Whether it’s caused by those pesky hormones surging through our veins, a case of stress wreaking havoc on the skin, or the effect of too many hours spent in sweaty, post-workout wear, body acne knows no bounds—sure, it’s common for teenagers, but it can (and does) affect people of all ages and genders.
Body acne can be irritating and painful, and unfortunately often embarrassing, but it’s important to point out that body acne has nothing to do with dirty skin or poor hygiene. Contributing factors are similar, if not altogether identical, to those of good old facial acne. But how we treat acne below the neck tends to be slightly different. I mean, you can certainly go ahead and slather on that $50 zit-zapping serum all over your back if you’d like, but we’ll be saving our most expensive, elegant formulas for the face.
Instead, we’ve been reaching for spray-on body acne solutions as of late. With thinner, more potent formulas and easy-to-use functionality, it’s no wonder the spray-on body treatment trend has taken off. Ahead, we break down everything you need to know about spray-on body acne treatments.
The benefits of spray-on body acne treatments
The most obvious benefit of a body acne spray treatment is the packaging itself. It doesn’t take a master’s degree to realize it’s easier to spray something onto the skin than it is to rub or scrub it in. All you have to do is spritz it on and let the formula go to work. And since body acne often lives in hard-to-reach places like the back and posterior, it makes treating those pesky zits all the more convenient.
And ease of use isn’t the only benefit. “Spray-on body acne treatments are going to be more effective compared to body washes due to longer contact time,” explains board-certified dermatologist Teresa Song, MD. “Body washes are generally left on the body for a few minutes and washed off, removing the active acne-fighting ingredients; whereas spray-on treatments are left on the body like a moisturizer.”
Plus, Dr. Song says the format allows for formulas to be more easily absorbed into the skin than other body acne treatments. This is largely due to the fact that lightweight formulas tend to perform better when delivered in a spray format—and that texture simply better penetrates the skin than thicker, occlusive ones, whether sprayed or slathered. It’s worth noting those lighter formulas also tend to be better for larger areas when it comes to breakouts or bumps, anyway.
We also have to take molecular weight into consideration. Certain active ingredients with smaller molecular weights—think peptides, vitamin C, retinoids, and the like—can be evenly distributed via spray, which results in greater skin penetration and potency.
Are there any potential risks?
Many of the benefits that come with using a spray-on body acne treatment are double-edged swords, bringing their own associated risks to the table.
Most notably, that increased efficacy comes with the risk of irritation.
“As patient sensitivity varies, certain ingredients left on the skin for too long may lead to irritation,” cautions Dr. Song. “The body’s skin is also more dry compared to the face, and sprays are generally not as moisturizing as lotion and creams.”
Of course, a spray-on treatment is only as good as the mechanism by which it sprays out the product itself. After all, it’s hard to enjoy even the most stellar of formulations if it spritzes out inconsistently and unevenly—so be sure to look for a nozzle that works from any angle, since we tend to hold products upside-down when applying them to the backside of our bodies.
All this aside, the spray-on format is a great solution for body acne in particular, so long as the formula is gentle yet effective and the spray mechanism is up to snuff.
The best ingredients to look for in a body acne spray
The ingredients used to fight acne on the face—think anti-inflammatory and gentle exfoliating agents like salicylic acid, lactic acid, and glycolic acid—are just as effective when it comes to treating body breakouts.
Redness and sensitivity tend to be more prominent with body acne than it is with pimples on your face, so Dr. Song suggests looking for formulas that combine their acne-fighting actives with soothing ingredients. These include niacinamide, allantoin, licorice root, and glycerin, all of which will help keep any risk of irritation to a minimum.
You’ll also want to stick to alcohol-free formulas, since the ingredient can leave the skin dry and tight, which may ultimately lead to more breakouts.
How to use a spray-on body acne treatment
Dr. Song suggests using spray-on treatments once daily after a shower. Simply spray on a uniform, thin layer that covers the affected area and gently rub in (depending on the product’s specific instructions). Once dry, you can add lotion or moisturizer on top as needed.
She also notes that the solution can be reapplied after particularly sweaty workouts, since sweat can contribute t o breakouts. Just be sure to wipe off any sweat and try to clean off the area, even if it’s just with some water and a towel.
Shop 6 of our favorite sprays
Summary, Reset Clarifying Body Mist — $18.00
This botanical-forward mist clarifies and tones the body with a blend of cleansing, astringent, and balancing properties. Salicylic acid and witch hazel gently exfoliate and purify pores, while rose flower and lotus root waters cleanse and tone the skin. The formula also features antioxidant-rich butterfly pea flower and antimicrobial sugar cane alcohol. Best of all, it’s great for surfaces and workout equipment too—spritz it on your yoga mat, pillow, and makeup brushes to kill acne-causing bacteria at the source.
Naturium, Salicylic Acid 2% Body Spray — $17.00
With innovative 360-degree, continuous mist capabilities and a no-rub-in-needed formula, Naturium’s body spray makes fighting acne below the neck a breeze, even in those hard-to-reach places. A blend of salicylic acid and niacinamide works to balance oil and help soothe acne-induced irritation, while a brightening blend helps even complexion and reduce dullness. Plus, the formula includes a microbiome-supporting fermented complex to avoid drying out the skin, instead helping to boost hydration and promote smoother-, softer-feeling skin.
Nécessaire, The Body Acne Solution — $38.00
The latest drop from personal care brand Nécessaire easily takes the cake for the chicest body acne spray. The 360-degree spray (noticing a theme here?) is hypoallergenic, dermatologist-tested, and noncomedogenic, making it safe for even the most sensitive of skin. The formula boasts 2 percent salicylic acid to clear pores, zinc PCA and niacinamide to regulate sebum production and minimize the appearance of acne-related hyperpigmentation, and a functional herbal blend of rosemary oil and water extract to calm skin. Icing on the cake? It also has antimicrobial properties to prevent future breakouts from happening.
Bliss, Clear Genius Body Acne Spray — $16.00
Bliss’ Clear Genius spray boasts a powerful proprietary complex that’s clinically proven to reduce body acne by 50 percent in just seven days. The complex features a blend of acne-fighting favorites and skin-soothing saviors like salicylic acid, witch hazel, niacinamide, zinc PCA, and cica. The 360-degree mist makes for easy application, while the alcohol-free formula virtually erases signs of acne without over-drying the skin.
Differin, Acne-Clearing Body Spray — $19.00
For a super-fine mist that works from any angle (yes, that’s another way of saying 360-degree spray capabilities), look no further than Differin’s body spray. Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, and witch hazel work together to not only clear existing acne but also to prevent future breakouts altogether. Plus, its fast-drying effect leaves no residue on clothing, making it perfect for on-the-go and post-workout use.
Versed, Back-Up Acne Control Body Mist — $20.00
With a combination of salicylic acid, tea tree oil, and witch hazel, this spray has all you need to fight those body breakouts—and, of course, with a 360-degree nozzle. The best part? It dries in 30 seconds so that you’ll never have to worry about the formula feeling sticky or getting all over your clothes.
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