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Acne on the Neck: How to Prevent and Treat It

Acne affects millions worldwide and is the most common skin condition affecting teenagers. Most teenagers develop acne to some extent on their face, neck, chest, and back. Most cases resolve in adulthood, while others do not. Various treatment options are available for acne, depending on the severity. Read on to learn what causes acne on the neck and how to prevent and treat it.

Key takeaways:

What is acne?

Most skin surfaces contain hairs, which grow out of pores. When pores get clogged with dead skin cells, oil, and dirt, comedonal acne (whiteheads and blackheads) forms. If bacteria get trapped in these pores, then inflammatory acne appears. Inflammatory acne presents with papules (small bumps), nodules (large, tender bumps), and cysts (large, deep, painful bumps). However, acne can appear anywhere on the skin that contains pores, but the face, neck, chest, and back are most common.

Causes of acne on the neck

The causes of facial or neck acne are the same. The only difference is that it is more often associated with hormonal changes and may be more challenging to treat. Women are more at risk for neck acne than men. However, many other causes of neck acne can affect men and women.

Common causes of neck acne include the following:

  • Hormone fluctuations
  • Medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Foods with a high-glycemic index
  • Stress
  • Genetics
  • Comedogenic products

Treatment of acne on the neck

Treatment options available for neck acne are also similar to facial acne. The key to treating acne successfully is consistency. Therefore, maintaining a good skincare routine in conjunction with appropriate products is crucial. For example, mild acne may resolve with over-the-counter treatment options, but moderate to severe cases require prescription treatments to prevent scarring. Often, moderate to severe cases require combination treatment for fast and effective resolution.

Proper hygiene habits for treating neck acne

Acne is common at various stages of life, but it still causes people to feel embarrassed and self-conscious. However, to help combat neck acne, maintaining a proper hygiene routine is vital.

Proper hygiene habits include the following:

  • Bathing regularly, especially after physical activity or if sweating.
  • Cleansing the area twice daily with a non-comedogenic cleanser to remove dirt, oil, and bacteria.
  • Moisturizing twice daily with a non-comedogenic moisturizer.
  • Applying a non-comedogenic sunscreen daily and reapplying every 1–2 hours when outside.
  • Using only non-comedogenic makeup.
  • Washing hair daily to remove dirt and oil, and keeping it off of the neck.
  • Washing anything that touches the neck daily, such as athletic equipment, pillowcases, bedsheets, clothing, or towels.
  • Resisting the urge to pick, squeeze, or pop pimples.

OTC treatments for neck acne

Some cases of neck acne typically don't require a visit to the dermatologist. Mild neck acne can usually be treated with over-the-counter products. Although many treatment options are available, not all are equally effective for everyone.

Over-the-counter treatment options include the following:

  • Salicylic acid. A beta-hydroxy acid exfoliates dead skin cells, kills bacteria, and reduces inflammation.
  • Benzoyl peroxide. Exfoliates and kills bacteria to help control or eliminate acne.
  • Adapalene. A retinoid exfoliates dead skin cells to unclog pores and reduce inflammation. It can also improve mild acne scars and discoloration.
  • Sulfur. Kills bacteria to help treat acne.
  • Clay. Soaks up excess oil to help prevent clogged pores.

Prescription options for treating neck acne

Some treatments dermatologists prescribe contain the same active ingredients as many OTC products — only stronger. However, they also have access to an arsenal of other different prescription products to help people better battle their neck acne.

For example, prescription options for neck acne include the following:

  • Oral or topical antibiotics. These include medications such as erythromycin, minocycline, clindamycin, tetracycline, doxycycline, erythromycin, and azithromycin, which kill bacteria causing acne, and some also have anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Oral or topical retinoids. These medications include tretinoin, adapalene, trifarotene, and tazarotene or isotretinoin. Retinoids exfoliate dead skin cells and reduce inflammation. Topical retinoids can also help remove mild acne scars and discoloration.
  • Hormone treatments. These include birth control pills and anti-androgen pills (spironolactone), which modulate hormones to alleviate acne.

Other treatment options to treat neck acne

Even with the various medications for neck acne, many people are looking for alternatives. These other treatment options include the following:

  • Blue light treatment. This helps kill bacteria and decrease oil production.
  • Lasers. The proper type of laser targets and kills bacteria, reduces inflammation, and decreases oil production.

Preventing acne on the neck

While controlling some causes of acne is impossible, such as genetics, other methods are effective. For example, acne prevention practices include a good skincare routine, proper hygiene, healthy lifestyle options, and proper medical care. Furthermore, it is best to seek guidance and treatment from a dermatologist to help prevent scarring.

Skincare tips to prevent acneLifestyle choices and habits to help prevent acne
  • Use only non-comedogenic products, such as cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, and makeup, on the neck.
  • Cleanse and moisturize the neck twice daily and after exercise.
  • Apply sunscreen daily.
  • Clean makeup from the neck every day before going to bed.
  • Shampoo hair daily if it comes in contact with the neck.
  • Don't touch the skin with unclean hands.
  • Do not pick, squeeze, or pop pimples because it leads to scarring and infection.
  • Eating a low glycemic diet.
  • Washing towels, pillowcases, bedsheets, clothing, and athletic equipment after every use.
  • Talking with a doctor if medications or medical conditions worsen acne.
  • Reducing stress levels through exercise or yoga.

Acne is a common condition affecting much of the population to some extent. Even though acne is not a malignant condition, severe cases can be devastating to a patient's self-esteem and have a significant psychological impact. Prompt, effective treatment is critical to minimizing permanent scarring. Those with acne should seek treatment immediately from a board-certified dermatologist.



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