Expert reveals what causes acne on different parts of the body and how to REALLY treat it

Do YOU have boobne, buttne or bacne? Expert reveals what causes acne on different parts of the body – from tight shorts to sharing towels – and how to treat it

  • Celebrity doctor Dr Ginni Mansberg is a Sydney GP and skincare expert
  • Acne on the back frequently causes scarring and you should see dermatologist
  • Pimples on thighs are usually folliculitis, often caused by tight clothing 
  • Sharing towels can transfer bacteria leading to pimples on the buttocks

We’re all familiar with acne on the face, but body acne is an equally irritating skin condition that can affect anyone of any age, and it’s especially frustrating in summer when you want to show off a bit more skin. 

Celebrity doctor Dr Ginni Mansberg, who is best known as the resident doctor on Sunrise, Australia’s leading breakfast show, told FEMAIL that body acne may require different treatment to spots on your face to combat it. 

And unlike facial acne, there’s a good chance that pimples on your body could be caused by the type of clothing you wear, and so a wardrobe adjustment could be key.  

Here, Femail reveals everything you need to know about body acne in unusual places and shares Dr Mansberg’s advice about how to tackle it. 

Celebrity cosmetic doctor and founder of ESK Skincare, Dr Ginni Mansberg reveals why body acne can occur in other more unusual parts of the body too. ‘Bacne’ is the word used to describe pimples or spots on the back (stock image)

Celebrity cosmetic doctor and founder of ESK Skincare, Dr Ginni Mansberg reveals why body acne can occur in other more unusual parts of the body too. ‘Bacne’ is the word used to describe pimples or spots on the back (stock image)

BACNE 

‘Bacne’ is the word used to describe pimples or spots on the back. Whilst it’s common in teenagers, many adults experience it too. 

It is a sign of more severe acne and because it is in a difficult area to reach, it can be more stubborn than facial acne.

However, Dr Mansberg, who is the founder of ESK Skincare, explains that we treat bacne as we would treat acne on the face.   

She says that every single pimple forms from the same issue where you get a build- up of oil plus excessive skin cells that block the pore and cause inflammation. 

This makes a perfect breeding ground for bad actor bacteria like Cutebacterium Acnes (or C. Acnes)

How to treat it:

Acne on the trunk (the torso) tends to accompany more severe forms of face acne. 

‘Given the tendency to scar, I recommend you see a dermatologist as soon as possible,’ she said. 

‘While a skincare regime can help, it usually won’t be enough by itself. 

‘And the longer that severe acne remains untreated, the bigger the risk of acne scarring – and that is much harder to fix.’

Wearing clothing that lets the skin on your back breathe is key, as well as ensuring you change your clothes regularly after a workout or if you’re particularly sweaty.

Dr Mansberg would also recommend a gentle skincare approach including a soap- free cleanser, niacinamide and topical retinal. 

She says: ‘You can try a topical Salicylic Acid leave-on mask, such as the Hydroxy Overnight Mask or a dissolving microneedle patch, like Spotless for pimples that have emerged despite your prescription medications.

‘For a throbbing nodule or cyst, do not squeeze. Some ice or a cold compress might help reduce pain, redness and swelling for some symptom relief. 

‘Ice can be wrapped in a cloth and used for 30 seconds at a time onto clean skin.’

ACNE ON THE THIGHS 

Acne on the thighs, isn't really acne, it is a common condition called folliculitis, in which hair follicles become inflamed. It is a common irritation for cyclists (stock image)

Acne on the thighs, isn’t really acne, it is a common condition called folliculitis, in which hair follicles become inflamed. It is a common irritation for cyclists (stock image)

‘Pimples on the thighs are called folliculitis,’ explained Dr Ginni. ‘This is a common skin condition in which hair follicles become inflamed.’

This means the condition is not acne as such. Although people who get acne often are more likely to get folliculitis.

It is caused by a range of infectious agents from yeasts to bacteria, with golden staph being the most common culprit. But infections aren’t always at play. 

You can get it from blockage of the pores, for example by occlusive materials or even skincare like heavy moisturizers. 

It can also be caused by skin irritation, some medications, such as steroids, and various skin diseases.

How to treat it:

Try to ensure that your shorts and pants aren’t too tight, and that the skin can breath.

Dr Mansberg says that she sees these types of spots a lot in cyclists who love their Lycra.  

She says: ‘Left untreated, this folliculitis can turn into saddle sores which result from a combination of friction, heat, pressure, moisture and bacteria in the saddle area. 

‘As soon as you finish your ride, get into some loose natural fabrics, like cotton.’

This will help to reduce the build up of sweat and bacteria in the area, but if this doesn’t work, check in with your doctor.  

Dr Mansberg would recommend using an antiseptic wash like 1 per cent triclosan or 2 per cent chlorhexidine. 

