Acne is the most common skin condition in the United States, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Though common in teens and young adults, there are cases of acne appearing on women in their 30's through 50's.
Chest acne has several different potential causes. The exact cause will vary from person-to-person.
- Acne can appear almost anywhere on the body.
- Hormone fluctuations can cause acne breakouts.
- Foods high in sugar may cause cases of chest acne.
What are the symptoms?
Acne is a common condition and the cause of chest acne will differ from person to person.
Acne has a number of different symptoms. It can appear on the following areas:
Acne can appear as:
Acne can cause more issues than skin blemishes. People with acne may experience:
- low self-esteem
- dark spots
Eight causes of chest acne
Avoiding sugary food may help some individuals with chest acne.
The following are some of the most common causes of chest acne:
- hormonal fluctuations
- sugary foods
- working out
- laundry detergents with dyes or perfumes
- dry skin and sun exposure
- oily moisturizers
- makeup and perfumes
1. Hormonal fluctuations
Though often typical in teens and young adults, hormones can also play a role in older women developing acne on or near their breasts during their period. The changing hormones and friction from the breast swelling may cause an acne breakout.
2. Sugary foods
Sugary foods trigger quick spikes in blood sugar, which may lead to an acne breakout on the chest and other body parts prone to acne. A person who's acne is triggered by sugary foods should reduce the amount of sugar they consume.
Not drinking enough fluid adversely affects every part of a person's health including their skin. When a person is dehydrated, their skin is more likely to become dry and flaky. The dryness signals the skin to increase oil production in an attempt to rehydrate it.
The flakes can get stuck in overly oily pores, making this a recipe for more acne. A person can stave off chest acne from dehydration by getting enough water each day and increasing fluid intake after illness, exercise, or when in extreme heat.
4. Working Out
While exercise typically helps a person stay healthy, working out can lead to chest acne in some people. Friction from skin rubbing up against clothes combined with sweat can cause a person to develop acne on their chest.
To help prevent this, a person should wear loose-fitting shirts and shower off shortly after a workout. If showering right away is not an option, a person should use a wipe with an acne medication.
5. Laundry detergents with dyes or perfumes
Wearing clean clothes can typically help prevent acne because they help prevent dirt and other contaminants from getting stuck in the pores. Some people may find that certain laundry detergents, particularly ones with dyes and perfumes, cause an acne breakout. A person who traces their outbreaks to laundry detergent should look for dye and perfume-free detergent.
6. Dry skin and sun exposure
It is a common misconception that sun helps clear acne. In reality, sun exposure can make acne worse, including acne on the chest. Sun exposure can lead to dehydration and dry out already dry skin, causing acne to form.
In these cases, acne forms because the body starts to produce more oil to help rehydrate the skin. A person with chest acne may want to consider non-pore clogging moisturizers and limiting direct sun exposure.
7. Oily moisturizers
Moisturizers can be very helpful in combatting dry, cracked skin. For some people, using an oil-based moisturizer or body lotion can cause breakouts on their chest.
Oil-based moisturizers block pores and trap dirt and bacteria, causing acne to form. If dry skin is a problem, a person should talk to their dermatologist or another medical professional about moisturizers that won't clog the pores or look for noncomedogenic or oil-free moisturizers.
8. Makeup and perfumes
Similar to scented laundry detergent, perfume may irritate the skin causing acne to form. Makeup may cause a similar reaction as well as potentially clogging the pores. A person who finds that makeup or perfume causes breakouts should avoid applying either to their chest to avoid breakouts.
Lifestyle changes to get rid of chest acne
A person can often take some simple steps to prevent acne forming on the chest. Since a person may have more than one trigger, it is essential that they figure out what causes the acne. Once the cause is determined, a person can make the appropriate changes to help prevent it.
Some common lifestyle changes include:
- keeping the area clean, particularly after working out, doing yard work, or sweating
- avoiding foods high in sugar content
- avoiding applying makeup, perfume, or lotions to areas like the chest
- wearing loose-fitting clothes when working out and during hotter months
- avoiding laundry detergents with dyes and scents
Is it acne or folliculitis?
Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicles, commonly caused by yeast or fungus. Folliculitis has symptoms similar to acne, with small bumps appearing on the skin of the affected area.
A person may mistake folliculitis for acne. Often, they may not suspect folliculitis until after traditional treatments for acne have been unsuccessful.
Folliculitis, unlike acne, may lay dormant for several months or years before flaring again. Also, folliculitis is often itchy, whereas acne is not.
People with folliculitis may experience outbreaks during hot and humid periods. Some other potential causes include:
- having oily skin
- using steroids
- using heavy moisturizers
- taking antibiotics for an extended period
- wearing non-absorbent clothing
- using hot tubs or spas
Since folliculitis is a different condition from acne, it requires a different treatment. A person whose acne is not clearing up with typical treatment should talk to their doctor about the possibility of having folliculitis.
When to see a doctor
Perfume may irritate the skin and trigger acne to form.
Acne may not require a doctor's care.
A person can often self-treat acne at home with over-the-counter washes, wipes, lotions, and creams.
Some people who have experienced acne may be able to prevent future outbreaks by avoiding potential triggers that may cause their acne.
A person who develops cysts or nodules or who has a family history of them forming should see a doctor as soon as acne starts to develop, as these types of acne can cause permanent scarring.
Early treatment can help prevent the damage to the skin. Also, a person whose acne does not seem to clear may also wish to seek a doctor's help.
People who experience flares of acne that come and go should see their doctor. When blemishes appear on and off, a person should seek medical attention as it may be folliculitis.
Finally, a person may experience depression or low self-esteem as a result of severe acne. In these cases, a person may wish to talk to a professional to help manage their emotions.
Chest acne is a common skin condition. Some people can treat chest acne with over-the-counter solutions and lifestyle changes. Others may need to seek medical treatment to help clear up the acne.
Anyone experiencing severe cases of acne or acne that does not clear up should see their doctor to make sure it is not another skin condition.