Regular exercise is good for the body and your overall health. It is also especially good for your skin as physical activity promotes blood flow to the surface of your skin bringing nutrients and nourishment along with it.
Keeping your stress hormones in check is good news to the skin as many skin conditions such as acne breakouts and accelerated skin ageing are associated with high levels of cortisol, which is the stress hormone.
So what happens when you exercise regularly, have a balanced diet, have normal and clear skin but there is suddenly a small and annoying new rash of breakouts appearing on your skin?
It is not your imagination playing tricks on you, but it might have something to do with a condition called acne mechanica.
This type of acne typically presents itself as a few pustules here and there and is triggered by sweat, friction, and pressure on the skin.
This article will go in depth on what is acne mechanica as well as a complete guide on how to treat this pesky condition.
What is Acne Mechanica?
Acne mechanica is a specific form of acne that is triggered when the skin is under pressure or being rubbed against heavy clothing or protective gear.
It is defined as being an acne eruption in areas of friction, pressure, stretching, constant rubbing, and pinching of that particular area.
It can develop anywhere on the face or body. Dermatologists have even discovered cases of this condition caused by friction between the thighs of people who suffer from obesity.
Acne mechanica presents itself as angry and inflamed pustules that pop up on the back, shoulders, chest, thigs, and forehead.
It can appear regardless of pre-existing acne problems, and may even appear if you are amongst the small number of lucky individuals who have never dealt with acne breakouts in their lives.
What Causes Acne Mechanica?
The condition mostly occurs in people that are very active, such as athletes or even soldiers.
An intense activity causes heat and friction between the folds of the skin which are usually sweaty and clothing if the person is wearing heavy or bulky gear.
Any activity that traps heat against the body for a prolonged period of time as well as rubs or puts constant pressure on the skin can be the trigger of acne mechanica.
Some of these may include:
- A helmet with a chin strap – used by bikers, hikers, and soldiers.
- Wearing a tightly fitting hat for a long time can trigger acne mechanica on the forehead
- Equipment or gear that requires using straps, such as a backpack can be the trigger for acne mechanica on the shoulders or on the back
- Shoulder pads
- Tight, synthetic headbands
- Tightly fitting clothing
- Resting against a chair or a bed for a prolonged period of time
- Prosthetic limbs
How Do You Know You Have Acne Mechanica?
Acne mechanica and common acne vulgaris look nearly identical and typically appear as small, pus-filled pimples on the skin.
But if you pay closer attention to what is triggering your breakouts, you will be able to recognize and differentiate these two similar conditions from one another.
You can observe the following symptoms:
- Your skin may be relatively clear in other areas, but you may be breaking out in strategic spots or areas. For example, only having pimples on the forehead due to wearing a tightly fitting hat/cap.
- Breaking out in areas such as the shoulders if your shoulders hold your bag/backpack.
- The rash suddenly developed after you started exercising and using tight gym clothing for a long time.
- Your upper and lower back break out in small pustules if you have been resting against a chair or a bed rest for a long time.
Acne mechanica typically clears up in a short amount of time after the main trigger is removed. This, however, is not practical in most of the cases.
If you are an athlete, or you simply enjoy doing regular exercise, stopping to do so just because of acne mechanica is not always the best thing.
And I am certainly not recommending that you should stop wearing your protective helmet while riding a bike.
Acne mechanica isn’t a serious condition, but its severity can be aggravated if it’s left untreated or completely neglected for a long time.
How To Treat Acne Mechanica?
The best way to treat acne mechanica is to remove the source of constant friction or pressure to prevent the condition from becoming inflamed.
Consider the following suggestion for acne mechanica prevention:
- Switch to loose and breathable clothing like cotton for your workouts.
- Avoid fabrics such as polyester and rayon as these can trap heat and therefore sweat that will remain tightly pressed against your skin.
- Avoid sitting in sweaty clothes for a long time after your workout and change them as soon as you can after you are finished.
- Apply a layer of petroleum jelly on the areas that rub against your skin while wearing a helmet. Make sure to properly clean your helmet before each application.
Consider shaking up your skincare regimen and introduce the following products and ingredients in your routine:
- Salicylic acid – this powerful ingredient sits at the heart of the solution against your acne battle. Besides being gentle on your skin, it is an excellent chemical exfoliant which can penetrate deep into the pores and eliminate the acne-causing bacteria.
- Benzoyl peroxide – due to its antimicrobial properties, this treatment can help reduce and eliminate the acne-causing bacteria on the skin. It helps to unclog the pores and it is claimed to be the most effective over-the-counter acne treatment available.
- Tea tree – it has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to eliminate the acne-causing bacteria on the skin at a slower rate than Benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. It is the perfect acne treatment for sensitive skins.
Acne mechanica is probably the mildest form of acne vulgaris that can be easily eliminated if you protect your skin against the mentioned triggers of this condition.
This article explains the causes of this very common condition as well as how to effectively get rid of it.
Trying to cope with my obnoxious acne breakouts forced me into finding a solution to my problem by pursuing a career in the beauty industry. Today, I’m a certified esthetician & I’m passionate about sharing what I know to help you achieve healthy, glowing skin. You can learn more about me here.