What to Do About Body Acne

The weather’s warm and you’re...broken out. And not just on your face. But you’re not alone: Roughly 50% of acne sufferers are also prone to breakouts on their chest or back.

Commonly known by the internet as “bacne”—but to the dermatology community as “truncal acne”—body acne is a pesky condition in any season. Come summer, when hot days, scantier clothing, and an abundance of sunscreen make their annual debut, it can feel like the very act of enjoying summer is contributing to the breakout cycle.

To get the details on body acne’s causes and most promising treatments, we spoke with Stanford-trained integrative dermatologist and founder of WELL Dermatology, Dr. Erika Klemperer, who here offers her modern method for ridding acne from head to...well, back—for good.

First things first: stop scrubbing

“Acne is not from poor hygiene,” Dr. Klemperer underscores.

She recommends showering soon after exercising, but says typically acne is caused by a greater imbalance in the body, including:

  • An increase in sebum production
  • An imbalance of bacteria
  • Blockage of pores
  • Inflammation

The underlying causes of these imbalances can be hormonal changes, an unbalanced diet, lack of sleep, and stress. Her integrative practice focuses on finding and treating the cause.

The inside-out protocol

So Dr. Klemperer takes “an inside-out approach,” treating acne holistically through diet, nutrient-rich topical treatments, and healthy habits.

“I work a lot on gut health because that plays a significant factor in inflammation,” she says.

Here are her acne-busting tips.

Skip the ice cream

Sugar and dairy are the main culprits when it comes to acne-causing foods, she says. Sweeteners and sugar from refined carbs can cause inflammation, and traditional dairy is often chock full of hormones, which can send your complexion into a tailspin. Best to skip both while you restore balance to your skin.

Instead, fill a smoothie with all your favorite summer fruits and sprinkle in some ground flaxseed for a dose of skin-supportive omega-3 fatty acids.

Gentler is better

Throw out anything harsh, stripping, or abrasive. These type of treatments break down the skin’s protective barrier, allowing in more bacteria and irritants.

She recommends using nutrient-rich skincare to feed skin antioxidants and anti-inflammatories, which help repair damage and heal infection. Dr. Klemperer’s favorite skincare ingredients for breakouts? Vitamin C; niacinamide; oils rich omega-3 fatty acids, like hemp seed oil; green tea; and clay.

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Take a siesta (and the long way home)

“Sleep decreases inflammation and oxidative stress and increases our immunity,” says Dr. Klemperer. As does exercise. Picking up a theme here? Her protocol might sound similar to the habits your doctor, acupuncturist, and uber-healthy coworker keep touting as well.

Make skincare a respite

Ask yourself: do you dread your skincare routine? Traditional acne treatments are harsh on skin. They sting and dry you out, so it’s no surprise that many people have a contentious relationship with skincare.

The gentler, nutrient-rich products that Dr. Klemperer recommends tend to feel more luxurious and indulgent. She notes: “[Skincare] can be very meditative and can really help as a method to manage stress. I see something shift when skincare becomes pleasurable.”

Let go of stress

The demands of modern life leave most of us with too much cortisol pumping through our bodies. And “those spikes in cortisol are really messing up our hormones,” Dr. Klemperer says. When hormones are out of whack, our complexions, among other things, follow.

For the sake of your cortisol levels, breathe, get out into nature, do some yoga—it will do more than just make you feel good.

Detox your home

Contact with harmful chemicals is yet another thing altering the natural balance in our bodies. Being cognizant of pesticides and other chemicals in produce, cleaning supplies, personal care products, plastic goods, and processed foods can help you avoid unnecessary exposure—as well as hormone-related breakouts.