I remember having acne-prone skin as far back as the seventh grade when I got my first pimple on picture day (seriously—like something out of a YA novel). Over time, my face eventually cleared up with the help of hormonal birth control, a better diet, and a proper skincare routine, but the breakouts on my body still remained, especially in the warmer months. There are many sebaceous glands on your chest and back, meaning lots of opportunities for breakouts, especially in a humid environment. As someone who works out pretty consistently, the mixture of dirt and oil, as well as the sweat that comes from pushing myself in the gym, usually results in some unwanted bumps on my skin (though, let’s set the record: body breakouts are totally normal, and while I’d personally rather do without them, they certainly shouldn’t spark shame). One easy way to treat body breakouts is to shower immediately after exercising—with the right wash, that is. You see, some cleansers may actually cause breakouts, particularly if they’re formulated with comedogenic ingredients such as sodium laureth sulfate, laureth-4, or coconut oil.
Enter Curology’s new acne body wash, a lightly foaming cleanser formulated with 2% salicylic acid—an exfoliating agent that cleans pores of acne-causing gunk, from old skin cells to dirt and oil. Now that I’m restricted to only working out at home, I can easily hit the showers after I exercise and wash away sweat and grime with a product that really works. If you aren’t familiar with Curology, allow me to introduce you: It’s a teledermatology company that matches members with a certified dermatology provider who prescribes a custom prescription cream for your face and neck based on your skin condition and medical history—no AI algorithm involved. What’s more: all products are designed by dermatologists, vegan, and cruelty-free.
To learn more about why the acne body wash works so well, along with some general body acne FAQs, I spoke with Curology provider Nicole Hangsterfer, PA-C. Read on for her answers.
Byrdie: First off, can a body wash or topical solution help prevent breakouts rather than work just as a reactive measure?
Nicole Hangsterfer: Here’s some good news: certain products can help prevent new breakouts while also treating existing breakouts. The key ingredient in our acne body wash is salicylic acid (aka BHA, or beta hydroxy acid), which helps dislodge the dead skin cells that accumulate in your pores, encourages exfoliation, and helps prevent the buildup of sebum (oil) and debris. This buildup can trigger acne breakouts—so by helping keep your pores clear of gunk, our body wash can also help stop breakouts in their tracks.
Byrdie: How soon after working out should you shower to prevent breakouts from happening?
Nicole Hangsterfer: If you’re doing an activity that causes you to sweat, showering right after is the best way to prevent breakouts. If a shower isn’t possible, change out of your sweaty clothes and consider using a cleansing wipe on acne-prone areas like your chest, back, and face. Though some wipes may irritate the skin, a few are quite gentle—just be sure to look out for potentially irritating ingredients like alcohol.
Byrdie: If we all have roughly the same amount of sweat glands on our bodies, why do some people break out more than others?
Nicole Hangsterfer: I get that question a lot, and there’s no easy answer that explains why some people are more prone to breakouts than others. Many factors can cause acne breakouts: genetics, normal hormonal fluctuations, stress, diet, and other lifestyle choices can all contribute. Regardless of the specific cause, though, proper treatment can almost always help!
Byrdie: Is there anything else you can do to help prevent body breakouts on top of using the body wash?
Nicole Hangsterfer: Yes, definitely! First, when working out, wear loose-fitting and moisture-wicking clothes. As I mentioned earlier, if you’re doing something that makes you sweat, shower or change clothes right away. And do your best to be gentle on your skin—try to avoid harsh cleansers and physical methods of exfoliation like loofahs and back brushes, as irritation may lead to breakouts. For more tips, check out our comprehensive body acne guide.
Byrdie: How does this acne body wash differ from others on the market?
Nicole Hangsterfer: I love this question! Curology’s acne body wash was designed by dermatologists to treat and help prevent acne—while helping cleanse your skin of regular dirt and grime. It’s formulated with just enough salicylic acid to be tough on acne but gentle for all skin types, so you can use it every day.
Byrdie: Who should use this body wash?
Nicole Hangsterfer: The acne body wash is designed for anyone looking for help treating and preventing body acne. We’ve found that many people want a body wash that’s effective, yet soothing and mild. This body wash is just that. But if you’re concerned about a possible sensitivity to salicylic acid, remember to do a patch test on your forearm before using the acne body wash all over your body. People who are allergic to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) should avoid topical products with salicylic acid.
Byrdie: Can you customize the acne body wash like the prescription cream?
Nicole Hangsterfer: Although our acne body wash is not customized, it is dermatologist-designed to work with the rest of your Curology routine. You can use our body wash on your body and your cleanser and custom formula on your face.
Byrdie: How should you apply the body wash for the best results?
Nicole Hangsterfer: Our acne body wash is super simple to use! Massage onto damp skin. Leave it on for a minute, then rinse off. It’s gentle, can be used daily, and can be used all over the body—just remember to avoid the genital area. If you happen to find it to be a bit drying, consider using it only on the affected areas.
Byrdie: Since shampoos and conditioners can be the culprits of body breakouts, which ingredients should we look out for on our hair care labels? And should we always use the body wash last in our shower routine to rinse away any possible pore-clogging ingredients?
Nicole Hangsterfer: This is a great question! If your breakouts are stubborn, you can consider checking your hair products for sodium laureth sulfate, a potentially pore-clogging ingredient commonly found in shampoos and conditioners. To help prevent breakouts on your body, you can also try to tilt your head while rinsing out shampoo and conditioner and letting the water fall to the ground and avoid touching your skin. And you certainly can use your body wash last in your shower routine. You don’t have to, but this may help wash away any pore-clogging residue from hair care products. Finally, it’s important to know that shampoo and conditioner won’t contribute to breakouts in most people.
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