several ways to tackle body acne: “Look for ways to de-stress. At-home workouts and yoga can be an excellent way to alleviate stress and stay in shape,” Chang suggests. She also recommends balancing any highly processed foods or takeout with vegetables and fruits. And for acne caused by couch friction, Chang suggests a simple solution: Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothes.
You should also adjust your skin-care routine. “You can treat body acne with the same ingredients and products that you apply on your face,” Engelman says. Both Engelman and Chang recommend Differin Gel as an over-the-counter retinoid that helps boost the turnover of the cell to clear breakout and fight acne more quickly. You can also use the Dickinson’s Clean Towelettes whenever you need to cleanse your skin or swipe sweat after a rigorous exercise.
For body wash, go for body acne wash or cleanser with acne-fighting ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Engelman suggests using Neutrogena Body Acne Wash containing 2% of salicylic acid to prevent clogged pores and clear the pores, and Differin Daily Deep Cleanser that has 5% of benzoyl peroxide.
You can find any of these options at your local drugstores, and you can try new body acne wash products without draining your pocket. If all these options do not improve your situation, you should visit a dermatologist for specialized treatments and recommendations.