What is Body Acne, and How Can You Help Manage It?

Body acne is a skin condition that affects up to 85% of adolescents and around 5% to 9% of the population worldwide and it can have a heavy impact on your quality of life.1,2 By understanding what causes your body acne or back acne, and applying the correct skincare, you can help to effectively manage this condition.3

What is body acne?

Body acne can appear on various areas of your body, such as the upper back, upper chest, shoulders, neck, and upper arms.4 Similar to facial acne, this type of acne comes in different forms, including whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, and cysts. Body acne can be either inflammatory, causing redness and swelling, or non-inflammatory, where you may notice clogged pores without much redness.5

If you'd like to learn more about the different types of acne, their causes and how to manage them, check out our article on What Causes Acne and How to Manage It.

While body acne is similar to facial acne in some ways, there are also differences. Depending on the area, the skin on your body can have a lower pH level than your face. It's also thicker and some areas have more oil (sebaceous) glands that produce surface oil. Your body skin also sweats more and can rub against clothes, which can make acne worse. This can make body acne harder to manage compared to acne on your face.4,6

What causes back and chest acne?

Much like facial acne, body acne can be triggered by various factors:

  • Hormonal fluctuations: Hormonal changes, such as those during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, or hormonal disorders, can lead to increased oil production, making the skin on your body more prone to acne.7
  • Excessive oil production: Overactive oil (sebaceous) glands produce too much oil, which can clog pores and create an ideal environment for acne-causing bacteria to thrive.5
  • Bacterial activity: The presence of acne-causing bacteria on the skin can contribute to body acne development. When these bacteria multiply, it can lead to inflammation and breakouts.5
  • Dead skin cell build-up: When dead skin cells accumulate on the skin's surface, they can mix with oil and block hair follicles, resulting in acne.7

There are other factors that contribute to body acne. For example, if your family has a history of acne, you may be more likely to be affected by it yourself.5 High stress levels can also trigger hormonal changes that affect your skin, and exposure to excess sunlight, oil-based cosmetics, and certain foods, including high glycemic foods (like sugary food and drinks) can potentially lead to flare-ups.5,8

Determining the specific cause of body acne can be challenging, but observing when breakouts occur in relation to hormonal changes or lifestyle factors can provide clues.

How to manage back or chest acne

Managing and preventing breakouts on your body involves several key strategies. As with many skin conditions, addressing acne-prone skin early is the best approach. Next to avoiding triggers, a dedicated skincare routine with products especially developed for acne-prone skin is essential.2

It's vital to understand that an early skincare approach is also important for helping to prevent acne scars.4 Learn more about preventing and managing acne scars in our article on What causes acne scars and how to help prevent and manage scarring?

Body acne skincare routine

To effectively manage acne-prone skin on the body, establishing a suitable skincare routine is crucial. Proper cleansing and exfoliation techniques are key in helping prevent breakouts on the body. Opt for gentle cleansers and exfoliating products instead of harsh soaps or scrubs as these can further irritate your skin.3,8 You can find more information on exfoliation in our article Exfoliation: What Is It? Why Is It Important? How do I do It Properly?

Cetaphil Acne Relief Body Wash is a creamy, rich-lather body wash that won't clog pores. It combines both gentle cleansing and exfoliation. Be cautious not to over-scrub, as this can irritate the skin and make acne worse.3

Don't forget to moisturize to help maintain healthy-looking skin. The best body lotions and moisturizers for acne-prone skin are those specifically designed to help tackle this skin concern. Explore our full range of products for acne and blemishes, which are all dermatologist recommended.

It's also essential to protect your skin from the sun. The sun's rays can worsen acne by darkening it, so try Cetaphil Sheer Mineral Sunscreen Broad Spectrum SPF 50 when you're outdoors. It has a non-greasy formula that won’t clog pores and is designed for daily use on sensitive skin. Be sure to apply sunscreen to all the areas of your skin that won't be covered by clothing.3.

