Causes of Shoulder Acne and What You Can Do About It

Causes of Shoulder Acne and What You Can Do About It

Unfortunately, our face is not the only body area that may fall victim to the stubborn and dreadful problem of acne - although it’s the most visible one.

You would be surprised to see how often this skin condition affects other body parts. Every part of our skin that has a high number of oil-secreting glands (known as sebaceous glands) or hair follicles is a potential ground for whiteheads, blackheads, or pimples. This includes the chest, shoulders, and upper back.

shoulder acne

Shoulder Acne

Let’s focus our attention on the shoulder. More than half the people suffering from acne also face skin problems with back and shoulder acne. The breakouts on the shoulders, however, tend to be a little different than the acne on our face.

First of all, this is because the skin has a different thickness in different body parts. Secondly, the density of oil glands and hair follicles on the face is a lot higher than on the back and shoulders. These are the reasons why, for example, some skin care products that are great for the shoulders can hurt our face.

And the other way around - some acne products that work on our face might negatively affect body acne or cause skin conditions like keratosis pilaris (small pimples on the shoulder and arms). We need a separate approach when dealing with shoulder acne.

Misumi offers a Blemish Clear Body Wash that's specially designed for treating mild to moderate acne on the body. It'll help unclog pores, get rid of dead skin cells, and calm acne lesions.

Shoulder acne can be very painful, causing swelling, redness, and even uncomfortable itching. And yes, should acne can definitely make us body-conscious,  shake our confidence, and even force us to leave our favorite clothes hanging in the wardrobe for way too long.

So, have you ever wondered what exactly this condition is and what causes it?

Types of Acne: a Breakdown

acne on face

Whenever our hair follicles get clogged from the accumulation of dead skin cells or oil from the sebaceous glands, a condition that is formally known as acne vulgaris occurs.

Clogged pores give the bacteria that live on our skin just the right conditions to grow. Many things can clog pores and lead to acne vulgaris, from the environment to the products we use. Normally, our immune system attacks the bacteria, and you might experience pain and swelling. This is when we start seeing small red, tender bumps on our skin.

There are many types of acne  - papules, blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, nodules, or even cysts. It's crucial to know how to recognize them, as treatments and approaches are different for each type.

We've included a little explanation below, but if you want to go into detail, we highly recommend that you read our ultimate guide on acne causes and acne types.

In order to distinguish acne better, what you need to know is that clogged pores are generally classified as whiteheads (which are open pores) and blackheads (closed pores). The small red bumps are called papules, and if they have pus at their tip then they are defined as pimples.

Painful nodules are large and solid lumps, while cysts are pus-filled lumps. Both beneath the surface of the skin.

Depending on the severity of the acne affecting the skin, your condition can be categorized as mild, moderate, or severe acne.


Keep in mind that there are many forms of acne classifications based on what’s causing them. For example, acne conglobata is a rare and severe form of nodulocystic acne. Acne mechanica is caused by physical activity. Nobody likes big words and Latin names, but these classifications help researchers and doctors develop specific products and get better and faster results.

A recent survey showed that 96% of acne sufferers believe there is a cure for acne, while only 4% know that acne can't be cured - but can be treated effectively. If you’re an unlucky soul who has dealt with acne for a long time, don’t despair! Early diagnosis, treatment, and good skin care habits can make all the difference. Experts agree that, in most cases, acne breakouts decrease with age.

Learning about the condition will help you understand your situation better, so you can use the right solution to get rid of shoulder acne fast and for good!

Below, we'll analyze the most common types of acne that affect the shoulders, the reasons why they occur, and the best possible solutions for each type.

Common Shoulder Acne Types and the Reasons Behind Them

shoulder woman

The National Institute of Health revealed that four out of five people have experienced some type of acne by the time they reach 30. Whether they're suffering from mild acne vulgaris or severe inflammatory acne, this number speaks volumes for the scale of this problem. Doctors don’t have the answer as to why only some people develop acne - well, not yet, anyway.

Despite this, we do know the most typical risk factors that contribute to and increase the chances of an acne breakout, so let’s go over them.

Reason Number One: Active Lifestyle and Acne Mechanica

woman exercising

If you're an active person who works out a lot or you do a lot of physical work, your pimples are probably acne mechanica.

This form of acne is observed to appear after repetitive physical trauma to the skin when there’s friction caused by clothing (belts and straps) or sports equipment. Acne mechanica develops with the accumulation of sweat underneath the tight clothes, and the equipment irritates the skin.

The good news is that this acne mechanica is really easy to treat.

The first step is to stop the accumulation of sweat. This can be done by wearing more comfortable, looser, and better-quality clothes for your activities. You can also change the equipment or use a cloth more frequently.

The next step is treatment. Products that are well-known for treating acne are benzoyl peroxide, and salicylic acid, but if you prefer more natural remedies you should try anti-inflammatory ingredients, such as tea tree oil and turmeric.

Prevention is key. Products won't make a difference if you don’t make a change in your daily habits. We recommend that you don’t wait too long after a workout to shower and change those sweaty clothes immediately!

