Pimples can pop up almost anywhere on the body. Most of the time, it happens when hair follicles become clogged, causing breakouts to occur. Seeing as our arms are covered in hair follicles, they’re just as prone to acne as our face, back, chest, and butt.
However, those bumps you see on your arms might not technically be acne. They could be something else.
The first step to treating arm breakouts is determining what you’re actually dealing with. Read on to figure out what those bumps on your arms are, their causes, and how to get rid of them.
Body acne can appear on the arms, as can keratosis pilaris (KP), folliculitis, and hives. In order to treat them correctly, it’s essential to identify the underlying culprit. Let us define them one by one.
Keratosis Pilaris: Keratosis pilaris is a condition that presents as small, shallow, rough bumps.
“KP is due to plugs of dead skin in the follicles,” says Arielle Nagler, MD, a dermatologist with NYU Langone Health in New York City. “It’s most commonly found on the upper arms and legs but can also be seen on other areas of the skin.”
Unlike acne, KP does not form red cysts, and nothing will come out if you squeeze them. The only thing you can extract from KP is a hard, dry plug – provided you have the proper instruments.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), keratosis pilaris can begin in early childhood and during the teenage years. People with eczema have a higher risk of developing KP.
Folliculitis: Folliculitis is inflammation of the hair follicles. It appears mainly on the body rather than the face. And it’s very easy to mistake it for acne because it appears as red bumps on the skin.
“The structure involved is the hair follicle, the same structure that’s affected by acne,” explains board-certified dermatologist Ken Howe, MD. “This time it’s the deeper aspect of acne that’s imitated: the swelling of the follicle, the infiltration by white blood cells to fight the infection, and forming a whitehead in the process.”
Hives: While not as common as KP or folliculitis, hives can also be mistaken for acne. According to board-certified dermatologist Annie Gonzalez, MD, FAAD, “Hives are mainly caused by stress or an allergic reaction.”
Numerous things could be causing your arm breakouts. And while you may feel like you’re alone in your struggle, you really aren’t. Arm acne is more widespread than you’d imagine.
“In general, the main contributing factors to acne are clogged pores, increased oil or sebum production, inflammation, and presence of bacteria,” says Dr. Tiffany Libby, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City.
She continues, “Stress, pollution, poor cleansing habits, diet (specifically high-glycemic-index foods and dairy), and hormonal changes can also contribute to acne breakouts. On the body specifically, there are increased factors that can specifically contribute to body acne, such as sweat, dirt, oil, and friction in those areas.”
If it’s Keratosis Pilaris…
Unfortunately, KP cannot be cured. But it can be managed. The best way to treat keratosis pilaris is by incorporating exfoliating ingredients like salicylic acid to unplug those built-up dead skin cells.
We recommend Truly’s Blueberry Kush Hemp Body Scrub, loaded with vegan collagen, CBD, and salicylic acid to scrub away dead skin and improve the clarity of your complexion. Follow up with a hydrating lotion or serum to make KP less noticeable. Truly’s Unicorn Fruit Whipped Body Butter is a great choice.
You should also bear in mind that KP may actually improve with age. And that its severity depends on the temperature – it’s worse in the winter and fades in the summer.
If It’s Folliculitis…
Antibiotic creams and gels work best. Your dermatologist may also prescribe an anti-fungal cleanser if the antibiotics do not help.
If it’s Hives…
Visit your doctor. They’ll be able to pinpoint what could be causing your outbreaks and, if needed, prescribe the proper medication to ease your symptoms.
If it’s Acne…
Suppose those breakouts on your arms happen to be acne. In that case, it’s time to upgrade your body skincare routine with regular exfoliation, an acne-formulated body wash, and a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer.
“I often recommend using the same benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid wash that you use on your face also on your body, chest, arms, where you may also experience breakouts,” says Dr. Libby. “I also like chemical exfoliants like AHAs and BHAs on body areas, as well. The skin on the body is thicker and a bit more resilient than that on our faces, so it typically tolerates any face treatments very well.”
Try washing your skin in Truly’s CBD Jelly Anti-Blemish Body Cleanser. It contains hemp, salicylic acid, and vitamin A to dissolve dead skin cells, unclog pores, and clear away acne.
For starters, stop sitting around in the same old clothes every day. You might currently be working remotely, but don’t let that stop you from practicing basic hygiene. Even worse than sitting around in days-old dirty clothes: spending too long in your tight, sweaty workout gear. That’s just a recipe for widespread body breakouts.
To keep your skin clear and acne-free, make sure you change out of your clothes and jump in the shower straight after doing a workout. Also, try to wear light, breathable fabrics that won’t trap in sweat or cause friction.
We also advise you to keep your hands away from your breakouts. We know it’s tempting to squeeze those pesky pimples, but honestly, that’ll only insert more grime deeper into your skin. And we all know how that will end.
Arm acne is treatable. You just need to implement a daily skincare routine that targets the breakouts on your arms and make a few lifestyle changes to prevent pores from getting blocked in the first place.