Acne breakouts are not just limited to the face. Blackheads and pimples can occur nearly anywhere on the body, with the shoulders being one of the most common places for flareups to happen. Read on for all that you need to know about what causes shoulder acne and what you can do to treat these annoying breakouts:

What Causes Shoulder Acne?

what causes shoulder acne, blackheads and pimples?

What causes shoulder acne? Well, the answer isn't so black and white. There are a bunch of factors that can make your shoulders breakout. Here are some of them.

There are a variety of factors that cause shoulder acne. Usually, it is not just one factor, but a combination of issues that lead to shoulder breakouts. Here are a few of the top culprits:

1. Hair Products 

They may make your tresses look amazing, but hair products can often be some of the biggest offenders of shoulder acne. Especially if you have long hair, overly oily and greasy hair products can rub off onto your shoulders, leading to more acne flareups. In addition to causing breakouts on your shoulder, hair products are also a culprit in facial acne, specifically forehead acne.

2. Your Own Hair

Hair naturally produces oil. This excess sebum can transfer to your shoulders and clog pores on the surface of the skin. It is these clogged pores that become irritated and cause shoulder acne to strike.

3. Shampoo and Conditioner

It is important to take the time to make sure that your hair shampoo and conditioner is thoroughly rinsed out after each use. Not doing so can mean that the excess product could rub off onto your shoulders and lead to breakouts. Conditioner is especially known for its heavy properties, making it easy to transfer oil to the skin.

4. Puberty

This rite of passage is all about the hormones. An excess of hormones causes the skin to produce more oil. This excess oil production is why so many teenagers struggle with acne. Although puberty is inevitable, you can take steps to mitigate some of the unpleasant side effects such as acne.

5. Sweat Build-up

Excess sweat can also clog pores and lead to breakouts. Showering regularly, especially after strenuous workouts or being out in the sun, can help to negate the damage to the skin caused by sweat build-up.

6. Medications

As always, it is important to understand everything about the side effects of any medications that you are taking. Some medications exasperate the formation of acne. If this is a problem for you, talk to your doctor to see about getting alternative medicines that will not cause more flareups.

How to Get Rid of Shoulder Acne

how to get rid of shoulder acne, blackheads, and pimples

Here's how to actually get rid of shoulder acne, blackheads and pimples

1. Use a Water-Soluble Cleanser

Washing daily with a gentle and non-abrasive drugstore cleanser is the first line of defense in the battle with shoulder acne. A water-soluble cleanser will ensure that no residue is left behind after rinsing. Although it may be tempting to vigorously scrub the skin, it is more effective to gently massage the cleanser. After rinsing off the cleanser with lukewarm water, gently pat the skin dry using a clean and dry towel.

2. Exfoliate with a BHA

Using an exfoliant containing BHA (such as salicylic acid) should be a part of your daily skincare routine. BHA boasts the unique ability to penetrate deep into the pore clean rather than just staying on the surface of the skin. Exfoliating with a BHA-based product will help to strip away dead skin cells to reveal a fresh layer of unblemished skin. The soothing properties of BHA will reduce redness and irritation. As a bonus, BHAs will also reduce the appearance of pores and minimize wrinkles and fine lines.

3. Treatment with Benzoyl Peroxide

In addition to the proper preventative care, there are also a variety of spot treatments available designed to kill the bacteria that lead to acne. The most common ingredient in the fight against acne is benzoyl peroxide. This product is available in a myriad of strengths and is available both over the counter and through prescription. There are also a number of products that complement the effectiveness of benzoyl peroxide. A dermatologist can help you to devise the perfect combination of treatments to best treat your specific case of shoulder acne.

4. Moisturize

Many people shy away from moisturizing thinking that the ingredients will exacerbate the acne. However, moisturizers that are non-comedogenic and formulated for acne prone skin will not cause breakouts. These specially formulated moisturizers can actually prove beneficial in combating the dryness associated with cleansing, exfoliating, or using benzoyl peroxide. When used correctly, moisturizers can be a perfect partner for the products that fight acne.

Best Products for Shoulder Acne

Looking for the fastest way to get rid of shoulder acne? Here's your answer! These products are formulated specifically for helping prevent clogged pores which ultimately will reduce changes of acne developing. Read on!

1. CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser (Blackheads and Pimples)

CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser can be used on shoulder to help prevent and clear acne, blackheads and pimples

Yep - you can use facial cleansers on your body. Wash your shoulders with this cleanser every time you shower.

Developed with dermatologists, the cleanser is non-comedogenic, non-irritating, and fragrance-free. All of the elements work together to remove oil, dirt, and makeup without stripping the skin of what it needs to stay healthy and bright.

  • How to use: Wet your shoulders, and gently work a quarter sized amount of product into your skin. Wash with lukewarm water, pat dry.
  • How it works to treat and prevent shoulder acne: This foaming cleanser works to remove excess oil without breaking down the natural protectiveness of the skin barrier. Ultimately helping prevent shoulder acne build up and clogged pores on your shoulder area.
  • What to expect: By removing excess dirt, oil and sebum, you can expect more smooth and radiant skin. Additionally, by keeping your pores clean, you minimize the chance for shoulder related acne to develop. Notably, cleansers will NOT treat existing shoulder acne, but they will help PREVENT it from occurring.

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2. Paula's Choice  2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant (Blackheads and Pimples)

SKIN PERFECTING 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is ideal for preventing shoulder acne, blackheads and pimples

Paula's Choice 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant is the holy grail in anti-acne, blackheads and pimples. Persistent shoulder acne never stood a chance 🙂

This exfoliant boasts a loyal following of users who appreciate its ability to strip away old skin cells and unclog pores. The active ingredient BHA also works to even out skin tone and deliver a fresh look. The leave-on liquid absorbs quickly and continues to work long after its application.

