chest acne

Chest Acne – Facts, Myths and more

Acne is a common skin problem that many of us have to face in our daily life. It can appear in the skin of our face, chest, back, etc. where there are oil glands. When this acne appears in chest it is termed chest acne. Mostly appears in summer, chest acne is as troublesome as the acne in other parts of body. So in this article, we will particularly discuss about the causes, treatment, prevention of the chest acne.

chest acne
Image: Chest Acne

What is acne?

Acne is a common skin condition. It occurs if our hair follicles become clogged with oil and dead skin cells. So this blockage of pores causes an abundance of skin bacteria that is propionibacteria. So skin becomes inflamed and whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples may develop.

Chest acne :

Acne when appears in chest region, it is termed chest acne. Chest acne is specially irritating due to the affected region for both men and women. Chest acne commonly appears in summer season.

Chest Acne Symptoms :

Symptoms of chest acne is very similar like symptoms of acne in other parts of body. Acne symptoms depend on the severity. It also varies from person to person.

  1. Whiteheads (closed plugged pores)
  2. Blackheads ( open plugged pores)
  3. Small red and tender bumps (papules)
  4. Pimples (pustules)- Here papules are filled with pus at their tips.
  5. Large, solid, painful lumps that present under the skin (commonly termed as nodules)
  6. Pus filled painful lumps that present under the skin ( cystic lesions)

Chest Acne Causes :

Acne common causes-

Following are the most common causes of acne

  1. Excess oil (sebum) production
  2. Oil and dead skin cells make clogging of hair follicles.
  3. Bacteria
  4. Inflammation

The above-mentioned factor is common for acne in any part of the body.

Chest Acne additional causes-

Particularly for chest acne, some additional factors are

  1. Use of skin care products that prevent water loss.
  2. Excessive sweating.
  3. Friction from clothing.
  4. Chest acne becomes worse if we use harsh soap or chemicals.
  5. Rough scrubbing of skin also worsens chest acne.

It is important to mention that chest acne is not caused by dirty skin, so it is not a result of poor hygiene.

Factors that worsen acne and chest acne :

  1. Certain types of medications- such as corticosteroid, testosterone, lithium, etc.
  2. Hormones- In pregnancy and puberty, hormonal changes occur. This hormonal change can cause sebaceous glands to produce more oil, so more acne may develop. Hormonal changes in women during midlife may also lead to acne.
  3. Diet-Some study indicates that chocolate, skim milk and foods high in carbohydrate such as bread, bagels, chips, etc. makes acne worse. Although more research is needed in this area, but it is found that limited restrictions of this food improve acne.
  4. Stress-During stress, our body produces androgens, a hormone that may stimulate the hair follicle and oil glands. So more inflammation and development of acne may occur. Here it is important to note that stress itself does not cause acne, but when acne is already present then stress may worsen it.

Chest Acne myths :

There are many myths than facts regarding acne. Same myths are applied to chest acne. Let’s burst some of these myths

  1. Chocolate and greasy foods have little to no effect on acne. So eating these foods is not bad for acne.
  2. Hygiene: Poor hygiene does not cause acne, so dirty skin is not the cause of acne. In fact, acne becomes worse if you scrub the skin too hard. Also, if you clean the skin with harsh soaps or chemicals, it irritates the skin and acne become worse.
  3. Cosmetics: Oil-free makeup does not clog pores. So oil-free makeup does not make acne worse. But after use, early removal of the makeup is important. Also, oil-free makeup doesn’t interfere with the effectiveness of acne drugs, so oil-free makeup is a good choice especially if you are prone to acne.

Chest Acne Complications :

Chest acne, similar like acne in any other parts of body, has complications especially when it is present for a longer period and recurrent in nature. Research suggests that people with darker skin types are more likely to get complications of acne than lighter skin types. Following are the complications

  1. Scars-Pitted skin (also known as acne scars) and thick scars (also known as keloids) can remain long after the healing of acne.
  2. Changes of skin- The affected skin may be darker (hyperpigmented) or may be lighter in color (hypopigmented) after the clearing of acne.

Chest Acne Risk Factors:

Following are the risk factors for acne

  1. Age-Acne can occur at any age, but it is most common in teenagers.
  2. Hormonal changes-Hormonal changes make people more prone to get acne. So it is common in puberty or pregnancy.
  3. Oily substances- If skin comes in contact with oil or oily cream or lotion then chances to develop acne increase, especially if you are prone to acne.
  4. Family History- Research suggests that people are more prone to get acne if their parents had acne. So genetics may play a role in the development of acne.
  5. Friction or pressure on skin- Pressure on skin or any friction on skin may make us more prone to get acne. So tight collar, backpack, etc. that can cause friction or pressure on the skin, make us more prone to get acne.

Chest Acne Treatment :

Purpose of chest acne treatment-

The main purposes of acne and chest acne treatment are 

  1. Control the acne
  2. Avoid the complications of acne such as scarring or other damages to the skin.
  3. Making the scars less noticeable.
  4. Preventing the occurrence of acne.

