How To Treat Chest Acne, According To Top Dermatologists

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
While no one welcomes a breakout, seeing a pimple crop up after a string of late nights or going to sleep with makeup on makes a certain amount of sense. Back acne is discussed more frequently but chest spots are just as common. Causes of chest acne can be really varied dependant on hormones and lifestyle, like working out, moisturisers or wearing fitted clothing in the winter. According to Miami-based dermatologist S. Manjula Jegasothy, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology at the University of Miami, simple things like that can lead to an acne flare-ups on the chest. It doesn’t mean you have to drop the healthy habits: According to the dermatologist, there are a host of little tweaks — both for prevention and treatment — to help clear skin on the chest.
To start, both Jegasothy and New York-based dermatologist Michelle Henry, MD, suggest wearing fresh workout clothes and showering immediately after sweating. Treating acneic skin on your chest may also call for a more gentle use of common topical remedies often used on the face, like salicylic acid, retinol, or benzoyl peroxide. “The skin on the chest is thicker than that on the face and can also be more sensitive to harsh topical ingredients (like alcohol or heavy use of alpha and beta hydroxy acids), perhaps due to a more active local immune system,” Jegasothy explains, adding more studies need to be done before we understand why this may be.
For her part, Dr. Sandra Lee (also known as Dr. Pimple Popper) suggests sticking with non-comedogenic body products. "You’d be surprised that many body lotions are full of fragrance and other ingredients that might actually be clogging pores and causing chest acne."
Finally, addressing chest acne can also mean adjusting our expectations, because in addition to lifestyle tweaks and topical treatment, a doctor’s care may be needed. “Treating acne on the chest can be tricky," Jegasothy says. "Often, pimples on the chest can originate from hair follicles deeper in the skin, making them more cystic in appearance. And that cystic acne can be more difficult to reach from the surface topically, and so may require a few weeks of oral antibiotic (I like doxycycline) therapy to jumpstart clearance.”
We spoke to dermatologists asking them to share their best tips to help clear our chests.
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