How to Get Rid of Body Acne

Acne Infographic Enlarge

This site is a guide to help you choose the best acne body wash. You will find information, tips, videos, and acne body wash product reviews.

Acne can occur on the body, just as it does on the face. Having pimples on your body can be painful, and the redness can be really embarrassing. Using an acne body wash can help alleviate and prevent this skin problem. Soon you will have beautiful, clear skin!

Recommended – 3 of the best acne body washes:
Salicylic acid – Phisoderm Body Wash
Benzoyl peroxide – PanOxyl Body Wash
Glycolic acid – Glytone Body Wash

acne on bodyWhat is Body Acne?

Body acne is similar to acne on the face, and it occurs for the same reasons (discussed below). Body acne is a very common skin problem, although you might not think so because clothing will cover up the symptoms. These red, inflamed pimples can lead to embarrassment and insecurity. Luckily, there are a variety of acne treatments available.

Acne on the body can be much more painful and tender than acne on the face. This is because the skin is thicker, so the acne lesions will be larger and will occur deeper within the skin. The sores will also be more visible, and may take longer to heal.

Another issue with body acne, particularly on the back, is that the breakouts can be hard to reach. This means it will be more difficult to apply topical treatments. Luckily, with body washes you can use brushes and washcloths to extend your reach.

Types of Body Acne

Body acne can occur in a few different forms. By identifying the type of acne you have, you can better understand how to treat it. For example, glycolic acid is good for blackheads, while benzoyl peroxide is better for pustules. Plus, you can further research your skin condition, and can be better informed if you see a dermatologist.



Blackheads are plugs in a person’s skin that occur from oil build up in the pores. The oil darkens when it oxidizes.


Whiteheads develop from clogged pores trapping oil and bacteria. They are tiny white bumps on the skins surface.


Papules are small, firm bumps. These can be very tender. Do not attempt to pop them, they contain no pus.


Nodules are hard lesions that occur deep within the skin. They can last a long time and can be very painful.


After a person has had acne for a while, scars can develop. Popping or picking your acne can make it worse.

Red Blotches

Popping pimples drain them of pus, but will leave behind an irritated, red mark. Then skin will die and dry out.


Pustules are what you think of when you hear the word zit or pimple. An inflamed red mark with white pus inside.


Cysts are the most severe and painful type of acne. These are large, tender, fluid filled bumps deep within the skin.

Where Acne Occurs on the Body

where body acne occursAcne can develop anywhere on the the body where there are sebaceous glands. So the only two exclusions are palms of hands and soles of feet. While acne can occur anywhere, there are a few hot spots. Body acne commonly occurs on:

  • Back (bacne)
  • Shoulders
  • Buttocks
  • Thighs
  • Upper chest

Causes of Body Acne

Before choosing the right body soap to treat your acne, you should know what causes acne breakouts in the first place. You will then understand how these medicated washes help to alleviate acne. No matter where acne occurs, it develops the same way. First there is the accumulation of sebum (oil), and then bacteria will grow to start an infection.

sebum causes body acneSebum (Oil)

Sebaceous glands in skin produce sebum, a natural oil that lubricates, hydrates, and protects skin and hair. However, this oil is also the root cause of acne. If too much sebum builds up, it creates the perfect environment for acne causing bacteria to thrive in.

Some people genetically produce more sebum than others (oily skin type), and they are more prone to suffer from acne. Hormonal changes can also cause sebaceous glands to over-produce oil. This occurs typically puberty, pregnancy, or menstruation. However, oil build up can occur at anytime, for anyone, as a result of pores getting clogged and oil getting trapped.


body acne causing bacteriaAfter oil builds up in pores, it creates an environment conducive for allowing bacteria to multiply rapidly. Acne causing bacteria (Propionibacterium acnes) is always present on people’s skin. While this bacteria is always there, pimples will not form until the bacteria gets down into the pore.

