Causes of Acne on the Arms & Back

Acne is mostly associated with blemishes that appear on the face, but it can also show up on other parts of the body. Arms and back are particularly vulnerable to developing acne, which can make it difficult to wear tank tops, backless or strapless clothing. While there are treatments available for body acne, it is important to understand the causes of this condition so you can help prevent triggering arm and back acne.

Acne on a man's back and shoulder. (Image: charnsitr/iStock/Getty Images)

Sweat

Sweat can easily cause your body to break out with acne, particularly if you do not take a shower as soon as you finish exercising. While sweating is generally speaking positive for your skin since it opens your pores, it can also irritate your present acne and cause your pores to be open for additional bacteria to accumulate on. Living in a place with hot or humid weather in particular can contribute to acne on your back and arms.

Sebaceous Glands

Areas like your arms, neck and back have more sebaceous glands (that secrete an oily substance called sebum) than other parts of your body, besides for your face. The locations of your body that have more sebaceous glands also contain more oil, which causes your hair follicles to have a higher chance of getting clogged with dead skin cells, causing irritation to your skin, as well as acne.

Friction

Friction is another contributor to acne on your arms and back. Rubbing your skin excessively can make your current acne even worse and even cause new breakouts to occur. Wearing restrictive clothing, such as a tight shirt, purse strap or backpack can cause irritation to your skin and potentially acne as well.

Androgens

Androgens are a typical male hormone that can create acne, especially the kind that appears on the back and arms. These male hormones can also make your sebaceous glands bigger and subsequently produce more oil than usual, which leads to clogged hair follicles and acne.

Estrogens

The female hormone called estrogen can also cause acne. When a women menstruates, her estrogen levels can vary widely, which can cause acne breakouts on the back and arms in particular. Using birth control pills can help prevent these breakouts for some, but worsens the problem for others.

Allergic Reactions

Allergic reactions to the ingredients contained by your fabric softeners, laundry detergents and dryer sheets can also inflame and irritate your skin, leading to back and arm acne.

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