Spending tons of time in the gym can end up wreaking havoc on your skin. The key to giving body acne the boot—and keeping it gone—is staying super clean. Your number one target: sweat. It clogs your pores, trapping oil and dead skin cells inside, which leads to zits and painful cystic acne not only on your face, but also on your back, arms, and legs. But don’t skip intense workouts in fear of embarrassing bacne. Instead, use these tips to keep your body breakout-free from face to feet.
Lather up every day—and always after a workout—using a body wash that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Try Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash ($7, neutrogena.com). If your skin is very prone to breakouts, pick an exfoliating wash, like Olay Total Effects 7 Exfoliate and Replenish Advanced Anti-Aging Body Wash ($6, drugstore.com), which helps break apart dead skin cells and unclog pores. Use a new washcloth every time you shower since acne-causing bacteria can linger after each use. And be careful not to skip hard-to-reach places—a natural bristle brush will make it easier to reach your entire back.
Change Your Sheets
It’s tough to admit, but mom was right on this one. As you sleep, oil, dead skin cells, and sweat rub off your body and collect on your sheets so swapping them regularly (ideally twice a week if you can) helps keep skin acne-free. Gross, right? Well, the cleaner your bed linens are, the lower the chances that whatever accumulates on them will end up clogging pores and causing acne. You may also want to choose lightweight cotton, which traps less moisture compared to thicker materials.
Get Rid of Gym Germs
Obviously you can’t avoid sweat at the gym, but taking time to mop it up throughout your workout will go a long way when it comes to beating body breakouts. Before your workout, wipe down any weight and cardio machines you use with an antibacterial wipe—shared gym equipment is a popular hangout for acne-causing bacteria. In between exercises, wipe sweat off your body with clean towels or anti-bacterial wipes, and then hit the shower as soon as you’ve finished your workout. The longer sweat sits on skin, the more likely it is to cause breakouts. Use an exfoliating scrub, like St. Ives Purify Exfoliating Body Wash ($5, drugstore.com), to unblock pores and get rid of dead skin cells. Or wash with an anti-bacterial soap, like Dial Antibacterial Bar Soap ($8 for 8, soap.com).
Just say no to synthetic materials. They’re thicker than cotton, so they trap in the moisture and oils that clog pores and lead to breakouts. Opt for lightweight, loose-fitting fabrics that let sweat out and allow skin to breathe. Think about it like this: Wouldn’t you rather show off those lats at the beach (sans zits) than underneath a tight-fitting micro tee in the gym?
Treat It On Time
We know purchasing gels and creams is a pain, but don’t procrastinate. For mild cases of body acne, apply a spot treatment nightly until your breakout goes away. If you’re in your 20s, pick a gel treatment with benzyol peroxide or natural anti-bacterial ingredients such as sulfur and tomato, which help exfoliate and clear up skin. Try Neutrogena Clear Acne Eliminating Spot Gel ($8, neutrogena.com). Once you hit your 30s, opt for a cream-based acne spot treatment, which is less drying. Try Clearasil Daily Clear Adult Treatment Cream ($4, drugstore.com). Having trouble hitting the area between your shoulder blades or other hard-to-reach spots? Go for an acne-fighting spray, like Neutrogena Body Clear Body Spray ($8, walgreens.com). If skin doesn’t clear up after trying all of the above, check in with a dermatologist—you may need a prescription-strength cream or pill.