“My son has body acne breakouts and we are both wondering if there are any special treatments or routines that can help him?”

Body acne is generally due to plugging of the hair follicles of the back and upper torso with excess sebum (oil) and dead skin cells, which cause the follicles to become inflamed and irritated. Preventing buildup of excess sebum and avoiding inflammation and irritation of the affected areas are important in the management of body acne.

While it is tempting to scrub lesions and surrounding areas vigorously, be gentle when cleaning the skin and do so with a mild, soapless or medicated cleanser, depending on acne severity. Vigorous scrubbing is no more effective than gentle washing and can aggravate acne lesions.

Minimizing pressure and friction is also important. Body acne can be irritated by backpacks, straps and sports equipment rubbing against the skin, so it might be helpful to assess whether this is a contributing factor.

Wearing loose-fitting clothing can also help with body acne. Tight-fitting clothing has a tendency to irritate the skin by trapping heat and moisture. It is also helpful to shower after exercise as perspiration on the skin can contribute to body acne, also by trapping bacteria. Be sure to towel off gently.

The available medicated treatment options for body acne are similar to those used to manage facial acne and may include over the counter topical agents (e.g., benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur), topical agents that require a prescription (e.g., retinoic acid, clindamycin lotion, adapalene) and oral antibiotics (tetracycline, minocycline, erythromycin, doxycycline), which also require a prescription. Isotretinoin, also an oral prescription medication, is reserved severe acne.

Given that body acne can cover quite a large area, the choice of topical formulation may differ than for facial acne. For example, using an acne wash or medicated cleansing bar may increase ease of application and convenience, as might cleansing pads containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid.