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Abbreviated Fridays, sun galore, watermelon margaritas… The wondrous season of summer is filled with silver linings. Until, of course, it's not. One such fly in the ointment: out-of-character breakouts popping up every which way in uncharted territory. Boobs! Butt! Bikini line! And that's just the warm-up.
"Some people are genetically prone to breakouts in these areas, but sweat under clothing can exacerbate this condition in the summer," Nancy Samolitis, MD, FAAD, explains to me. "A combination of heat and sweat can clog hair follicles and stimulate an overgrowth of not just bacteria, but yeast that normally lives on our skin." So basically, all the things we love about summer also equate to the perfect storm when it comes to acne. Glorious.
Even though we feel mostly equipped to handle a rogue bump (or two or three) every so often atop our complexions, when they start showing up in unexpected places, well, then we're left scratching our heads. So, to nip any unwanted pimples in the bud this summer, we reached out to two of the best dermatologists in the business—Mount Sinai Hospital Director of Cosmetic & Clinical Research Joshua Zeichner, MD, and Facile Dermatology + Boutique co-founder Nancy Samolitis, MD, FAAD.
Here's our acne-busting agenda: to pinpoint all the weird places we might break out this season and from there, glean as many tips, tricks, and product recommendations to prevent acne for good this summer. Sound good? Thought so. Keep scrolling to discover six annoyingly unexpected places your body will want to break out this summer, and how dermatologists say you can prevent it.
"Acne on the rear end is usually folliculitis, not true acne," Zeichner clarifies. "It is caused by a superficial infection of the hair follicles instead of traditional acne-causing bacteria and clogged pores."
So, what's the main perp during the summer season? Not all too surprisingly, he credits common offenders like sweating, chafing, scorching temperatures, and exercise. As for preventative measures, Zeichner recommends using a benzoyl peroxide-containing body wash to help reduce levels of bacteria on the skin.
"As oil and dirt become trapped in the cleavage area, they may work their way into the skin, leading to breakouts," Zeichner warns. "After working out, make sure to get out of your workout clothes as quickly as possible and hop in the shower. Gentle exfoliating body washes are a great way to keep the skin clear and prevent acne breakouts by removing dead cells from the surface of the skin."
Not only is acne along the hairline more painful (why, summer, why?) but it's also increasingly common once summer comes around.
"As oil and dirt accumulate on the scalp and around the hairline, it may block pores leading to acne breakouts," says Zeichner. The solve: He advises keeping hair off your face as much as possible (hello, ponytail season!) and making sure to keep your hair clean in the first place. (Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but a diet of dry shampoo just won't suffice come summer.)
"You may need to shampoo your hair more frequently than you do in the wintertime because of higher levels of oil on the scalp," Zeichner tells us. He suggests adding a salicylic acid-containing shampoo to your summer hair routine to nix excess oil on especially greasy days.
Other Honorable Mentions
Even though you'll want to keep your eyes on the above three places when it comes to preventing breakouts this summer, unfortunately, it might not stop there. According to Samolitis, other common spots for acne to emerge include on your shoulders, on your back, and behind your legs. But don't fret—keep scrolling for the dermatologist-approved products to help save acne-prone skin this summer.
The Breakout-Busting Product Guide
"Prolonged sweating under clothing, especially with outdoor activities and exercise, can cause—or worsen—summer breakouts on unexpected parts of the body," emphasizes Samolitis. To make matters worse, wearing fabrics that don't breath well (read: workout gear) will likely trap bacteria. "Many athleisure brands like Lululemon have silver particles woven into their clothing to help kill bacteria related to excess sweating and moisture on the skin," says Samolitis.
Not only are these joggers cute (and a personal favorite of Hailee Steinfeld), but they're also the most technology-savvy piece of clothing you may ever own. Made with the brand's Revolutionary VaporActive, these pants attract moisture to remove sweat and, in turn, keep you dry, cool, and free of acne-causing bacteria. Plus, active particles in the fibers attract and trap odor-causing molecules, which are later cleaned out when you run them through the wash cycle. Genius, no?
As many of us know all too well, breakouts from ingrown hairs do occur—especially when you're doing extra grooming for the summer. And nothing feels worse than having irritation along your bikini line. However, as long as you keep a stash of these handy wipes designed to prevent and treat ingrown hairs and bumps around, you'll remain in the clear.
"Avoiding your favorite summer activities is not recommended! When you notice sweat under your clothing, try to clean your skin as soon as possible," Samolitis recommends. "If showering isn't an option, skin-cleansing wipes (similar to the ones used to remove makeup) are easy to have on hand for a quick wipedown. I love these from La Roche-Posay."
Instead of sopping up excess oil with dry shampoo (a recipe for disaster as it can mix with sweat around the hairline), Zeichner recommends this affordable salicylic acid-infused shampoo from Neutrogena.
Albeit a tad more expensive, this ultra-nourishing pick from René Furterer is another commendable option and is infused with scalp-soothing ingredients such as jojoba, monoi, orange blossom, and jasmine to upgrade your summer hair game.
To keep bum acne at bay this summer, Zeichner suggests using a benzoyl peroxide-enriched body wash to keep bacteria levels on the skin in check. He told us he likes this budget-friendly pick from Clean & Clear.
Sometimes treating the skin with some TLC is what the doctor (specifically Zeichner) orders to prevent summertime breakouts. He suggests gentle exfoliating body washes to remove dead skin cells that could clog pores down the road. His pick? This top-selling drugstore formula from Dove.
Just like Zeichner, Samolitis agrees a benzoyl peroxide body wash is one of the best strategies for preventing summer breakouts. "The PanOxyl wash used to only be available by prescription but can now be purchased OTC. That being said, make sure it is rinsed clean before toweling off because it can bleach your towels too."
Next Up: My Skin Has Never Been Brighter: Here's a 5-Step Morning Korean Skincare Routine Will Help You Glow All Day Long.
Callewaert C, De Maeseneire E, Kerckhof FM, Verliefde A, Van de Wiele T, Boon N. Microbial odor profile of polyester and cotton clothes after a fitness session. Appl Environ Microbiol. 2014 Nov;80(21):6611-9. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01422-14.