- Acne is a skin condition characterized by pores or hair follicles that become clogged with dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria.
- Acne on the neck is caused by lack of hygiene, fluctuating hormones, shaving or hair and skin care products.
- It can be treated with over-the-counter products and prescription medication.
- Home remedies and lifestyle changes can complement conventional acne products.
Acne is a skin condition that occurs when pores become clogged with dirt and bacteria, leading to inflammation and the development of blemishes. These blemishes appear in many forms, such as blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts. Neck acne is one area where blemishes can develop in addition to other areas of the body.
Pimples on the neck can be treated with over-the-counter products (OTC) or, in severe cases, prescription medication. Some lifestyle habits may help soothe active acne and prevent further breakouts from developing.
What Causes Acne on the Neck?
The most common causes of acne on the neck include:
- Lack of hygiene; not washing the neck regularly, especially after exercise
- Comedogenic (pore-clogging) skin care or hair products
- Irritation after shaving
- Equipment or clothing that chafes against the neck trapping moisture, oil and debris
Stress levels, diet, hormonal changes and genetics may also play a role. In the case of more severe forms of acne such as nodular or cystic acne, the cause is more likely to be hormonal.
What does it mean?
Occasional blemishes on the neck are common and no cause for concern. However, if you experience chronic acne on the neck, chin or jawline, it may be a sign of a hormonal acne and you should consult a doctor.
How to Get Rid of Pimples on the Neck
Although it may be tempting, avoid popping pimples on your neck. The dirt and oils on your fingers can cause additional irritation and force bacteria deeper into your skin, increasing inflammation.
Instead, thoroughly wash your neck at least once a day and immediately after exercise. Touch the area as little as possible except to apply acne treatments. Allow your skin to breath; refrain from covering up your neck or wear loose clothing.
How to Treat Acne on the Neck
Acne on the neck responds well to standard acne treatments; any product designed for the face can be used on the neck.
Treat blemishes with OTC products containing acne-fighting active ingredients, home remedies and, if necessary, professional treatments.
Over the counter options
Salicylic acid (SA) is a common acne treatment available in many types of products. It exfoliates dead skin cells and dissolves the oils in your skin to unclog pores. As an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory, it also helps calm inflamed acne lesions.
For neck acne, try a cleanser containing salicylic acid, or a gel or serum you can apply to spot-treat specific blemishes.
Another powerful spot treatment is benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide kills acne-causing bacteria without causing bacterial resistance, an issue commonly encountered with medications that treat infection. It is also available in several strengths so you can choose the best one for your acne to reduce the risk of irritating skin.
Exercise caution when using benzoyl peroxide as it can bleach fabric including clothing and bedding.
Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and has been proven in clinical studies to reduce acne lesions. As tea tree oil is an astringent, it is an effective choice for removing excess oil from the skin.
Dilute 1–2 drops of tea tree oil with 12 drops of a light carrier oil such as jojoba oil and swipe directly over acne-prone areas.
Witch hazel is another natural ingredient that treats acne through its astringent and anti-inflammatory properties. Use it as a toner by applying to clean skin.
A bentonite clay mask can help draw impurities from the skin, including the sebum and bacteria that cause pimples. Use a clay mask once or twice a week to dry out existing acne lesions.
If your acne does not respond to OTC products, a dermatologist can prescribe a stronger course of treatment.
You may be prescribed prescription-strength benzoyl peroxide or azelaic acid, another antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory agent. The treatment may be supplemented with a brief course of antibiotics such as tetracycline or clindamycin. The antibiotics work to slow down the growth of acne-causing bacteria and reduce inflammation.
Retinoids are usually prescribed for moderate to severe acne. These include isotretinoin and retinoic acid – essentially stronger versions of OTC creams.
Retinoids work in multiple ways to treat acne including breaking up active lesions, minimizing new lesions and fighting inflammation. While some are applied topically, others such as isotretinoin, are taken orally to reduce breakouts from the inside out.
For adult women with hormonal acne, combined oral contraceptives can help balance hormone levels over the course of their menstrual cycle to treat acne. An alternative hormone therapy is spironolactone, which limits levels of androgen, a hormone that triggers sebum production.
Preventing Neck Acne
If your acne is mild and occurs primarily in the form of blackheads and whiteheads, a few lifestyle habits may help prevent it from recurring. Cystic or nodular acne is usually hormonal and cannot be prevented with lifestyle changes. However, by adopting these habits while following a dermatologist-prescribed treatment plan, you may be able to lessen the severity of the breakouts.
Shower immediately after exercise and wear breathable fabrics to minimize the time that bacteria and sweat remain on your skin.
If you suspect your acne is due to clothing or equipment chafing against your neck, try to reduce the amount of time you spend wearing those items.
Exfoliate areas prone to blemishes to prevent the buildup of dead skin cells. Finally, ensure that any skin care products you apply to your neck are noncomedogenic.
Acne on the neck is a common occurrence in both teenagers and adults. It can be caused by poor hygiene, clothes that cause friction or by hormonal fluctuations. Other causes include hair or skin care products.
Neck acne can be treated with standard acne-fighting products containing active ingredients such as salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Effective at-home remedies include witch hazel, tea tree oil and clay masks.
If you find you cannot treat your neck acne on your own, consult a doctor or dermatologist. They can prescribe you retinoids, antibiotics, antibacterial medication or oral contraceptives to address pimples on the neck.
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