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Acne Mechanica: What Is It And How To Prevent It

Acne Mechanica is a term used to describe rash-like pimples that pop up close to the surface of the skin when it is subjected to pressure and occlusion.

Read on

Acne mechanica may sound like a term out of the latest sci-fi film, but it is actually something much less fun and entertaining.

Acne mechanica is a term used to describe rash-like pimples that pop up close to the surface of the skin when it is subjected to pressure, rubbing, friction, heat, and occlusion.

This condition can be hard to distinguish between your general acne (acne vulgaris), so it is important to know the culprits and steps to prevent acne mechanica from forming in the first place.

What is acne mechanica

Acne mechanica is a rash-like acne breakout that tends to occur on the body in locations where the skin experiences lots of friction, heat, rubbing, and lack of exposure to fresh air.

The most common spots for this to happen are the shoulders, back, or butt. The acne mechanica may start as very small comedones that are visible to the eye, or can’t be seen but develop a bumpy texture. Eventually, these small bumps and comedones can flare up into large, inflamed, and pus-filled pimples.

What can cause acne mechanica

So, just what kinds of things and activities can cause acne mechanica to manifest?

Athletes and soldiers commonly have to deal with acne mechanica due to wearing bulky, stiff, and abrasive athletic or military gear for long periods of time, potentially in the heat, or when covered with sweat.

Over time, this friction mixed with heat, sweat, and lack of breathability of gear and fabrics can cause acne mechanica to form. Students can also develop acne mechanica from carrying heavy backpacks where the straps are rubbing on the shoulders and the bag on the back.

Truck drivers have reported acne mechanica from the back rubbing against the truck seat during long-haul bouts of driving, frequent exercisers can experience acne mechanica if they wear tight and non-breathable fabrics while working out, or those who commonly carry heavy bags or purses with shoulder straps may see a breakout from the strap friction.

Basically, there are lots of different ways that acne mechanica can crop up when there is a combination of rubbing, heat, sweat, and lack of air exposure for the skin.

How to prevent acne mechanica

For those that experience acne mechanica, prevention is key, since it can be difficult to treat once it pops up. The following tips are ways to help prevent acne mechanica from forming in the first place:

  • Shower thoroughly with a gentle cleanser soon after physical exercise, sports practice, or sweating.
  • Wear clean, natural, absorbent, and breathable fabrics like cotton.
  • Wear a soft cotton shirt underneath gear and uniforms to reduce irritation.
  • Switch to a bag you can carry in your hand if backpack or purse straps are causing acne mechanica.
  • Make sure workout clothes and bras are not too tight and avoid synthetic fabrics that don’t breathe well.
  • Wash hats and headbands regularly, make sure they do not fit too tightly and avoid wearing them for long portions of time.

Acne Mechanica Vs Acne Vulgaris

Acne mechanica and acne vulgaris (common acne) look very similar, but acne mechanical may seem closer to the surface, and the surrounding skin may feel rubbed and raw. And, while people that are already prone to general acne may be more likely to experience acne mechanica, the location can be a giveaway that a certain location is experiencing acne mechanica.

Common acne is more commonly found on the face and sometimes on the body and can have a hormonal or stress-related cause, whereas acne mechanica will pop up in the areas that have been subjected to lots of pressure, heat, and rubbing recently.

For instance; if your shoulders break out only during the school year when carrying a heavy backpack, your jaw breaks out during the months you are wearing a helmet for football practice, or you just started wearing your new tight workout gear to the gym and your back is breaking out -- you are likely experiencing acne mechanica.

How to treat acne mechanica breakouts

Acne mechanica is best treated by avoiding the causes of the breakouts in the first place, but if you currently have a flare-up that needs taken care of, there are treatment options.

The most common first treatment step is trying and over the counter face or body wash that contains salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide to heal the pimples and reduce more popping up.

For some, they may choose to use a body wash containing these ingredients as a preventative measure to avoid acne mechanica from developing again. If acne mechanica preventative measures and over-the-counter treatments are not enough to curb your breakouts, it may be time to speak with a doctor about prescription treatment options.

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