Using body lotions that are unscented, paraben and chemical-free

If you have acne-prone skin on your body, you may want to use body lotions without chemicals or lotions without other ingredients that can irritate your skin, such as unscented body lotions. Fragrances can sometimes irritate skin, which is why Cetaphil provides a range of fragrance-free products that are just as effective as those with fragrances.

Try Cetaphil Daily Oil Free Hydrating Lotion - it’s fragrance-free, paraben-free, and oil-free so it won’t clog pores. You can apply your skincare product more easily to your back with a lotion applicator if you find this area hard to reach.

Best ingredients for acne on back and chest

When managing body acne, it's essential to seek out active ingredients known for their effectiveness. Benzoyl peroxide (BPO) is an ingredient that helps eliminate acne-causing bacteria.3 Daily use of BPO can significantly help diminish the severity of breakouts.8 To tackle small areas, try Cetaphil Gentle Clear Complexion-clearing BPO Acne Cleanser that contains 2.6% micronized benzoyl peroxide (BPO).

Salicylic acid is another effective ingredient that helps manage breakouts by removing dead skin cells and unclogging pores.8,9 Try Cetaphil Gentle Clear Triple-Action Acne Serum, which can be applied to small areas of affected skin, or Cetaphil Gentle Clear Mattifying Acne Moisturizer which contains both salicylic acid and licorice root, an ingredient that can soothe irritated skin and reduce redness associated with acne.10

Lifestyle changes for managing body acne

Making lifestyle changes can also be significant to help manage acne-prone skin on your body. Opt for loose-fitting clothes made of breathable materials like cotton that let your skin breathe and reduce friction.3

Additionally, avoid wearing tight clothing, using backpacks, or sporting underwire bras as these can worsen body acne by trapping sweat and oil against the skin, leading to clogged pores and breakouts.1,8 Don’t forget to immediately shower after work-out or heavily sweating.3

For additional tips on addressing acne-prone skin, refer to our article How to Get Clearer Skin.

The bottom line

Maintaining a suitable skincare routine and keeping a positive mindset to reduce stress are equally important when dealing with body acne. Acne management often takes time, being patient and staying committed to your routine can help you achieve clearer and healthier-looking skin. Seek professional guidance when your body acne still does not clear up and you need help to treat your body acne by a dermatologist.


  1. Issa NT, Draelos Z, Tanghetti E, Kircik LH. Update on Truncal Acne: A Review of Treatments for a Neglected Disease and the Re-Emergence of Tazarotene. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology. 2022;21(12) Available from:, Accessed October 11, 2023
  2. Ballanger F, Claudel JP, Leccia MT, Auffret N, Stromstedt Camerati A, Dufaux PO, Marquié A, Dréno B. Truncal Acne in Adolescents and Young Adults: Self-reported Perception. Acta Derm Venereol. 2023;103:adv5123. doi: 10.2340/actadv.v103.5123.
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  4. Woo YR, Kim HS. Truncal Acne: An Overview. J. Clin. Med. 2022;11(3660). doi:10.3390/jcm11133660
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  6. Kim SA, Kim BR, Chun MY, Youn SW. Relation between pH in the trunk and face: truncal pH can be easily predicted from facial pH. Ann Dermatol. 2016;28(2):216-221. doi:10.5021/ad.2016.28.2.216
  7. Shannon J. Why do humans get acne? A hypothesis. Medical Hypotheses. 2019;134:109412–2. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2019.109412
  8. Sutaria AH, Masood S, Saleh HM, et al. Acne Vulgaris. [Updated 2023 Aug 17]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023. Available from: Accessed October 11, 2023
  9. Fox L, Csongradi C, Aucamp M, et al. Treatment Modalities for Acne. Molecules. 2016;21(8):1063. doi:10.3390/molecules21081063.
  10. Davis EC, Callender VD. Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation: a review of the epidemiology, clinical features, and treatment options in skin of color. JClin Aesthet Dermatol. 2010;3(7):20-31.