What you need to know about chest acne, according to top dermatologists

The expert guide to managing chest acne, from dermatologist tips to acne-friendly product recommendations

close up of woman with chest acne
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you struggle with persistent breakouts on the chest, you've probably considered that you could have chest acne. As well as being painful at times, it can really knock your self-confidence levels, so it’s understandable if you're on the hunt for ways to clear it up. 

The good news is that, while there's no cure for acne, there are things you can do to manage it. Many of the best acne treatments cater to body acne and there are a number of solutions on the market, from body washes to creams and acne patches

Throughout our careers, the Marie Claire’s beauty editors and writers have spoken countless dermatologists—so we know a thing or two about how acne works. Plus, a few of us have personal experience with blemish-prone skin and can speak to which products will tackle spots effectively as part of the best skincare routine for acne. Here's what you need to know about chest acne specifically, courtesy of the experts.

How to get rid of chest acne: the expert guide

What causes chest acne?

Acne develops as a result of excess oil and clogged pores, and it can occur anywhere. Yep, chin acne, neck acne, back acne and even bum acne are things to be aware of. As cosmetic dermatologist and skincare brand founder Dr Sam Bunting explains, a bacteria called C. acnes thrives in these blocked pores, leading to the inflammatory spots we know as acne – everything from red spots with a white head to pustules and deeper lesions.

“The process is the same at pore level, whether it’s happening on the face or body,” explains Dr Bunting. “Both the face and the upper chest and back have a high density of sebaceous [oil-producing] glands, which is why acne occurs at these sites.”

According to the NHS, chest acne affects around 15% of people with acne, which serves as a reassuring reminder that it's quite common.

How to treat chest acne

If your chest acne is particularly severe, you should speak to your doctor or dermatologist for treatment. They may prescribe you a stronger cream or a course of antibiotics. However, if the spots aren't too severe, there are specific ingredients and over-the-counter buys that our experts recommend – as well as some products they don't. 

“Body scrubs are a no-go – avoid a strong grain and exfoliating gloves, otherwise it could in turn worsen spots,” says Dr Alexis Granite consultant dermatologist for CeraVe. "A targeted and specially-formulated moisturising cream should be part of your routine too, to add moisture back into the skin."

Otherwise, “The principles of treatment are the same for the face and body: skin is skin," says Dr Bunting. "With the body, you might lean towards more spreadable textures or sprays to tackle larger areas. You might also want to skip benzoyl peroxide as an anti-inflammatory as it bleaches clothing."

“The neck and chest should be treated with the same approach [as the face], but can often be more prone to sensitivity and irritation,” she continues. “I love azelaic acid for these areas, as it’s both anti-inflammatory and pore-clearing. It also helps tackle post-acne marks."

Salicylic acid, a form of beta-hydroxy acid, is another excellent skincare ingredient for body acne because it can get deeper into your pores to break down any clogging debris. Our experts also recommend keeping an eye out for alpha-hydroxy acids like lactic acid and glycolic acid, which work more superficially but are also excellent at preventing clogged pores. Hesre are some of the key products that can help with chest acne. 

The best skincare products for chest acne

Lucy Abbersteen
Beauty Contributor

Lucy is a freelance beauty editor and contributor at Marie Claire, and has written for titles including Glamour, Refinery29, Popsugar, woman&home and more. She was previously Marie Claire’s junior beauty editor. During her career, she’s covered everything from backstage beauty at fashion week to interviews with famous faces like Drag Race royalty and Little Mix. As for her beauty ethos, she’s a big advocate for not having to spend a fortune on beauty products to get good results, and when she’s not got beauty on the brain you’ll find her reading or hanging out with dogs.