Acne is a skin condition we commonly associate with the face, but whiteheads, blackheads, pimples, and cysts actually can occur almost anywhere on the body. When acne occurs away from the face, it tends to be either very mild or very severe.
The Milder Form of Body Acne: Acne Mechanica
One of the mildest forms of acne anywhere on the body is a condition called acne mechanica. As its name suggests, this form of acne results from mechanical irritation, usually rubbing, of the skin.
The outermost layer of healthy skin consists of dead skin cells waiting to flake off. These dead skin cells provide an extra layer of protection for the living cells beneath them. They give the skin its matte, or texture.
Rubbing the skin too hard, however, loosens dead skin cells that were not quite ready for exfoliation. Sometimes these flakes of dead skin land in front of pores and block them. The blocked pores accumulate sebum (skin oil) and bacteria and become whiteheads, blackheads, and pimples.
The remedy for acne mechanica could not be simpler. Pat yourself dry. Don’t rub yourself dry. And don’t wear clothing that constricts the body so much that it leaves lines on the skin. Acne mechanica often appears on lines left by bras on women and overly tight underwear on men.
The More Severe Form of Body Acne: Acne Fulminans
At the other end of the spectrum of body acne is perhaps the most severe of all the forms of acne, acne maligna. In this form of the skin condition pimples, nodules, and cysts are not actually cancerous, but they do tend to infiltrate surrounding healthy skin and join together. These acne lesions become so large that opening pores cannot drain them. Benzoyl peroxide foams and washes simply have no effect. Just about the only way they can be removed is by debriding, or stripping away, the skin that contains them.
Acne maligna is more common on African-American skin than on any other skin type. In men, the acne lesions often destroy the hair shafts for whiskers. In women, debriding the skin is especially likely to leave scars. That is why the best treatment of acne fulminans involves a minimum of mechanical manipulation and cutting the skin and the greatest possible amount of skin nourishment, both from food and supplements and by gentle application of moist heat and other forms of energy.
When Should I See A Doctor When Having Body Acne
Ordinary whiteheads and blackheads on the body respond to the same kinds of treatment as whiteheads and blackheads on the face. Sometimes it can be enough just to avoid hot baths and showers that dry out the skin and trap sebum in pores. Usually gentle cleansers, an all-body moisturizer, and maybe a gentle peel and cleanser like benzoyl peroxide will finish the job.
Symptoms of Body Acne
Sometimes, however, body acne requires medical attention. Here’s how you would recognize the symptoms:
- Pimples are tender, red, inflamed, and/or painful.
- Pimples seem to grow and join together.
- A layer of fine, lighter skin has grown over a painful cyst.
- Hair follicles have been destroyed by the acne lesions.
Body Acne At Dark Skin
The darker your skin, the more urgent it is for you to get medical care for body acne. Dark skin is especially vulnerable to scarring that can only be prevented by careful treatment of acne fulminans that drains the cyst without permanently damaging the skin. In some cases, the infection inside cysts can even spread to other parts of the body, especially the joints. If you have severe body acne and joint pain, chances are your condition will only be reversed with a doctor’s help.
Microdermabrasion vs Ultrasound Acne Treatment
Microdermabrasion, so useful in treating other forms of acne, just won’t help with the most severe cases of body acne. It won’t open pores after infection has spread to neighboring skin.
Ultrasound treatment, however, can still help the skin receive the nutrients it needs to keep cysts and nodules from getting even worse, even as it stimulates the healthy flow of blood and lymph throughout the skin.