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Neck Acne: How to Treat & Prevent Pimples on Your Neck

Acne can pop up just about anywhere on the face, chest, or body, including the neck. Whether it’s the odd pimple here and there or you’ve started experiencing severe acne breakouts, here’s how to get rid of neck acne, and then prevent it from coming back.

What Causes Neck Pimples?

Whether it’s on your face, neck, chest, or body, acne is caused by the same thing – clogged pores. When oil, dirt, and dead skin cells come together in your pores, they form a plug. Throw bacteria into the mix, with the p. acnes bacteria in particular loving pore blockages, and you’re left with inflammation and pimples.

But What Causes Clogged Pores?

There are a number of different factors out there that can contribute to clogged pores, such as:

  • Excessively sweating
  • Overactive oil glands
  • Not cleansing properly
  • Certain medications
  • Certain skincare and beauty products
  • Irritating fabrics or clothing/sports equipment that rubs against the neck
  • Long hair
  • Certain health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome

The Different Types of Acne

A nose strip being applied on a customer

At first glance, your pimples may all look the same to you, but acne manifests in a few different forms. Blackheads and whiteheads tend to be the mildest form, and are usually easily treatable.

You may also notice pustules, which are red bumps filled with pus, or papules, which are a cluster of bumps that look similar to a rash. Nodules are deeper and more painful, to the point where nodules often need medication to clear.

Hormones and Cystic Acne

One form of acne that often shows up on the neck, but isn’t caused by any of the above, is cystic hormonal acne. Instead, this is caused by a hormonal imbalance, making it a common skin condition experienced during menstruation or pregnancy.

Irregular hormonal activity leads to excess oil production in the skin, resulting in severe acne and sensitive cysts. While this may be the case, following the treatment and prevention steps below will help to eliminate your breakouts.

Acne Vulgaris vs. Hair Follicle Inflammation

Before arming yourself with all of the best treatments that money can buy, it’s important to double-check that acne vulgaris is actually what you’re dealing with. There are other skin conditions that look similar, such as inflamed hair follicles and ingrown hairs.

Your dermatologist or doctor are the best people to turn to for advice. However, you can also take a closer look at your pimples yourself and try to gather more information. If your spots are actually ingrown hair cysts, you’ll likely be able to see signs of those hairs within each pimple. Ingrown hairs are also more common in parts of the skin that undergo hair removal.

Treatment Options for Neck Acne

Now that you know what’s caused your neck breakouts, you’re probably ready to learn how to get rid of them. Here are your best options:

Over the Counter Treatments

beauty moisturizer for the neck to prevent acne

Many people don’t have faith in over-the-counter products, but there really are some best acne treatment products out there. The secret to deciphering whether or not they’ll actually work is to look at the ingredient lists. Never completely trust what it says on the packaging without looking into things further yourself – after all, while every brand out there wants to produce a good product, they also have their own business interest in mind.

In order for over-the-counter acne products to be noticeably effective, they should contain either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Both work to unclog the pores and reduce inflammation. Salicylic acid is a little milder, but it also doesn’t have the side effects that benzoyl peroxide does. Sulfur is another noteworthy anti-pimple ingredient because of its antibacterial effects.

In terms of the type of product you should be looking for, turn your attention to over-the-counter cleansers, as well as spot creams.

Chemical Exfoliants

Regular exfoliation is one of the best ways to keep your skin clear of excess oil, skin cells, and built-up dirt, making it a great neck pimple prevention technique. However, if you’ve been skipping the exfoliation and are now experiencing a breakout, it’s not too late to go back.

Chemical exfoliants are what you need. Scrubs may be popular, but they often spread acne-causing bacteria around the skin, resulting in more breakouts.

As mentioned earlier, salicylic acid is a great ingredient to look out for, especially when combined with alpha-hydroxy acids.

Retinol Products

Retinol Treatment

In addition to trying over-the-counter products designed specifically for acne, take a look at retinol products too. Research information shows that this vitamin A derivative can effectively clear clogged pores, slow down natural oil production, reduce pimple lesions, and prevent pimple scars from forming [1].

For even better results, combine retinol with alpha-hydroxy acids and over-the-counter pimple treatments.

Prescription Spot Treatments

If over-the-counter treatments just don’t seem to be working for you, then it’s time for a visit to a board-certified dermatologist. They’ll be able to take a closer look at each pimple on your neck, after which they’ll be able to prescribe stronger topical acne products to help.

If your breakouts are particularly severe, then your doctor or dermatologist may also recommend an oral acne medication. Your doctor will take your health information and history into account before doing so, but they may very well decide that antibiotics are the way to go. While the side effect of this is the increasing problem of antibiotic resistance in health care, medication combined with some of the above-mentioned treatments is usually an effective route to pimple-free skin.