Chest acne home remedies-

Acne in any part of the body including chest acne never becomes severe in single day. We recommend before going for any kind of medications, try out the chest acne home remedies , not only for chest acne, but for all other types of acne. There are some reasons why we recommend to try out home remedies first for chest acne. The benefits are

  1. All the home remedies are easy to follow with minimum time.
  2. These home remedies are all natural, so its 100% safe for all. Yes, even children and pregnant women also can follow.
  3. Home remedies take some time to show the results depending on the severity (even in some medical treatments) but the results are long lasting.
  4. Do not follow all home remedies at a time, try to select few and stick to follow them regularly.
  5. Generally, home remedies can even cure chronic chest acne. For mild or moderate acne issues chest acne home remedies are best solution.

If even after trying chest acne home remedies you are not getting best result, then seeking for medications are advisable.

Chest acne medications-

Acne medication reduces oil production and swelling. It also treats bacterial infections. Most of the time, after starting the medication, results may not be seen for 4 to 8 weeks. Sometimes it may take months or years to clear up completely. So immediate result one should not expect. You have to continue your medication until it heals completely.

Treatment differs based on your age, type, and severity of acne. Topical medication ( applying medication to the affected skin) and oral medication ( drugs taken by mouth) are used.

You need to consult with your doctor about the risks and benefits of medications you are going to take and also about other possible treatment options. Follow-up is very important after every three to six months until your skin improves or heals completely.

Chest Acne Topical Medications-

Retinoids and retinoid like drugs

In case of moderate acne, drugs with retinoic acids or tretinoin are useful as topical medication. You can apply creams, gels, lotions in the evening, starting three times in a week, then as your skin become used to , you can use it daily.

Remember never apply tretinoin at the same time as benzoyl peroxide, because applying these two at the same time can give you adverse effects.

Topical retinoid may increase the sun sensitivity of your skin. Also, it may cause dry skin and redness. Talk to your doctor if you experience any such problem.


Antibiotics kill harmful skin bacteria, so redness and inflammation reduce. Sometimes the antibiotics are combined with benzoyl peroxide to decrease the chances of developing antibiotic resistance such as erythromycin with benzoyl peroxide, clindamycin with benzoyl peroxide. One may use both retinoid and antibiotic in the first few months of treatment, it is recommended that antibiotic be applied in the morning and retinoid in the evening. Topical antibiotics alone are not recommended to use.

Azelaic acid and salicylic acid

Azelaic acid has an antibacterial property. A 20% Azelaic acid cream or gel when used twice a day is effective like other conventional acne treatments.

Though minor skin irritation and skin redness occur sometimes, still it can be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Also, it can be used to manage discoloration that sometimes occurs in acne.

Salicylic acid may help to prevent clogging of hair follicles, but more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness in acne treatment.


In case of inflammatory acne, Dapsone 5% gel twice daily is recommended. Redness and dryness may occur as side effects.

Chest Acne Oral Medications-


In case of moderate or severe acne, oral antibiotics can be a good option. Tetracycline (minocycline, doxycycline) or macrolide ( erythromycin, azithromycin) is the first choice of drugs.

 Children who are under 8 years old and pregnant women can not take tetracycline for acne, so they can use macrolide for acne and chest acne.

There is always a chance of antibiotic resistance, so oral antibiotics need to be used when it is needed and for the shortest time period.

Also, a combination with other drugs such as benzoyl peroxide is needed, because it reduces the chances of developing antibiotic resistance.

The drugs may increase sun sensitivity of the skin, but severe side effects are rare.

Combined oral contraceptives

Oral contraceptives with progestin and estrogen are useful for acne therapy and FDA approved them for acne therapy in women who also wish to use them for contraception.

When it is used with other acne medications for the first few weeks, it gives good results.

Here it is important to note that combined oral contraceptives have the following side effects- breast tenderness, weight gain, nausea, increased risk of cardiovascular problem, etc.

Anti-androgen agents

When oral antibiotics are not giving results, then spironolactone may be used for adolescent girls and women. Spironolactone blocks the androgen effect on oil glands. But breast tenderness and painful periods may occur as a side effect.


When moderate or severe acne fails to respond to other treatments, then Isotretinoin, a derivative of vitamin A, can be used.

Isotretinoin has potential side effects such as inflammatory bowel disease, depression, and severe birth defects.

Every people taking Isotretinoin must participate in FDA approved risk management program. Regular monitoring is needed for side effects, so talk with your doctor.

Chest Acne- when to see a doctor :

When home remedies fail to clear your acne, then you need to consult with a doctor.

Many women have acne that is persisting for decades, commonly it flares a week before menstruation. For women who use contraceptives, this acne type clears up without treatment. Still, if it becomes severe, medical consultation is needed.

In older adults, if there is a sudden appearance of severe acne then medical consultation is needed because many times it can be a sign of an underlying disease.

After using non-prescription acne lotions, cleansers, or any skin product, if you experience the following

  1. Difficulty breathing 
  2. Fainting
  3. Tightness of the throat
  4. Swelling of the face, eyes, lips, or tongue

then seek for medical help.

Takeaway :

Chest acne is really a common health issue in general. There are many reasons of acne as well as risk factors that increase the chances of acne including the chest acne. There are many treatments for chest acne. But follow-up is very important until acne heals completely. If your acne is severe or not improving with time it is better to seek medical help. If you experience any unwanted side effects after using any medication, then consult with a dermatologist. Stay safe and healthy.

If you have any further questions about chest acne, feel free to comment in our social pages, we reply there.

Sources :

  1. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine 20/E
  2. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology 9th Edition
  3. National Institute of Health
  4. American Academy of Dermatology Association
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