Acne is a skin problem that affects people of all ages and skin types. In fact, an estimated 80 percent of people between ages 11 and 30 will suffer some type of acne breakout. Though many people think of acne as a facial skin disorder, body acne is a common problem that can be equally embarrassing and cause permanent scarring. Learn more about body acne treatments, body acne scars, and how to prevent body acne below.
Causes of Body Acne
Body acne occurs when hair follicles become clogged by a combination of dead skin cells and the skin’s naturally occurring oils, or sebum. Hair follicles are connected to sebaceous glands, which normally excrete oil at the surface of the follicle to lubricate the hair and skin. When the body overproduces sebum, it can cause these follicles to become clogged. We see the results of these plugged hair follicles as pimples, white heads, black heads, cysts, and more serious lesions.
Areas of the body with a greater concentration of sebaceous glands, such as the neck, back, buttocks, and chest, are more prone to body acne. As with facial acne, increased hormonal activity, bacteria, genetics, and certain medications may cause a flux in the production of acne-causing sebum.
Environmental pollutants, bacteria trapped on the surface of the skin, and cosmetics can also contribute to body acne. Friction from clothing and touching the affected areas can irritate these blemishes and make symptoms worse.
Prevention of Body Acne
Because it occurs on the surface of the skin, it is possible to prevent body acne by practicing good hygiene. Showering after heavy perspiration and gently exfoliating the skin to remove dead cells and oils will reduce the chances of developing clogged pores, but it is important to remember that scrubbing too hard or using harsh cleansers can irritate body acne and make it worse. Instead, use water-based, gentle skin cleansers that won’t clog pores.
Dirt and bacteria stored in soiled sheets and towels can contribute to clogged pores and increase the risk for body acne. And because friction from tight-fitting clothing traps bacteria on the surface of the skin and causes irritation and breakouts, it is important to wear breathable, loose-fitting clothes when exercising to prevent body acne. Finally, don’t pick at blemishes – it can cause inflammation and lead to body acne scars.
Body Acne Treatments
Body acne can cause people to feel self-conscious and uncomfortable in their own skin. Because so many people suffer from body acne, there are many treatments currently available, both over-the-counter and through your cosmetic dermatologist. Washing daily with soap and water to remove oils and dead skin and using conventional salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide treatments can aid in mild cases of body acne. Most prescription acne medications, whether topical or oral, take several weeks to show results, but it is important to persist with treatment in order to avoid permanent body acne scars.
Many people seek stronger alternatives when over-the-counter body acne treatments fail to achieve the desired results. Depending on the severity of a patient’s body acne, doctors may prescribe topical antibiotics or vitamin A by-products, also called retinoids, to treat body acne. Retin-A® is a popularly prescribed topical gel for severe acne that induces a superficial peeling of the skin to reveal healthy skin beneath. Patients begin to see results after two weeks, and full results are generally achieved after seven weeks.
For severe cases of body acne, doctors often prescribe oral antibiotics, which help to eliminate the growth of bacteria on the skin’s surface. Additionally, isotretinoin, also known as Accutane®, is a highly effective oral medication used to treat all types of acne by reducing the size of oil glands so that less sebum is produced and bacteria growth is diminished. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant should not use Accutane®.
Some women experience the onset of acne as a result of hormonal changes, and often oral contraceptives are used to treat the symptoms by controlling estrogen levels. Consult your cosmetic dermatologist to determine the best body acne treatments for your specific needs.
Professional Skin Care Treatments
If body acne develops into a severe, continual problem, a cosmetic dermatologist can perform surgery to drain the material responsible for blackheads and whiteheads from deep within the glands. Only a cosmetic dermatologist should perform such extractions, as breaks in the skin tissue can allow bacteria to lodge inside the skin and become inflamed and infected. Glycolic acid peels also can be effective in removing blackheads and whiteheads to ease a patient’s body acne.
Body acne treatments for severe cases of nodular and cystic acne also include intralesional corticosteroid therapy, a procedure that involves injecting cysts with a cortisone solution to relieve painful inflammations.
New developments in laser skin rejuvenation also can be effective in treating body acne. Laser treatments such as the Levulan® BLU-U® blue light acne treatment work to kill acne-causing bacteria by targeting overactive sebaceous glands under the skin. Laser technologies are effective for treating both active body acne problems and residual scars.
Treatment for Body Acne Scars
Body acne scars are caused by the body’s inflammatory reaction to lesions. There are two types of body acne scars – those caused by a loss of tissue, such as ice-pick scars, and those caused by increased tissue formation, such as keloids or hypertrophic scars. The best way to prevent body acne scars is to seek early treatment, but thankfully many cosmetic dermatology options exist to effectively treat enduring acne scars.
- Dermabrasion – One of the oldest, most effective methods of treating body acne scars, dermabrasion uses a high-speed brush to remove dead skin cells and allow new skin to grow.
- Laser Skin Resurfacing – An intensive technique to permanently reduce the appearance of scars, laser skin resurfacing removes dead skin cells with deep, controlled penetration to allow for new skin development.
- Acne Chemical Peels – Only effective for less severe scarring, acne chemical peels use acid treatments to reveal younger, smoother skin after the damaged skin peels away.
- Punch Techniques – This acne-scar surgery loosens pitted scars and allows the scar tissue to naturally rise to the surface of the surrounding skin, or the pitted scar is removed and replaced with a skin graft.
- Collagen Injections – A procedure with temporary results, collagen fillers are injected underneath the scar tissue to raise the scar to the skin’s surface and create a uniform look.
- Fat Transfer – Similar to collagen fillers, autologous fat transfer takes fat from another part of the body and injects it underneath the scar, allowing deep scars to rise to surface level. Multiple treatments can achieve more lasting results.
- Body Microdermabrasion – Less effective than dermabrasion, body microdermabrasion uses aluminum oxide crystals instead of a brush to remove surface skin and reveal the healthier skin underneath.
A Cosmetic Dermatologist Can Help
The effects of body acne can leave emotional and physical scars if not treated professionally. The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you can start to enjoy smooth, healthy skin free from the pain and embarrassment of body acne. Locate a cosmetic dermatologist near you to learn more about body acne treatments and reduction of persistent scars.