I have (what I’m calling) neckne. Yup, neck acne. It started when I was pregnant and I thought it was exclusive to that crazy hormonal period. But, after taking a brief hiatus after my son was born, it returned. It’s beyond frustrating because the neck traditionally isn’t a place where people break out. That’s due to the fact that we have less oil glands in our neck skin. After chatting with dermatologist Dr. Jeannette Graf, M.D. though, I’ve learned why neckne happens and how to treat it.
Graf explained that neckne isn’t all that uncommon in adults. She too has battled with it. “I wore a turtleneck for a year,” she said. What’s different about neck acne though is that it’s the plugging of the hair follicles as opposed to the clogging of pores. But, let’s get into what causes it and how to deal with it:
There are two types of acne that commonly appear on the neck area. The first might look like smaller, minor little breakouts – similar to ones you might find on your back. This type is often caused by sweat or clothing not made of cotton (like scarves, turtlenecks). The second type is of the large, painful, cystic variety. These breakouts are caused by hormonal shifts that might take place during adolescence, pregnancy, post-pregnancy when you have estrogen withdrawals or perimenopause, according to Graf. “Stress also makes it worse,” she adds. I, unfortunately, have the second type.
If you have the first type of breakouts — the minor, smaller pimples, those can be eradicated pretty easily. You’ll basically treat the area in the same way you’d treat backne (back acne). Stick to wearing cotton fabrics (which are breathable and less likely to plug hair follicles) and treat the skin on your neck with a salicylic acid-based product. Even one of the sprays designed for use on the back would work, according to Graf. Try Neutrogena Body Clear Body Spray, $8.99. You’ll also want to be sure to regularly exfoliate the area by using a gentle, chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid. Try Glytone Exfoliating Lotion, $40. And, always gently cleanse and moisturize the area morning and night. “The skin on your neck is dryer to begin with, so you need to add moisture,” urges Graf.
If you have the larger, cystic acne like I do, it’s going to take a few more dollars and doctor visits to keep them under control, says Graf. “There’s not a lot you can do at home,” she says. Your first move should be to see a dermatologist. They will be able to prescribe a topical or oral antibiotic to help prevent additional breakouts. She has even prescribed Spironolactone (aka Aldactone), which is actually a potassium-sparing diuretic that is commonly used in combination with other drugs to treat high blood pressure. It’s taken orally and she’s seen really good results from it. (Side note: I took this years ago and it seriously worked. I had forgotten about that until Graf and I talked.) A derm can also inject any current cysts with cortisone in order to help them heal faster.
In addition to the prescriptions, you’ll want to take vitamin D3 (or at least make sure you have a good supply of D3 in your body), which controls the anti-microbial (bacteria-fighting) system in the skin. And, if you do take an oral antibiotic, pair that with a probiotic, says Graf. She also totally believes that a good diet can improve skin, so stick to a high fiber, low sugar/dairy diet. Things like soda, refined foods and sugar can cause breakouts, so those should be avoided. And, drink lots of water (Graf recommends water with lemon) and take time to de-stress with meditation, yoga or whatever helps you chill out a bit.
Have different skin gripe? Tell me about it in the comments and I’ll chat with a derm to get some expert advice for you.