How To Get Rid Of Chest Acne: Causes & Treatments

Man getting out of the pool, confident of showing off his chest after finding out how to get rid of chest acne.
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Struggling with chest acne?

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What is Chest Acne?

Chest acne can develop when sweat and oil are trapped against the skin, clogging the pores. It may cause discomfort and can be difficult to treat without medical help.

Many types of acne, including pimples and blackheads, are very common on the face (see our acne face map for more information or take a look at our guide on ‘Face & Body Acne’). Acne can affect any area of the body, however. People with severe acne may have breakouts in several places, experiencing chest and back acne.  

In this article, we look at the underlying causes of chest acne and how to treat it.


Chest acne causes

Chest acne develops when sweat, oil, dead skill cells or other debris clog the pores in the skin. A clogged pore allows bacteria to build up and form blackheads, pimples, cysts and other forms of acne.

Hormonal changes are a very common cause of acne on all parts of the body, because of the effect certain hormones have on the sebaceous glands. These glands produce the sebum oil on the skin. 

The chest may be particularly prone to acne, as it is often covered up, which can trap both sweat and sebum oil.

Hormonal causes of chest acne include:

  • Testosterone, particularly during puberty

  • Menstrual cycles

  • Pregnancy

  • Menopause and perimenopause

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

Other causes of chest acne include:

  • Too much sebum oil: Some people’s skin is naturally more oily. Frustratingly for some, things that dry out the skin can also cause it to produce more sebum oil in response

  • Skincare products: Emollients, humectants and other thick moisturisers can trap oil and debris against the skin, leading to clogged pores

  • Tight, non-breathable clothing: Some fabrics and tight-fitting clothes can trap moisture on the chest. Certain fabrics may also irritate or inflame the skin, making a bacterial infection more likely

  • Household chemicals: Harsh soaps, laundry detergents and cleaning products can sometimes irritate the skin and cause breakouts

  • Medications: Some medications, including corticosteroids, contraceptives and testosterone, impact a person’s hormone levels and may contribute to acne.

  • Sugary foods: Food and drinks that contain refined sugars can lead to breakouts, including on the chest

  • Dehydration: Dehydration can dry out the skin, causing it to produce more sebum oil. This could increase the risk of clogged pores


How to get rid of chest acne

There are a few ways to get rid of chest acne. For mild outbreaks, lifestyle adjustments such as wearing loose, breathable clothing may be a sufficient treatment. For long-term or severe chest acne, medical treatments can help.

Common lifestyle adjustments to treat or prevent chest acne include:

  • Showering or wiping the area clean after exercising or doing any activity that causes sweating

  • Not using makeup or thick moisturisers on the chest

  • Wearing loose clothing made of a breathable material, such as cotton

  • Switching to a hypoallergenic laundry detergent or soap

  • Avoiding picking or popping pimples and blackheads, as this can make the outbreak worse


Chest acne treatment

While individual chest acne treatment plans vary from person to person, it is likely that a doctor or pharmacist will recommend one or a combination of the following products as a first step:

  • Benzoyl peroxide: This works by reducing the bacteria on the skin (Acnecide Gel, Acnecide Wash and Epiduo Gel)

  • A retinoid: Retinoids remove dead skin cells by exfoliating the skin. Not removing these dead skin cells could otherwise clog the pores (Differin Gel)

  • Azelaic acid: It may be particularly helpful for people with sensitive skin.This acid kills off bacteria that form on the skin, getting rid of unwanted dead skin cells.

  • Salicylic acid: Similar to Azelaic acid, Salicylic acid reduces unwanted bacteria and dead skin. A common ingredient that is often found in over-the-counter treatments

  • A topical antibiotic: Antibiotics kill the bacteria on the skin and are available as gels or lotions (Duac Gel, Treclin Gel and Zineryt Lotion)

Severe or stubborn chest acne can extend deeper into the skin. This type of acne includes painful cysts and nodules, and it may eventually cause scarring. When lifestyle changes and over-the-counter solutions do not alleviate breakouts, people with chest acne can consult a dermatologist.

Prescription treatments for chest acne include:

Antibiotics and a topical cream

Often the first line of treatment for severe chest acne. The antibiotics will reduce swelling and inflammation, while the topical cream fights bacteria and prevents clogged pores.

Chemist Click stocks a range of topical antibiotics that include:

On occasion, a doctor or dermatologist may try switching the type of antibiotic before recommending other treatments if the initial antibiotics or topical creams aren’t working.

Contraceptive pills

Some doctors prescribe hormonal contraceptives to female patients to help treat acne. For severe cases, they may also prescribe antibiotics or a drug called spironolactone.

Chemist click stocks the following acne friendly contraceptive pills:

However, it is important to note that some implants and progesterone-only pills are known to make acne worse.


This highly effective drug works by reducing inflammation, bacteria, oil production and clogged pores. It has very serious possible side effects, so a doctor will help a person decide if it is right for them and will carefully monitor them during treatment.


For particularly large or painful acne cysts on the chest, a dermatologist may suggest removing it in the clinic by draining it or injecting it with a corticosteroid.

Low-dose prednisone

This is a strong corticosteroid that doctors sometimes prescribe to treat a very severe form of acne called ‘acne fulminans’.


While the occasional pimple on the face is quite common, people with more serious acne may experience breakouts on their chest and back. No one should have to ‘live with’ chest acne or ‘wait it out’ — not treating severe or long-term outbreaks can lead to scarring. 

There are a variety of over-the-counter and prescription back acne treatments available at Chemist Click. Following a short online consultation, one of our trained pharmacists will be able to recommend the right product for you, getting it to you as quickly as the next day.

Whilst all of our content is written and reviewed by healthcare professionals, it is not intended to be substituted for or used as medical advice. If you have any questions or concerns about your health, please speak to your doctor.