Adventures In Adult Body Acne: 4 Products That Help Keep My Skin Clear


I’ve tried to reframe the way I talk about skin. There is no “good skin” or “bad skin.” Your skin, like your body, is inherently good because it is yours. It is beautiful and it is literally one of a kind. All skin is good skin.

But not all skin is clear skin. And that’s okay! It’s okay to feel however you feel about your skin—just try not to let it get deeper than that. Growing up, we were all taught that pimples and acne were something inevitable to dread, and something to be fixed immediately when they appear. Dealing with blemishes often feels shameful and isolating, when in reality, acne affects up to 50 million Americans yearly. We treat acne like it’s something that we have to hide, and hide from, when really, acne is something we all deal with. Acne is normal.

Well, you couldn’t tell me that when I turned 30 because I had spent my whole life priding myself on having “good skin” only to reach full-fledged adulthood and—plot twist—develop body acne. I thought one of the best things about getting older was not having to worry about things like that.

While my body acne was, I am sure, not the worst case ever, it was still noticeable. It made me feel insecure in a way that I hadn’t before, even when no one was around to see me with my shirt off. It was all I’d see when I’d look at myself. And most of it was on my back, so really, I had to crane my neck to see it. But you know how it is. You know it’s there. I wanted to get rid of it, I wanted it gone, or at the very least, to find something to help me get a handle on it.

And what I found, worked! I have four solutions in rotation and they are all good in their own right.

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Vanicream Z-Bar Medicated Cleansing Bar

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Ew, bar soap.

Same! I hate bar soap and the only reason that this is an exception is that it works. Formulated with 2% pyrithione zinc, it fights both the bacteria and the fungus that lives under our skin. I know that sounds gross, but is perfectly normal, and a main cause of body acne.

There’s not much to say other than it does what it says. It’s not sexy, there’s no scent, it’s a white bar soap. But, this was the first thing I got my hands on when I was on my quest to fight body acne and it started to help my skin clear up noticeably fast.

This helped get the cystic pimples under control and was especially good with clearing up the weird, red speckles under my skin, which were honestly more of a concern. A zit or two on my back is one thing, but it’s the visible activity beneath my skin that really made my blood boil. This cleared that up quick, and while it’s not what I use every day, I always have one on deck for emergencies.

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Mario Badescu A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap

Mario Badescu

Okay we love Mario Badescu body wash. It’s gentle, effective, and affordable. It’s made with AHA's, short for alpha-hydroxy acids, which, in short, help to gently chemically exfoliate dead skin while you wash. AHAs also helps stimulate collagen, which is great for helping diminish the appearance of fine lines and promoting smoother-looking skin.

I’ve been using this the longest and have repurchased multiple times. To me, it’s unscented(ish,) it’s non-drying, and doesn’t strip your skin or make it feel tight. I still need to moisturize my body a bit after use, but on days I forget to, I don’t notice.

I know “affordable” means different things to different people, but yo, this is affordable. It comes in two sizes: 8 oz for $8 or 16 oz for $14. Prices like that for those amounts of acne-fighting body washes are lowkey unheard of, and I usually buy the 16 oz version two at a time. It takes me about a month to run through a 16 oz bottle.

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Curology Body Wash


So for starters, I love Curology. I’m always skeptical of any skincare subscription service, but after hearing nothing but rave reviews from people I actually knew and trusted, I gave Curology a try and I’ve never looked back.

In short, they hook you up with a real dermatologist for a real consultation where you tell them about your skin concerns and include photos of your beautiful face. From there, you get a monthly box of a cleanser, moisturizer, and customized acne treatment. It’s great. Plus, you’re not tied to only using these products. You can incorporate other things into the regimen, too! I use essences and serums and all that along with the Curology products.

It’s all gentle, effect, and no bullshit. I’m not here to evangelize but I literally have nothing bad to say about it. The cleanser is great, and the moisturizer is a lightweight gel formula which I LOVE. As I said, my face was never really that prone to breakouts, but when I would break out, I'd get these gnarly zits around my temples that would leave marks that took forever to fade. That stopped when I started using the Curology acne treatment. Plus. It’s affordable. I’ve turned a lot of people onto Curology only because it’s so good, so simple, and so inexpensive. I literally don’t see why you wouldn’t use it.

Anyway. They just released an acne-fighting body wash, which is like, the only way the brand could have gotten any better, in my eyes.

This body wash is formulated with 2% salicylic acid, which is a BHA, or beta-hydroxy acid, meaning it cleanses both on the skin’s surface and deep in your pores. (If you want an in depth, really easy to understand run down of AHAs and BHAs, Byrdie has got you covered here.) I really like this body wash and I find that it has been effective in both treating body acne and keeping it at bay.

A few things:

If you get the body wash monthly, you get a 3.4 ounce bottle, which, for body wash expected to last all month is small. For a moisturizer or even a facial cleanser, that would be fine, because you’re using less product on less surface area, but for a body wash? You just need more.

If you get it bi-monthly, you get a larger, 6.8 ounce bottle, and I low key think that should be the standard.

BUT, I will say, the texture of this body wash is thick, covers a lot of ground, and foams up quite a bit, so I needed to use less than I was accustomed to. I noticed this after a few showers, and after realizing how much I should be using, I definitely got more longevity out of the product.

On the other hand, if I take two showers a day, which is not unusual, I don’t want to be afraid of the body wash running out. And if I’m showering again, I probably just worked out or had sex, which means I’m sweaty, and sweat hanging out in your pores is obviously a big part of body acne in the first place.

I guess what I’m saying is I would just like more of the body wash, please. Don’t give me something good and make me ration it!

Finally, I have learned that big part of keeping body acne away is exfoliation.

Now, I need to be careful because I love to overdo everything, so I limit myself to only physically exfoliating my face and body once a week at most. And gently. Do you hear me? GENTLY. Because otherwise, I will literally scrub my face off.

Gentle daily chemical exfoliants, like toners, are great for the face, but physical exfoliants, I find, are key to keeping my skin clear, especially on my body. There are a bunch that I like, but one just dropped that I really love.

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Sunday Riley Charcoal Jelly Body Scrub

sunday riley

Salicylic acid, once again, helps to exfoliate skin and de-clog pores. Activated charcoal works to draw out dirt and impurities, which, I know sounds like marketing talk but if you’ve ever used any kind of charcoal product, you know they really work, and fast. The physical exfoliation comes from biodegradable wax, but in the shower, feels just like natural sugar. It also melts into skin as you wash. Zinc helps reduce excess oil, while manuka honey and coconut water hydrate. There’s also a bit of jojoba seed oil to help seal in that hydration.

As you can tell, this scrub really goes hard. It’s packed with claims, but it was designed to deliver on all of them. Sunday Riley products rarely disappoint, and this is no exception. Also, for a luxury skincare line, $38 for 7oz is not half bad— considering I used maybe a quarter-sized blob of product, this is gonna last me a while. I really, really enjoy it, and it’s definitely my new go-to body exfoliant.

Oh and that kooky pouch packaging? The scrub is in a pouch because most scrubs come in large jars or tubs, which typically fill with water when you're in the shower, which is just annoying. That, and an idiot like me is prone to dropping these glass tubs and shattering them on my shower floor. The drama! This one, while being cute and holographic, ensures that won't be an issue for me. The shower safety aspect of the packaging wasn't touted by Sundary Riley, I'm just speaking from experience.

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