How to Get Rid of Chest Acne

Have you cleared up the acne on your face only to have zits pop up across your chest? Or do you have the worst acne you have ever seen popping up on your chest? Chest acne is more common than most people know, but the common treatments for face acne usually won’t work. That doesn’t mean you can’t get rid of most forms of chest acne. It just means that you have to use the right treatments—or make the right changes in personal care habits—for your particular type of chest acne.

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Summary:

  • Chest acne is more common than most people realize. It can occur at almost any age, whether or not acne appears on the face.
  • The most common form of chest acne is sports acne.
  • Sports acne on the chest occurs when tight-fitting pads, elastic, or clothing trap sweat and oils on the skin.
  • People with Japanese skin types are especially prone to acne on the chest caused by elastic.
  • People with African skin types are especially prone to acne on the chest caused by trapped sweat.
  • The best way to prevent sports acne on the chest is to be sure to wear looser clothing.
  • The best way to treat sports acne on the chest is to be sure to shower after wearing tight clothes.
  • Many men who shave get acne on the chest from the drip of shaving cream or after shave irritating the chest.
  • Some men who shave their chests can develop a condition called acne keloidalis nuchae. It can be prevented by always using a sharp razor. Treatment needs to be medical.
  • Many women of reproductive age get pimples around the chest just before their menstrual periods. Wearing a looser bra and careful attention to skin cleansing will help reduce breakouts.
  • “Acne” on the nipple is usually a staph infection. Tea tree oil alternating with aloe will help heal it.
  • The complete kit of acne care products that works well for acne on your face may not be what you need for chest acne. With chest acne, prevention is far superior to cure.

Sports Acne on the Chest

Sports acne, or acne mechanica, can appear on the chest in both women and men. In women, this form of acne most commonly appears when the brassiere is too tight. In men, this form of acne most commonly appears when chest pads are too tight.

Sports acne can occur along with contact dermatitis, usually a reaction to elastics used in straps that hold undergarments to the chest. People of African descent are most likely to get the friction-induced type of sports acne, and people who have Japanese skin types are the most likely to break out in pimples along with allergic reactions to elastic.

The easiest way to prevent acne mechanica on the chest is to loosen tight clothing. If that is not possible, as in the case of wearing a wet suit for diving, the next best thing is to be absolutely sure to shower as soon as possible after removing tight clothing. Dry the skin carefully, and avoid tight clothes and uniforms for at least a day.

The best way of treating sports acne on the chest is usually a matter of waiting for it to heal on its own. You may be able to accelerate healing by using benzoyl peroxide or exfoliant scrubs containing alpha- or beta-hydroxy acids, but if you use chemical treatments on your chest, you need to avoid sun exposure to prevent formation of permanent brown spots on the skin of your chest.

Shaver’s Chest Acne

One of the most common forms of chest acne in men is fortunately also the easiest to reverse. Men who shave often pop out with pimples just below the neck. And when this happens, it is usually due to dripping of shaving cream and after-shave from the neck down to the chest, irritating the skin.

There are several ways to prevent shaver’s chest acne. One is to rinse your chest when you rinse your neck after shaving. Another is to shave in the shower, using a shaving gel instead of shaving cream. And a third is to use the least expensive shaving cream you can find, one with no fragrances, emollients, or skin conditioners. The fewer added chemicals there are in shaving cream or shaving gel, the less likely it is to cause acne in the middle of the chest.

Shaved Chest Acne

Another, nastier form of acne sometimes occurs on the skin of the chest where it has been shaved. Hairs on the chest get crimped by dull razors and start growing back into their follicles. The immune system can attack the hair follicle and cause a condition known as acne keloidalis nuchae, in which the skin grows over the hair and the immune system tries to dissolve it by releasing histamine, the same chemical that causes hives and hay fever. A dome of pink skin grows over the trapped hair, and may take years or decades to resolve on its own.

Trying to dig out the trapped hair always makes the condition worse. And since this form of acne is most common in men of Hispanic or African descent, any irritant treatments that dissolve pink skin leave unusually dark skin in their wake. The way to prevent this form of chest acne is always to use a sharp safety razor when shaving the chest. The way to treat this form of chest acne is to get a prescription for a retinoid drug like Accutane or Retin-A, or to use tretinoin topical directly on the pimple at night.

Premenstrual Acne Around the Breasts

Many women of reproductive age pop out with pimples on or around the breasts just before they have their periods. These pimples can be the result of a combination of friction acne—the breasts expand just before a woman’s period and the brassiere may be too tight—and acne triggered by increasing levels of progesterone in the woman’s bloodstream after ovulation and before menstruation.

The right brand of oral contraceptive may reduce premenstrual acne. This is something that has to be worked out with the doctor. It also helps to wear a different bra when breasts swell and to pay special attention to skin cleansing throughout the second half of the menstrual period. Antibiotic creams are not necessary, but the mildest available formulas of benzoyl peroxide (less than 2.5%) may help stop pimples before they start. Be sure to avoid contact of benzoyl peroxide with the areola and nipple to prevent irritation.

Acne Conglobata on the Chest

Acne conglobata is an especially severe form of acne in which acne infection burrows through the skin to create “super pimples” on the chest, back, and face. This form of acne always requires medical treatment, although no special care is needed for acne conglobata on the chest that is not also needed for acne conglobata anywhere else on the body.

Products for Chest Acne

There are no special products for chest acne. On the other hand, many of the products that help treat acne elsewhere on the body are also helpful for acne on the chest, with minor modifications:

  • You can use the same cleanser on your chest that you use on your face, although a foamier, more detergent cleanser that you would not use on your face may also be OK.
  • Pimples on your chest, except on the nipple and areola of the best (which are more likely to be due to a form of folliculitis caused by a staph infection) usually can take a stronger concentration of benzoyl peroxide than you can use on your face without redness, itching, peeling, and irritation. If you have never used benzoyl peroxide before, however, always start with the lowest concentration you can find (2.5% or lower) to make sure there are no unpleasant side effects.
  • Staph infections of the nipple and areola usually don’t respond to antibiotics, but can be treated with tea tree oil to kill bacteria and aloe to relieve itching and inflammation.

If you look through the pages of this site, you will see that most pages recommend Exposed Skin Care products for acne care. Chest acne is an exception. It is more important to keep your chest clean in the ways suggested here, and to use a minimum number of products in the right way. Cleanser, benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil, and aloe are likely to be all the products you really need for chest acne.

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