Inflammatory acne is caused when the bacteria gets down into the follicle, and starts living in the sebum. There, down in the pore, it will start to cause skin irritation. Pus will start to build up, and an inflammatory infection begins. This is known as a pus pimple. Bacteria does not however cause blackheads. Blackheads are instead created from pores getting clogged on the surface.

Exfoliating body wash – removes oil and clogged pores
Antibacterial body wash – kills acne causing bacteria

Acne Prevention Tips

There are a few other things that can trigger breakouts, or can exacerbate a current acne problem. While not always the case, there does seem to be some correlation between these factors and development of body acne. Try to avoid:

  • Skin irritation from tight, unbreathable clothing rubbing against your body
  • Hair styling products (chemicals running down your back when showering)
  • Excessive moisture and sweat
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of exercise
  • Lack of sun exposure (vitamin D)
  • Eating greasy foods

Exfoliating Body Wash

One way to treat acne is to use exfoliating products on your skin. By exfoliating, you will be removing dead skin, oil, and bacteria before it has a chance to clog pores and start an infection. Exfoliating will also help to unclog pores that are already blocked. Without clogged pores, sebum cannot build up and acne cannot form. In over-the-counter acne body washes there are two chemical exfoliants that are commonly used; salicylic acid and glycolic acid.


Salicylic Acid

Salicylic acid (SA) is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA), which is used as a chemical exfoliant. Salicylic acid is used in a variety of topical skin care products, including acne body washes. SA works well because it will penetrate deeper into pores than other exfoliators. It reaches down to the follicle to remove dead skin cells and debris. It is safe, and naturally derived from plants. Side effects of stinging, dryness, and redness can occur if over-used.

phisoderm salicylic acid body wash

proactiv salicylic acid body wash

body clear salicylic acid body wash

Glycolic Acid

Glycolic acid (GA) is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), in fact, it is smallest AHA known. It is sourced naturally from sugar cane (or fruits). Glycolic acid will cause dead skin cells on the surface to slough away. The downside is it does not penetrate as deep as SA. GA is used in a variety of skin care products for treating and preventing acne, removing wrinkles, and evening out skin tone. It is especially effective on blackheads.

glytone glycolic acid body wash

menscience glycolic acid body wash for acne

aqua glycolic acid body wash

Antibacterial Body Wash

The second way to stop acne dead in its tracks is to kill the bacteria responsible for causing the infection. If you kill the bacteria, a pimple cannot form, and current breakouts will diminish. For over-the-counter antibacterial body washes, common active ingredients include benzoyl peroxide, triclosan, and tea tree oil. A dermatologist can also prescribe stronger antibiotic washes, or oral antibiotics.

Benzoyl Peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide (BP) is #1 when it comes to topical, over-the-counter, antibacterial ingredients for acne. It works by bringing oxygen into the the pore. This causes bacteria to quickly die, as they cannot survive in oxygenated environments. BP will also dry out the skin. This can help to reduce oil, and loosen the plug causing the zit. Benzoyl peroxide is also anti-inflammatory, meaning it will reduce redness and swelling around the pimple. Side effects can include dryness, redness, and skin irritation.

panoxyl benzoyl peroxide acne body wash

topix benzoyl peroxide body wash

panoxyl benzoyl peroxide bar

Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has antibacterial and healing properties. If you are looking for a acne body wash with all natural ingredients, tea tree oil is your answer. Tea tree oil is nearly as effective as BP, but takes a bit longer to initially work. The benefits are that it is gentler on skin, with less side effects. The oil needs to be diluted before using it topically, or else it can irritate skin, causing peeling.

body shop tea tree oil body wash

jason tea tree oil body wash

bronner tea tree oil body wash

When to See a Dermatologist

With acne body washes, you should start seeing results within two weeks to a month. If you have tried over-the-counter acne treatments and they are not working, you should consider seeing a dermatologist. They can prescribe you a stronger medicated body wash, as well as other treatments. Plus, you can get your particular case assessed, as everyone is different. Plus, you can get any questions you have about acne and skin care answered.