A doctor will also be able to give you more information on whether or not you have an underlying health condition that’s causing your breakouts. If so, it’s important to get to the bottom of this as soon as possible.

How to Prevent Acne Breakouts on the Neck

Pretty woman wearing cotton clothing

In addition to treating any existing acne breakouts, you should also be focusing on preventing new pimples from forming. Here’s are a few dermatologist-approved tips on how to do just that:

Wear Soft and Breathable Clothing

While your face and neck both contain a large number of oil glands, therefore making them prone to excess sebum production and acne, your neck also has to deal with friction from the clothing it comes into contact with.

Irritating and scratchy fabrics are one culprit, but the laundry detergent that you use could also be triggering a breakout. That said, don’t be tempted to wash your clothes less – if anything, you should be washing them more often, which brings us to our next point…

Regularly Clean Clothes and Bedding

Anything that your neck comes into contact with, whether it may be your clothes, your pillowcase, or even your phone, needs to be cleaned regularly. Lingering sweat and bacteria can easily transfer over onto your skin and clog hair follicles, so don’t give this the chance to happen.

Check the Ingredients on Your Skin and Hair Products

Using cosmetic products that aren’t suitable for your skin can often lead to breakouts. Take a look at the ingredients of any skincare products that you apply to your neck and make sure that they’re all non-comedogenic (this means that they aren’t pore-clogging).

hair styling products to match your skincare

Your hair care products matter too, since these come into contact with your neck and body each time you wash them off your hair. If you’ve got long hair and use styling products, then anytime your hair brushes against your neck, it could be leaving product residue on your skin, contributing to pimples.

Keep Your Skin Cells Well-Cleansed

You may be tempted to skip cleansing after a long and tiring day – after all, your skin doesn’t look dirty! However, this is one of the worst things that you could do if you have oily, acne-prone skin.

Instead, you need to get stricter about your cleansing regime. This is the only way to ensure that dirt and excess oil doesn’t build up, so make sure that you’re cleansing your neck at the end of each day. Ideally, use a cleanser that’s also been designed as an acne treatment.

If you wear makeup on your neck, then always start with a dedicated makeup remover. Women often find that makeup residue is a common pore-clogger, so never allow it to linger. Again, ensure that any makeup remover that you use is safe for acne-prone skin.

Sun Protection

UV rays are bad for your health in several ways. Their effects when it comes to skin aging are well-known, but few realize that the sun can also worsen acne.

Girl wearing a hat to protect from the sun uv rays

To begin with, you may think that the sun is helping. It’s true that UV rays can sometimes clear up pimples, and they’re also not quite so noticeable on tanned skin. However, UV rays can also trigger long-term redness and inflammation, while also turning each pimple into a dark scar. [2]

Many acne medications also increase your skin’s sun sensitivity – even over-the-counter retinol products can have this effect. This not only means that you’ll burn faster, but also leaves you more susceptible to skin cancers.

Applying SPF to your neck (and face!) each and every day is the answer. Try to also keep this area covered over with clothing, but make sure that the clothes that you pick don’t irritate your skin further.

De-Stress

Stress on its own isn’t usually enough to cause neck pimples, but it definitely makes things a whole lot worse. Whenever you feel stressed, your body produces cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. Cortisol then increases oil production in the skin, and, when combined with other factors, breakouts aren’t too far away. [3]

Many people struggle when it comes to keeping stress levels down. There are plenty of tips and information online that can help you with this, but turn to your doctor for advice if you just can’t seem to shake your stress.

FAQs

What causes acne on the neck and jawline?

Acne in this area is often caused by clogged pores, although hormonal imbalances could be at the bottom of this too.

How do I get rid of hormonal acne on my neck?

While topical acne treatment products can help, most women find that hormonal treatments and medications are usually more effective at clearing hormonal acne.

Why do neck pimples hurt so bad?

Pimples coincide with swelling and inflammation. With the neck being quite a sensitive area of the skin, pimples in this area can often hurt more than other parts of the face and body.

Conclusion

Whether you live in a bustling area of New York City or in a quiet rural village, neck acne can affect anyone and can show up at any age. Just like with every other skin condition, the sooner you treat your acne, the better. The good news is that with the right treatment and prevention techniques, your neck acne will soon be a thing of the past!


References

[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5574737/
[2] https://sites.utexas.edu/think-twice/2019/06/04/can-the-sun-cure-your-acne/
[3] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4082169/

About the author

Brenda Lawrence

I’ve been a writer nearly all my life and a professional one for almost ten years. My reviews are meticulously researched and fact-checked to allow you to find the brand or product that will meet your needs.