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What is acne mechanica?

What is acne mechanica?
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Acne mechanica is a type of acne very common in athletes and soldiers, typically caused by heat, pressure, rubbing/friction, and a lack of exposure to air (breathability). It can occur anywhere on the body, and is more common in people who are already acne-prone.

What does acne mechanica look like?
Any area that the skin gets rubbed – shoulder from carrying a bag, helmets rubbing on the forehead – can develop acne mechanica. Sweaty skin that is repeatedly rubbed is ripe for this form of acne, which if left too long, can be problematic to treat.

Each person with acne mechanica will have a slightly different manifestation, since our bodies are not the same. Acne mechanica can also change over time, depending on our diet and lifestyle, and our activities. It can appear as small pimples or lumps, but may appear as large, inflamed lesions – or anything in between. Skin can feel bumpy or rough without visible lesions, known as sandpaper acne.

Most common causes of acne mechanica

  • Helmets with chin straps
  • Shoulder pads
  • Headbands
  • Tight hats
  • Equipment with straps (including backpacks)
  • Tight clothes (including bras)
  • Musical instruments held close to the body (including violins)

Treating acne mechanica
Some areas are easier to treat than others, and if the action of the straps or equipment continues, the problem may continue. The rubbing action causes the skin to create more sebum to relieve the rubbing, but this causes blocked pores, resulting in the acne. This is different from folliculitis, which is inflammation of a hair follicle.

  • To solve the problem, you need to stop the sweating and rubbing, so adjust the straps and try again
  • Using benzoyl peroxide can be helpful, especially on shoulders
  • Shower immediately after exercising or sweating
  • Avoid hats, helmets or headbands for long periods of time
  • Wear cotton underclothes to soak up sweat
  • Don’t wear tight-fitting clothes
  • Obviously please do not avoid wearing safety gear – use other methods to avoid the sweating where possible.
  • Visit your dermatologist for treatments before the acne is so bad it causes scarring

Got acne problems that won’t go away?
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