Medically reviewed by Dr. Nancy Shannon, MD, PhD on May 12, 2021
There are scores of acne and skin products out there to choose from, but it can often be difficult to know which can be used where. If your dermatologist prescribes you something for your face, for example, could you use that same product to treat an outbreak on your back? Chest?
As with all things related to acne, there are no simple answers to these questions. What works for one person may not work for another, but that doesn’t mean you should give up hope — the right treatment for you is out there somewhere. If you’re wondering whether or not acne face products can be used for the body, here’s what you need to know:
Treating Body Acne with Facial Products
Acne is acne is acne is acne. Even though there are different types of acne you can experience, the acne you experience on your face is usually not fundamentally different from the acne you get on other parts of the body. For this reason, the acne products you use on your face can generally be used on other parts of your body as well, particularly on the chest, back and shoulders (which are common areas for acne to develop).
The face has some of the most sensitive skin on the body, so acne products designed to be used on the face are formulated to be gentle and non-irritating. Other common areas for acne to appear on the body such as the back, chest, stomach, or arms are all generally covered in tougher skin than the face is. In other words, if your face doesn’t react negatively to the products you put on it, it’s unlikely that other parts of your body will either.
This is particularly true of cleansers, as making sure the pores on all parts of your body are clear is key to guarding against any further breakouts. Some of the most popular acne-fighting formulae such as benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, and adapalene gel are also perfectly safe to use on both your face and other parts of your body. One big exception to this: During pregnancy topical retinoids like tretinoin and adapalene should not be used on your body or face. If you experience acne during pregnancy talk to your doctor about using other treatments, like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, with your doctor’s approval.
Other Ways to Fight Body Acne
Even if the products you use to fight acne on your face are okay to use on other parts of your body, that doesn’t mean they’ll be totally effective. One of the biggest factors determining the effectiveness of different acne treatment regimes is your skin type. Skin type refers to the general nature of your skin — whether it’s dry, oily, balanced, sensitive or some combination thereof — and is usually meant in terms of the skin found on the face.
Just because the skin on your face is a certain way doesn’t mean that the skin on the other parts of your body are the exact same. Some acne treatments are oil-based and oil-based treatments applied to parts of the body that already have naturally oily skin will likely end up just causing more acne.
Products needn’t be your only tools in the fight against body acne, though. Some body acne can come about from clothing-related friction and compression — factors far less likely to affect the face. If you regularly exercise and are experiencing body acne, dermatologists recommend wearing loose-fitting clothing made of breathable cotton or other types of sweat-wicking fabrics. Also after exercise, you should remove work-out clothes and shower as soon as possible.
Is The Reverse True?
So you can use facial acne treatments on other parts of your body, but what about the other way around? If you have persistent body acne, your dermatologist might have prescribed you some treatments for it. Can you use those to spot treat breakouts on your face?
You might be able to, but proceed with extreme caution. The products you’ve been using may be designed for the sturdy skin on your back and may not be suitable for the gentler skin of the face. Ask your dermatologist first before using any body acne products on the face.
With so many different treatments to choose from, it can be difficult finding one that works — be it for the face or for the body. Our medical team here at Nurx is here to help you find the right treatment for you. Get in touch today to learn about what’s available.