  • How to use: After cleansing your shoulders, dispense a quarter size amount to a cotton pad and gently wipe your entire shoulder area, making sure to cover all areas. Follow up with your favorite moisturizer.
  • How it works to prevent and help get rid of shoulder acne: The gentle, and non-abrasive exfoliant is designed to be left on the skin. The beta hydroxy acid (BHA) works to unclog pores and calm down existing shoulder acne. In the process, the skin becomes clearer and brighter with a more even tone throughout.
  • What to expect: Brighter, even, and acne-free shoulders. This non-irritating and fragrance-free product is recommended for up to twice daily use to achieve maximum results. However, you should start with a single application and work your way up.

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3. 8-ounce Treatment (Pimples) Shoulder Acne Treatment for Shoulder Acne, Pimples and Blackheads

Benzoyl peroxide and antibiotics are the mainstay of topical acne therapy

This ointment removes excess sebum and dirt to unclog pores and clear skin. Containing 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, the treatment boasts the gold standard of acne treatment. The gel-based product goes on clear and smooth and dries quickly. Research has demonstrated that products containing 2.5 percent benzoyl perozide are just as effective as those products containing ten percent of the ingredient without the drying and irritating side effects.

  • How to use: After cleansing and exfoliating, apply a thin layer of product to your inflamed shoulder acne lesions. This product works best as a spot treatment, so to prevent unnecessary drying, apply only to active acne.
  • How it works to prevent and get rid of existing shoulder acne: Benzoyl peroxide is an antimicrobial, which means it helps reduce the amount of acne-causing bacteria on the skin. By reducing bacteria you will ultimately prevent shoulder acne. Additionally, benzoyl peroxide also helps prevent clogged pores and blackheads on your shoulder. It is one of the most effective over-the-counter acne treatment available on the market.
  • What to expect: The 2.5 percent solution works to remove shoulder acne without drying out the skin unnecessarily. Because the product is gel-based, it will not clump up or turn white when you sweat. The eight ounces of solution can be expected to last approximately one to two months. The fragrance-free and dye-free product is designed for use on all skin types, making this a good solution for most skin types.

Tip: You can use benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid at the same time. However, if your skin is becoming dry, scale back usage, or incorporate a moisturizer. 

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More Tips for Preventing Shoulder Acne

The shoulders are a very common area for blemishes to appear. Although frustrating, there are many different solutions available over the counter, and things you can do at home to help prevent it from occurring. Something to note is that like all other types of acne, shoulder acne outbreaks are caused by excess oil production, dead skin cells, and dirt and sebum clogging your pores. If you can prevent this through daily habits, you will ultimately get rid of shoulder acne.

Here are some additional tips that you may not have realized you needed:

  1. Change your clothes almost immediately after working out. Working out causes sweat, and this build-up can mix with dead skin cells to cause clogged pores, which ultimately can result in acne.
  2. Make sure to completely remove sunscreen. Some sunscreen is not water soluble. This means that it will not dissolve with just plain water. When showering, make sure to use a high quality, water soluble cleanser, to completely remove all sunscreen from your shoulders.
  3.  Skip the coconut oil, or other overly thick / creamy moisturizers. Coconut oil is comedogenic, which means it will cause you to breakout if you have acne prone skin. Look for lightweight, gel based moisturizers. 
  4. Change your pillow cases and bed sheets often. Excess oil, dirt and sebum can all transfer to your sheets. By regularly changing your sheets, you lessen the chance of the buildup transferring back to your skin.
  5. Exfoliate when you shower. Make it a habit to exfoliate at least twice weekly while you're showering. You can either use a mechanical tool such as a konjac sponge, or use a chemical exfoliant after you get out. By reducing the build-up of dead skin cells, you lessen the chance of clogged pores, which ultimately cause your shoulders to break out.

When to See a Dermatologist

You should consider going to the experts when you have exhausted all of the various over the counter treatment options. If you feel as if your self-esteem is being negatively affected by acne, it is also a good idea to consult a trained dermatologist for help. Lastly, if you're suffering from persistent shoulder acne, consult with a dermatologist.


Can you get rid of shoulder acne overnight?

Like any other type of acne, there are no miracle cures to get rid of the shoulder blemishes overnight. Treating acne effectively takes time and patience. To start your journey of clearing up your shoulder acne, it is beneficial to start as soon as possible. Be consistent and you will get results. 

Can you get rid of shoulder acne naturally?

There is limited evidence that shows that home remedies are effective in treating shoulder acne. It is a better idea to stick with the proven treatments that have shown positive clinical results. Because of this, we provided the recommendations above to get rid of shoulder acne as fast as possible.

How long does it take to get rid of shoulder acne?

Most acne treatments need about four to six weeks of consistent use before they deliver results. Taking pictures along the way can help you to gauge the effectiveness of the treatments as you track your progress. Remember - be patient as results do NOT happen over night. Once you've developed a solid skincare routine, it will be much easier to prevent and get rid of acne in the future.

How do you get rid of shoulder acne scars?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Preventing acne from forming in the first place is the best way to prevent acne scars. Once the acne is clear, you can look at getting rid of the resulting scars. Fortunately, there is a myriad of options available over the counter to get rid of acne scarring.

What is the best way to treat stubborn shoulder acne?

Consistency is key when treating the most stubborn cases of shoulder acne. A diligent and regular routine will deliver the best results. Make sure to incorporate a daily cleansing routine, followed with a chemical exfoliant containing salicylic acid, and follow-up with benzoyl peroxide. FYI - if your shoulders are drying out due to the exfoliant or spot treatments, add a lightweight gel moisturizer to combat this effect.