How to Get Rid of Chest Acne for Good, According to a Dermatologist

Updated: Mar. 18, 2021

There's no good place to have acne, but chest acne can really interfere with a lot of your wardrobe. Here's what skin experts recommend for clearing it up.

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What is it?

Chest breakouts are caused by the same condition that affects the face, acne vulgaris. “Regardless of location, the root causes of acne are excess oil and dead skin cells, which clog the pores, leading to P. acnes bacteria overgrowth and inflammation,” says Sejal Shah, MD, a dermatologist in New York, NY. Check out these surprising home remedies for acne that work just as well on your chest as they do on your face.

There’s a chance it’s not acne: You may want to visit a dermatologist to confirm that the pimples you’re seeing are actually caused by acne; that’s because there are several skin conditions look like acne, but aren’t. “Isolated chest acne is uncommon,” says Sean Mazloom, MD, a dermatologist in New York, NY. “However, certain conditions such as acne fulminans and acne conglobata, which are subtypes of acne can commonly present with acne eruption on the chest. Also medications such as high-dose intravenous or oral corticosteroids, and certain chemotherapy drugs can cause acneiform eruptions, commonly on the chest and back.”

A doctor looking at a person's chest pimples with a magnifying glass.
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Does location matter?

The acne that appears on your chest is no different from that on your face, but it may be triggered by factors that don’t affect the face, like excessive sweat, friction from clothing, and occlusive (barrier-forming) skin care. Also, the skin on the chest is more prone to scarring, so you need to be extra-careful about picking and popping chest pimples. Here are a few habits to avoid if you want to avoid acne scars

A woman eating a salad with a fork and knife at an outdoor table.

Can diet cause acne?

Foods with a high glycemic index, meaning they cause a spike in blood sugar, may cause acne in some people, says Dr. Mazloom. Research looking at diet and acne seems to support that connection. Avoiding foods like sweets, white bread, and white rice may improve acne generally, including clearing up chest acne. Drinking milk has also been shown to increase acne, says Dr. Mazloom. Find out which foods really make your acne better (or worse). 

A man and woman doing barbell deadlifts in a gym.
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Do workouts have any impact on body acne?

Friction between clothing and skin during workouts, combined with sweating, can inflame pores, said Sheila Nazarian, MD, a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, CA. She suggests wearing loose-fitting shirts and showering immediately after working out. If you can’t shower right away, wipe your chest with a medicated wipe like Proactiv Clear Zone Body Pads and put on a clean top.

A woman in a white tank top squeezing a tube of cream onto her hand.

Edit your body-care routine

Neil Sadick, MD, a dermatologist in New York, NY, recommends taking a break from other body products until the acne is under control. “This will allow treatments to work and avoid over-clogging the area,” he says. Shelve your perfume-y body butter for now. Instead, you may want to try one of the drugstore acne remedies that dermatologists recommend.

How to get rid of chest acne: Key acne-fighting ingredients like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide work on the chest, too. Dr. Nazarian recommends daily use of a Clarisonic combined with a gentle exfoliating cleanser like the Revision Papaya Enzyme Cleanser. “Twice a week, exfoliate with salicylic acid in the shower,” she says. Treatment options are similar to the face and what you use depends on severity. Try an over-the-counter product like La Roche Posay Effaclar Duo, a fast-absorbing treatment cream with the powerful blemish-fighter benzoyl peroxide. At night, a retinoid gel like Differin will exfoliate skin and unclog pores.