How To Clear Chest Acne, According To Top Dermatologists

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
While no one welcomes a breakout, seeing a zit crop up after a string of late nights or going to sleep with makeup on makes a certain amount of sense. But developing chest acne from proper adulting — like working out or wearing fitted clothing in the winter (duh!) — feels far from fair. 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 derm, 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.”
Ahead, the derms share their best tips to help clear our chests and make way for the only thing we want on our décolletage this holiday season: a Rihanna-grade glow.
At Refinery29, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our market picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team. If you buy something we link to on our site, Refinery29 may earn commission.

More from Skin Care

Watch

R29 Original Series

Watch Now
Documentary
Five love stories behind diverse, multicultural marriages.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Life experiments, 5 days at a time.
Watch Now
Fashion
The style of subculture.
Watch Now
Beauty
Viral trends, tried and tested.
Watch Now
Documentary
From vibrators to lipstick, learn how your favorite products are made.
Watch Now
Documentary
Extraordinary, one-of-a-kind individuals
Watch Now
Documentary
The latest stories to watch.
Watch Now
Lifestyle
Inside the homes of millennial women — & what they paid for them
Watch Now
Comedy
Let's talk about sex, baby.
Watch Now
Documentary
Female artisans around the world
Watch Now
Politics
Made by and for smart, opinionated women.
Watch Now
Film
We helped 12 female directors claim their power.