I’ve been plagued with body acne since my teenaged years. It’s something I’m always super self-conscious about. The sweaty, dirtiness that inherently comes with being an outdoors person is the perfect breeding ground for body acne. Throughout the years, I’ve slowly refined and tweaked my skincare routine to manage bacne. Here’s how to prevent body acne (or bacne) in the outdoors, and anywhere else, really.
Table of contents
- Outdoors or On the Road
- Yes! A Shower!
- The most dire of body acne circumstances
- TL;DR Products
- A note on how to prevent bacne
Outdoors or On the Road
Options are fairly limited when you’re on the trail, or on the road. The following is everything I’ve found to be effective in preventing body acne, until I reach my next shower.
Get out of sweaty undergarments immediately.
Tight and sweaty sports bras are garments that bacteria love. You might not be able to shower right away, but you can at least remove the sweatiest clothes in contact with your skin. I try to always get my sweaty bra off while dinner is cooking, before it’s too cold and I don’t want to do anything other than huddle in my sleeping bag.
Wear anti-microbial garments.
Merino wool is my go-to for almost every activity. It helps keep you dry and sweat-free to help prevent body acne in the outdoors. Merino wool also traps odors, keeping you smelling as fresh as can be.
I love the Ridge Merino Solstice Hoody. It accompanied on the Sierra High Route and on a 5-day loop through Mineral King. Other options include Icebreaker, WoolX, and Outdoor Voices, which I also have in my closet.
Face wipes are your friend!
Face wipes are an absolute luxury item on the trail. For me, it’s a necessity to keep acne at bay, and to feel like a semi-normal human being. You can find face wipes (not baby wipes) in any skincare aisle. Look for something that contains salicylic acid, but if that’s not an option, anything that helps remove grime will suffice.
My favorite is the Neutrogena Pink Grapefruit Wipes, designed for preventing acne. Another favorite is the Acure Seriously Soothing Micellar Water Towelettes.
If weight is an issue (It always is. Every ounce counts!), use the wipe for your face first, before using it to clean your body. That way, you don’t have to pack multiple wipes for each night you’re out on the trail. If I know I’m going to be out for a specific number of days, I roll up the face wipes into a sandwich bag so I don’t carry the entire bulky package or wipes that I will definitely not be using.
Yes! A Shower!
At long last! A shower to clean off all the filth and grime you’ve accumulated! Here are the products I use when I’m squeaky clean to help prevent bacne.
An acne body scrub works wonders.
The Neutrogena Body Clear Body Scrub has been my go-to scrub for over a decade. The beads gently exfoliate while the salicylic acid helps to keep pores clear. I’ve tried the Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash but I’ve found it to be less effective than the scrub. Get the scrub.
Add on an anti-septic wash, too.
For the last two years, I added in an anti-septic/anti-microbial wash to my shower routine after the acne body scrub. Chlorhexidine gluconate is the stuff they use prior to surgery and was recommended to me by a dermatologist to reduce the amount of bacteria on my skin.
Hibiclens is the brand name, but you can find generic chlorhexidine gluconate at any pharmacy. Leave it on for a bit before rinsing it off to help prevent bacne in the outdoors.
Finish with a body spray.
After showering and toweling off, I finish with the Nature’s Cure Body Acne Treatment Spray. This contains 2% salicylic acid, and tingles a bit when it lands on your skin, which means it’s effective or something, right? All joking aside, using this after a shower has done wonders for my body acne.
This bottle can be sprayed from any angle, making it easy to get hard to reach spots on your back.
I used to use the Murad Clarifying Body Spray, but it’s incredibly expensive (clear skin is worth it?). The Nature’s Cure Body Acne Treatment is just as, if not more, effective, at a fraction of the cost.
Pop it, if you absolutely must.
The best way to prevent acne scarring and the spread of bacteria is to leave your zits alone. But if you must, or cannot resist, the urge to pick and pop, use a blemish extractor tool after your shower. Your pores will be more open due to hot water. A blemish extractor tool is just marginally better and slightly more hygienic than your fingers.
The most dire of body acne circumstances
If you’ve tried all the over-the-counter products with no luck, then it might be time to resort to pharmaceuticals to prevent bacne. Before trying any of these, please consult a doctor, or more specifically, a dermatologist!