She says if this doesn’t work should would proceed with a short course of antibiotics.

BUTT ACNE OR ‘BUTTNE’ 

Folliculitis on the buttocks often accompanies folliculitis of the thighs. Simple things like good personal hygiene are most affective at treating this. You can also apply an antiseptic wash (stock image)

Folliculitis on the buttocks often accompanies folliculitis of the thighs. Simple things like good personal hygiene are most affective at treating this. You can also apply an antiseptic wash (stock image)

This is another example of folliculitis, just in an adjacent spot. 

It often happens in conjunction with folliculitis of the thighs.

Folliculitis on the buttocks is extremely common but is probably one of the most embarrassing areas to have spots, especially at this time of year when people are revealing their buttocks more in swimwear, says Dr Mansberg. 

How to treat it:

All the principles of treating thigh pimples apply, such as applying an antiseptic wash. 

Good personal hygiene, including having a shower every day, hand washing, and keeping your nails short and clean, all help manage folliculitis. 

She says: ‘If you get a real flare up, it can mean you have a bacterial infection. See your doctor. 

‘Some dermatologists recommend that you wash your towels, washcloths, and sheets frequently and don’t share them with other family members.’ 

ACNE ON THE BOOBS 

If you notice pimples on the chest with a bit on the tops of the breasts, you can assume it is like bacne. However, according to Dr Mansberg, acne under the breasts, especially if large cycst and nodules should be checked out (stock image)

If you notice pimples on the chest with a bit on the tops of the breasts, you can assume it is like bacne. However, according to Dr Mansberg, acne under the breasts, especially if large cycst and nodules should be checked out (stock image)

Acne under the breasts is uncommon, according to Dr Ginni, and you should get it checked out. 

‘If it is just chest acne with a bit on the tops of the breasts, then you can assume it is like bacne, or acne of the trunk and treat it as you would your face,’ she said. 

But spots under the breasts, especially if large cysts and nodules should be checked out. 

She explains that Hiradenitis suppurativa is a condition that causes boils and abscesses in places with sweat glands and friction such as the armpits, between the buttocks and under the breasts. 

‘It needs medical treatment. Don’t muck around with skincare,’ she said. 

How to treat it: 

To treat acne under the breasts you should wash the area twice a day with mild soap, preferably un-perfumed. 

It is essential to rinse off sweat, so do shower after a workout or a period of heavy sweating – especially in the warmer weather. 

There are treatments that you could experiment with such as tea tree oil, topical zinc, and birth control. 

However, as Dr Mansberg explains, if the acne develops as boils and abscesses and is painful, then it is essential that you seek out medical advice.  

BODY ACNE EXPLAINED: What are the causes, who is affected and how can you treat it? 

A recent Korean review found that acne on the body is very common. The most common spot is the trunk, the torso, especially in young people. 

In fact, 52 per cent of teens with acne on their face also get some on their trunk. 

Truncal acne most often affects the upper back (52 per cent), followed by the upper chest (30 per cent), lower back (22 per cent), shoulders and upper arms (16 per cent), and finally the neck (8 per cent).

The worse the acne on the face, the more likely you are to get body acne as well. 

Acne on your body is the same acne as the spots you get on your face.

We know acne is a typical feature of being a teenager. But it turns out that around 50 per cent of adults have acne, as well. 

That number has really crept up on us slowly over the last 30 years, but it jumped by about 70 per cent in the five years before the pandemic. 

Adult acne and teen acne are both fundamentally caused by the same 4 factors: 

  • High oil or sebum production
  • Excess skin cells combining with the oil and getting trapped in follicles
  • The blockage becoming a breeding ground for C Acnes bacteria
  • Inflammation

Not all acne is the same though. Acne can range from a few black heads and white heads through to a face full of smaller zits plus the larger, painful throbbing nodules and cysts.

All acne, mild or severe will benefit from vitamin A which is now considered the mainstay of treatment of acne. 

Vitamin A helps increase skin cell turnover, to prevent excessive build-up of dead skin cells. 

It is also comedolytic (pimple busting) and anti-inflammatory. Of the over the counter retinoids, retinal (AKA retinaldehyde) is the most effective and the least irritating form of Vitamin A. 

Prescription retinoids often cause irritation, redness, dryness and even peeling.

Hydroxy acids, which gently exfoliate and unclog pores, also help reduce excess skin cells and oil clogging up the pores and causing pimples.

Vitamin B3 AKA Niacinamide is anti-inflammatory and antibacterial, and reduces sebum or oil production. It can also improve that all important skin barrier function by preventing water loss through the epidermis (the outer skin layer). 

Given that many people with acne have dry skin underlying their overproduction of oil, this too can be helpful for acne.

It is not recommended to use toners, alcohol based products or scrubs as they dry out the skin and cause more inflammation.

 

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