Allow me to set a scene that by now, on day 4,000 of quarantine, you likely know well: You’re sitting for hours on end in your makeshift WFH space, wearing the same pair of leggings you wore yesterday. And the day before that. (And maybe the day before that, but you’ve lost count). Anxiety is at an all-time high, showers have lost their sense of urgency—since Zoom doesn’t have a smell feature—and you’ve got more loaves of banana bread than you have people you’re quarantining with.
It’s a lot. As it happens, your body can feel the impact of all of that stress, which according to dermatologists can show up as body acne that sprouts up on your chest, back, or butt. According to Curology founder and board-certified dermatologist David Lortscher, MD, body acne occurs for most of the same reasons that facial acne does. In addition to genetics and hormones, it can be attributed to stress, diet, and other lifestyle choices—aka the social distancing trifecta.
“A lot of us are working from home, and may not be as diligent with showering or changing clothes as we may have been if we were going in to work,” says board-certified dermatologist Visha Patel, MD (though she’s not judging, and neither am I). “We may also not be moving around as much as we used to and sitting more, and we may not following the cardinal rules for skin and body health.”
While sitting for long periods of time doesn’t guarantee that you’ll wind up with a butt breakout, according to board-certified dermatologist Estee Williams, MD, it certainly doesn’t help. While we’ve confirmed that you don’t necessarily need to be showering more frequently to combat COVID-19, it may still be a good idea to regularly lather and rinse for the sake of your skin. “Skipping on showers can cause buildup of dead skin and dirt which probably sets the stage for acne,” she says.
Another culprit? Your I’m-not-leaving-the-house-today uniform. Friction, moisture, and restrictive clothing all help to create a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria, which means if you’re rocking the same pair of sweaty leggings all day (and night), they could be to blame. “Sweating and humidity can aggravate breakouts by giving the bacteria on the skin a better environment to grow,” says Dr. Lortscher. “Restrictive, tight clothing, like athletic clothing can also contribute, as sources of friction can aggravate acne as well, which is why we often see acne in women that occurs along the line of a sports bra.” In other words, place where your skin meets your clothes are more likely to see pimples.
If you’re already dealing with body breakouts, the best way to banish them is with a benzoyl peroxide body wash, like Panoxyl Acne Foaming Wash ($10), which will help clear away the acne-causing bacteria hiding underneath the skin. Opt for loose fitting clothing instead of those tight, sweaty leggings, and be sure to change them regularly. Thankfully (for the sake of our WFH outfits, at least), bras and underwear are still totally optional.