Although body acne is completely normal, it can be a distraction many brides would prefer to not deal with before their wedding day. If you struggle with the occasional back or shoulder zits, you may be crossing your fingers, hoping you don't find a blemish before your nuptials. However, while you can hope for the best, there's no guarantee that you won't wake up to a new breakout, especially if you're experiencing a bit of stress.
So, how do you prevent and treat body acne before your wedding day? We turned to the experts for their best tips regarding untimely blemishes on your back, neck, and chest. Whether your wedding is six months, six weeks, or even a few days away, here's how to prevent body acne from crashing your party.
What Causes Body Acne?
"Similar to your face, there are lots of oil glands (the technical name is sebaceous glands) on your back and chest," says Dr. Peter Young, M.D., a dermatologist and medical director of Facet. "Body acne develops when a 'smorgasbord' of oil, sweat, dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria get trapped within your skin’s pores."
Meet the Expert
Dr. Peter Young M.D. is a board-certified dermatologist practicing in Massachusetts. Before moving to Massachusetts in 2000, he served as a physician in the U.S. Army for nine years. In addition to his practice, he is also the medical director of Facet, a fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, and a member of the Massachusetts Medical Society.
Body acne will then get worse when experiencing friction, like when wearing a backpack, sports equipment, or sweaty clothing. It also tends to flare up during the summer months when people are more prone to sweating, resulting in clogged pores due to dry sweat.
What's more, "back acne (or 'bacne' as some people call it) is no different from chest acne," says Dr. Young. "Both areas of your body have an abundance of oil glands which make them a 'breeding ground' for acne."
How to Gradually Treat Body Acne
The first thing all experts can agree on is that it takes time to treat acne, so starting early is key. "Having good skin simply doesn't happen overnight," shares dermatologist Dr. Elaine Kung, M.D. "It takes time to prevent acne and treat acne no matter what you do at home or at a dermatologist's office."
Meet the Expert
If you want to tackle body acne before the big day, there are a few things you can do to resolve your current blemishes and reduce the chance of those breakouts returning.
Shower After Sweating
Sweat can clog pores, so make sure to shower after any strenuous activity or after you've been sweating a lot. In the summer, be sure to wear loose-fitting shirts made of cotton to help absorb sweat. You'll also want to avoid any heat-trapping fabrics like wool, nylon, or polyester if there's a chance you may sweat.
"If you can't shower right after a workout, at least change into fresh clothes," says Dr. Kung. Dr. Young also recommends washing your linens at least once a week to prevent the build-up of bacteria on your sheets, pillowcases, and towels.
Use Topical Treatments to Reduce Blemishes
Acne is technically a wound on the body, so you want to be careful to use products that are gentle on the skin but still effective at treating your blemishes.
"If you have mild back acne, you can start by trying over-the-counter skin cleansers and topical lotions or gels containing either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Adapalene gel (brand name Differin) is another over-the-counter acne medication that can be helpful for acne," advises Dr. Young.
And while there are many products designed to treat acne, Dr. Young reminds all his patients to ensure the products their using are non-comedogenic (or, non-acne-forming). Take a look at the shower gels and lotions you're using and discontinue anything heavily fragranced, which can irritate sensitive acne-prone skin.
Don't forget to wear SPF during the day! Some acne-fighting ingredients can make your skin even more sensitive to sun damage, so make sure to be extra vigilant with sun protection while using these topical treatments.
"I suggest brides who are struggling with acne to look at their skincare and hair care items to avoid products made of botanical or plant-based oils or occlusive ingredients that seal in skin oils like petrolatum, lanolin, beeswax, shea butter, or silicones," advises Dr. Kung.
Dr. Kung also suggests avoiding any and all physical exfoliation with bathing towels, mits, sponges, brushes, or loofahs because, as previously mentioned, friction and irritation of the skin can trigger acne.
Don't Pop Your Pimples
"We all know it’s tempting, but resist the urge to squeeze or pop your zits," says Dr. Young. "This can lead to an infection, unsightly marks, and even scarring, which may not fade before your wedding day."
Body acne tends to be more stubborn than the blemishes you find on your face, so there's no use in popping these pimples—they will only continue to return until the cause of the breakout is addressed and resolved. Be patient, stick to your topical treatments, and you'll soon be rewarded with the results you desire.
See a Dermatologist
If your acne is more severe or doesn't improve after trying these over-the-counter medications for a few months, the next step is to see a dermatologist.
"We can suggest or prescribe anti-acne washing, creams, or even pills which will take three months to control the acne," says Dr. Kung. "Some anti-acne washes may contain benzoyl peroxide, glycolic acid, or salicylic acid. Creams may include anti-inflammatory agents such as clindamycin or retinoids to unclog pores. I even advise grooms, not only brides, to start taking low-dose antibiotic pills for a few weeks to a few months before the wedding if they are truly worried that the stress will cause a massive acne outbreak."
It's important to remember, though, that dermatologists' offices are always busy, so plan ahead and call several months before your wedding day.
Don't Switch Up Your Routine
As the wedding day gets closer, you still may be suffering from a few stubborn spots. While there's a good chance some of these breakouts may fade by the time you're ready to walk down the aisle, you can't rush this process. Your best bet is to continue your current routine, even if the progress is slow.
"The rule of thumb is not to try any new skincare, makeup, beauty routine, fad diet, or procedures within one month of your wedding," says Kung. "By this time, you've already done your best to prepare for your big day."
How to Treat Body Acne on the Big Day
Let's say you've been diligently treating your body acne for six months prior to your wedding, and on the day before you say "I do", you wake up to a new breakout on your body. Would an overnight treatment fix the problem?
"Unfortunately, there’s no quick fix for acne and overnight treatments really don’t do the trick," says Dr. Young. "Acne treatment requires a daily skincare routine and lots of patience to see results since it can take a few months for your skin to clear."
If you want to mask your breakout, a bit of body makeup should do the trick and at least conceal any redness you may have surrounding the scene of the blemish. For example, Dermablend makes a highly pigmented body makeup that's smudge and transfer-resistant when used with the brand's setting powder.
At the end of the day, no pimple has the right to ruin your fun—no matter how untimely or unsightly its appearance. If you notice a breakout on your back, don't let it get you down. Your friends and family will be too distracted by your beautiful wedding dress, smiling face, and loving partner to even notice a tiny little pimple. Enjoy your special day, be present in the moment, and celebrate accordingly!