Retinoids: Retinoids are something I’ve been using since I hit puberty. It’s great for acne (specifically spot treatments) and scarring. However, retinoids makes your skin extremely sensitive to the sun, so you must wear sunscreen or hide from the sun accordingly. Your skin may also go through a purge period where it gets worse before it gets better. Consult a doctor!
Retinoids are also available in over-the-counter formats as retinols, though they will not be as strong (or concentrated). Products include Differin gel, Curology, RoC, or the Ordinary.
Spironolactone: This is a pill that I’ve been using this on and off for the last two years to help with deep, cystic acne. Before I switched to an IUD, my birth control really helped to control the cystic acne breakouts that I would get around my periods. Now I use this when things get really bad. To use this, consult a doctor!
On the trail: merino wool, salicylic acid face wipes
At home/in the shower/after showering: salicylic acid body scrub, anti-septic/anti-microbial wash, salicylic acid body spray, pimple popping tool
Pharmaceuticals (aka consult a doctor or a dermatologist): retinoids, spironolactone
A note on how to prevent bacne
Please note that all the above advice and products are what works for me, personally. Test products on small patches of skin before using it over your whole body. Everyone’s bodies and skin are different. The above should not be misconstrued as medical advice. Try these products at your own risk. If in doubt, please consult a doctor, or even more specifically, a dermatologist to help prevent body acne in the outdoors.
What are products and tips that you have for preventing body acne in the outdoors? Let me know in the comments because my skincare junkie self always needs more things to experiment with.
This post contains affiliate links.
Last updated on December 28, 2020.
I’ve tried sooo many products over the years and nothing seemed to work, so eventually I just decided to try only more natural “homeopathic” products, which include the ethique face bar which I also use for my chest and back (this made some difference), a spot treatment from TreeActiv (this works insanely well, I continue to be shocked by how well), and jojoba oil infused with home-grown dried calendula petals. The jojoba has made the BIGGEST difference, and I tried it without the calendula first while I was waiting for the calendula-infused oil to do its infusing (takes at least a month), and it definitely made a positive difference with just the plain jojoba, but I saw a DRASTIC difference once I started using the calendula infused version. I put the links to the products below as well as the blog posts for the jojoba/calendula infusion I followed to make the infusion!
Ethique face cleanser: https://smile.amazon.com/Ethique-Eco-Friendly-Face-Cleansing-Your/dp/B0761VTFF3/ref=sxts_sxwds-bia-wc-nc-drs1_0?cv_ct_cx=ethique+face+bar&dchild=1&keywords=ethique+face+bar&pd_rd_i=B0761VTFF3&pd_rd_r=306fa326-b003-4457-9cb6-4a8e464224e2&pd_rd_w=tF18k&pd_rd_wg=XKCQG&pf_rd_p=7703ba5f-0171-44a5-b4c4-4e3452ccfac9&pf_rd_r=2H6Q2D706F90BG39JGVD&psc=1&qid=1609176169&sprefix=ethique+fac&sr=1-1-7b47ea83-76bf-4b51-b958-664fad18c0dd
TreeActiv cystic acne spot treatment: https://smile.amazon.com/TreeActiv-Invisible-Treatment-Blemishes-Sensitive/dp/B06XRFGLZT/ref=mp_s_a_1_1_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=treeactiv+cystic+acne+spot+treatment&qid=1609176338&sprefix=treeactiv+&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&smid=A26KHELG1S2YF0&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzVjVHQ0JDNkJKVFNLJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwNTE5NTQ4TkM1RVk3RTVVV1hQJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA5ODQzMzExTVlYRTdJTEVYNko5JndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfcGhvbmVfc2VhcmNoX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=
Jojoba oil: https://smile.amazon.com/USDA-Organic-Jojoba-Oil-Unrefined/dp/B01A74442I/ref=mp_s_a_1_2_sspa?dchild=1&keywords=jojoba+oil&qid=1609176655&sprefix=jojoba&sr=8-2-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUFCWlRNTVdWQVhBQzAmZW5jcnlwdGVkSWQ9QTAzNTc0OTcxME9PS0lDUEpITTRFJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTAwNjIxNTEzMENZU1VaVzhaMDM5JndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfcGhvbmVfc2VhcmNoX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=
Homestead and chill blog post on how to make calendula oil: https://homesteadandchill.com/how-to-make-calendula-oil/