Reason Number Two: Taking Medication and Acne Medicamentosa


It’s becoming more and more clear that certain drugs lead to skin problems as a side effect. Some of these drugs include lithium, anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, barbiturates, androgenic steroids, DHEA, and other oral medications.

These meds can cause a hormonal disorder in our body which can trigger acne medicamentosa, also known as drug-induced acne. The most common hormones to blame are progestin and testosterone. Progestin can be found in hormonal contraception drugs. Usually, when you stop taking the meds in question,  the acne eruptions go away.

This one is tricky - not everyone can stop taking their meds at the drop of a hat - and they shouldn’t stop anyway! In these cases, patients should always consult with their doctors and ask for acne treatment.

We would also recommend thinking of solutions that limit or reduce the damage acne has on the skin, rather than changing drugs. For example, think about the ways you can nourish your skin and make it healthier. Good habits and healthy skin can prevent further inflammation and scarring.

Reason Number Three: Yeast Infections That Affect the Shoulders

infection on shoulder

Pityrosporum ovale is a form of yeast that is normally found on our skin, but when there’s an increase in its population, it can lead to the spread of acne-causing bacteria. It usually happens in summer, when there's a lot of heat, humidity, and sweat. Be careful, because a lot of skincare products can trigger bacteria growth even more, causing a bacterial infection. Medical treatment is necessary and can effectively get rid of acne.

More Reasons Behind Shoulder Acne

  • Genetic Predisposition and Hormonal Changes
genetics skin

    When we talk about acne, whether on the face or other body parts, we have to mention puberty. This is considered the main reason for outbreaks of acne pimples on our skin. Hormonal changes, along with heredity, contribute to about 80% of all acne problems. This means that if one of your parents had acne, you are more likely to develop acne. If both of your parents had acne, you are at a higher risk of developing more severe acne, including shoulder acne.

    If you see a doctor, they may put you on a hormonal treatment to treat and prevent shoulder acne. If you're a woman, the pill is often recommended.

    • Hygiene
    hygiene skin

      Some people produce more excess oil and sweat more than others. This means that frequent showers and a more careful and intensive skin care routine (like Misumi's Complete Clear 3-Step System) might do the trick. Be careful, though. Showering too often and using a lot of skin care products can make things worse. If you dry out your skin, your sebaceous glands may be tempted to produce even more oils.

      Keep it simple and exfoliate the skin's surface regularly.

      • Skin and Hair Products
      hair products

        Some skin and hair products contain oil and other pore-clogging ingredients in their formula, which can lead to mild or moderate acne.

        Reading the ingredients in products might be boring, but it might save you a lot of trouble. Experiment with products, one at a time, and find what works best for you. You need skin care products that will help get rid of dead skin cells, dirt, and bacteria.

        You may also need moisturizing products, as well. Skin conditions like keratosis pilaris (arm and shoulder pimples caused by clogged hair follicles, and otherwise known as "chicken skin") are made worse with dry skin. Make sure to pick a moisturizer that will protect against the sun's UV rays.

        Beat and Treat Acne Good Skin Care Products

        Misumi offers a range of acne-fighting products that can keep you keep your skin clear. If you're battling shoulder acne, try Misumi's Blemish Clear Body Wash. This product will help unclog pores and prevent breakouts and remove dead skin cells and excess sebum. Whether you have mild, severe, or moderate inflammatory acne, this body wash will leave you with the soft, clean, and glowing skin you've been craving. Try it now.

        • Diet
        diet and shoulder acne

          It’s generally known that our dietary habits affect our skin health to a great extent. Although the link between food and acne is not quite clear, recent research shows that dairy products, fast food, and other food rich in fats might be worsening our skin conditions and shoulder acne is no different.

          Shoulder Acne Treatments

          As we've mentioned above, there is a range of different treatments you can try to combat acne vulgaris. From prescription medication including topical treatments and oral antibiotics to home remedies containing acne-fighting ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, and tea tree oil, there are a lot of things you can try to treat shoulder acne.

          There is also a range of products on the market designed to treat both body and facial acne. Always make sure you do a patch test beforehand to avoid an allergic reaction (especially if you're trying over-the-counter medications you've seen recommended online, or you're making remedies at home.)

          Many doctors will recommend products containing benzoyl peroxide and
          salicylic acid to help clear acne. Benzoyl peroxide is an over-the-counter medication used to treat moderate to severe acne. It targets cutibacterium acne on the skin surface and within the hair follicle. As acne can be caused by clogged hair follicles, it's no wonder that benzoyl peroxide works so well.

          Speaking of doctors, if you're suffering from severe acne vulgaris or cystic acne, we recommend seeing your doctor. They'll have better and more effective ways to tackle more severe forms of acne without causing more acne lesions in the process.

          To Summarize

          • Exfoliate the skin on the shoulders to get rid of dead skin cells and improve skin cell turnover.
          • Eat a balanced diet to lower excess sebum production and exercise regularly.
          • Shower immediately after a workout and rub away the sweat during the workout.
          • Use more anti-inflammatory products for your skin care to prevent extra sebum production.
          • Wear loose clothes and let the skin breathe.
          • Don’t touch, pop, or squeeze acne to avoid scarring and further inflammatory lesions.
          • If your condition is moderate to severe, seek medical treatment.


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