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Preventing body acne

It is frustrating enough to deal with break-outs on the face but, for some people, the problem extends to other parts of the body as well.

Body acne can appear on the chest, shoulders, arms, and even the legs and buttocks. They tend to be rather similar to facial acne.

However, in some people, body acne tends to be larger and causes scars because they are inflammatory acne, said Dr Joyce Lim, a dermatologist at Joyce Lim Skin and Laser Clinic at Paragon Medical.

About 30 per cent of her patients have this problem, and men and women are equally affected.

Factors that may trigger body acne are active oil glands, usually due to hormonal influences; blocked oil glands, which occur when dead skin cells are not shed properly and clog the oil-producing gland; bacterial activity within the oil glands; and inflammation of oil glands.

Hygiene has little to do with it, said Dr Lim. "It is a myth that body acne, or acne in general, is caused by poor hygiene."

Many people also mistakenly believe that such break-outs are caused by "heatiness" in the body or certain types of food, such as fried and oily dishes, she said.

However, typical aggravating factors are moisturisers that are too rich, cleansers that are too creamy, and poor lifestyle habits. For instance, keeping late nights, sun exposure, stress and being exposed to steam and heat at spas, or during hot yoga - which requires the exercises to be performed under hot and humid conditions. For women, hormonal fluctuation may also be linked to body acne.

Dr Lim shares three measures that you can take to prevent or reduce the occurrence of body acne.

•Tweak your lifestyle to avoid trigger factors.

•Try not to use body moisturisers.

•Use an anti-bacterial soap to nip those pesky bacteria in the bud.

While body acne can be treated with products that are used to tackle facial acne, do see a dermatologist if it keeps cropping up, said Dr Lim. This is especially so if you have big papules and nodules.

Papules are small, solid conical elevations on the skin, while nodules refer to large and painful bumps under the skin.

"In some instances, when the skin is thicker, oral medication may be needed as topical medication cannot sufficiently penetrate it," she said.

Poon Chian Hui

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2015, with the headline 'Preventing body acne'. Print Edition | Subscribe