Bathing and showering

Acne is not just a facial condition, it can appear on other parts of the body, such as shoulders, arms and on the back. These areas of the body have lots of glands. In acne, it is the sebaceous glands that produce an oily or waxy matter called sebum, designed to lubricate and waterproof the skin and hair of mammals. In humans, they occur in the greatest number on the face and scalp, but also on all parts of the skin except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet.

How careful care with washing, bathing and showering can help in the treatment of acne.In people with oily skin, if a sustained hygiene regime is not followed, infections can occur, resulting in spots and/or acne. A good hygiene routine can prevent flare-ups.

Keeping the whole of your body clean is important as it will help to keep your skin spot and acne free.

Because we all have different skin types and the causes of spots and acne can vary from one person to the next, there is no single regime which will suit all. However, there are many ways of keeping on top of your hygiene by following some simple tips:

  • Showering is advisable over a bath the constant flow of water opens the pores. It can also help with any pain you may experience with acne and spots. Bathing may cause any infection to move to another part of the body and create further outbreaks.
  • Shower twice a day under warm water to open the pores. This will help wash away dirt, bacteria, oil and chemicals. Follow this with cooler water, which will close the pores preventing them from being blocked with dirt and bacteria. A warm shower is also beneficial for skin which is extremely oily as it can have a drying effect on the skin, removing any excess oil which can cause acne and spots.
  • Don’t use harsh soaps: choose soaps, shampoos and cleansers made from natural ingredients which contain vitamin E and antioxidants.
  • Don’t scrub your skin, as this can irritate the skin, causing more discomfort.
  • If you prefer or have no choice, take a bath for around 20-30 minutes. Consider adding a few ounces of hydrogen peroxide to the water as this helps destroy bacteria in the opened pores.
  • Use scent free mild soap - your doctor/dermatologist can recommend the best soap to use. Soap containing sulphur has anti-bacterial properties, which can help kill bacteria.
  • Use a good quality gentle moisturising body wash applied to a sponge.
  • After every bath/shower you may want to apply a cream containing benzoyl peroxide on the areas of the body covered by acne to help kill the bacteria. NOTE: before using a cream containing benzoyl peroxide you should seek advice from your doctor as too much can cause redness and irritation.
  • Make sure that you remove all soap residues from your body, especially when taking a bath – not removing all the soap can aggravate acne and spots, especially on the back where it is difficult to get to – consider showering off your body after taking a bath.
  • Make sure you wash both your cleaning cloths and towels immediately after having a shower or bath to prevent any bacteria from breeding.
  • Buy a good quality bath sponge that has some texture. You may wish to consider using a loofah or a sponge attached to a long handle, which will enable you to reach those difficult areas, such as the back. Using a textured sponge will also exfoliate your skin removing dead cells and preventing further acne and spots. Keep it gentle though; remember you should not scrub your skin.
  • Wash from top to bottom in that order. It is advisable to wash your hair first so that the dirt and bacteria is washed down and, by the time you have got to your feet, your body is clean and free from dirt, oil, bacteria and any chemicals from hair products etc.
  • You should shave last if doing so in the shower. Not only will it soften the hair/bristles and prevent irritation, it will stop your pores from collecting dirt, oil, bacteria and chemicals. Shaving also acts as an exfoliator.
  • You may wish to invest in a shower filter, which attaches to your shower head: you can then use the shower head for a shower or to fill your bath with water.
  • Steam baths/saunas can help in the treatment of acne and spots. The steam will open and cleanse the pores and improve blood circulation, bringing oxygen and nutrients to the skin’s surface. You are advised to shower immediately after a steam/sauna to remove the sweat. Before having a steam bath or sauna, it’s always advisable to seek advice from your doctor or dermatologist.

Sources used in writing this article are available on request

Information contained in this Articles page has been written by talkhealth based on available medical evidence. Our evidence-based articles are certified by the Information Standard and our sources are available on request. The content is not, though, written by medical professionals and should never be considered a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek medical advice before changing your treatment routine. talkhealth does not endorse any specific products, brands, or treatments.

Information written by the talkhealth team

Last revised: 21 November 2017

Next review: 21 November 2020