Imagine this – the temperature outside is a little warmer than usual, and you want to wear your favorite sleeveless top. But, you can’t! Thanks to the pimples on the back of your arms that are making your skin look so bumpy, almost like a chicken’s skin. Pimples or acne on arms (and even the shoulders usually) are very common in not just women but also in men. Read on to know more about these and how you can get rid of them.
What Does Pimples On Your Arm & Shoulders Mean?
Just like your face, when the skin pores on your arms get clogged with dead skin cells and excess oil causing pimples on arms develop. When compared to the face, the pores on the arms are larger and take more amount of dead skin cells and oil to become plugged. This makes the process of formation of arm pimples a little longer than face pimples, but when these acne do form, they are more severe than your regular pimples.
On the arms, pimples can be found on various sections of it like – forearms, upper arms, armpit, lower arm, and the back of the arms. The pimples on the back of the arms are often accompanied by shoulder acne. When not treated on time, these pimples can become bigger and itchy. They can also leave behind long-lasting scars and ruin the look of the skin on your arms.
What Are The Causes Of Pimples On Arms And Shoulders?
To treat pimples on arms successfully, it is important to understand the various factors that can trigger them. They are as follows –
- Eczema – Red, itchy, and inflamed skin is a characteristic of this skin condition that is caused by an allergen triggering the body’s immune response. A common side effect of eczema is the formation of pimple like bumps on the arms.
- Keratosis Pilaris – Also referred to as ‘chicken skin’, excess production of keratin by the skin blocks the pores on the arms causing raised bumps that resembled closed pimples (comedones).
- Friction From Fabrics – Wearing tight clothing or fabrics that can easily create friction irritate the skin on the arms and shoulders and can cause acne breakouts. If you have pimples on the arms already, this friction from fabrics can make the condition worse.
- Bug Bites – Some bugs can bite leaving behind a red rash with bumps that resembles pimples.
- Heat Rash – These rashes are often called as prickly heat and are seen on the arms, shoulders, and the back in hot and humid conditions. Papules (pimples) form because of clogging of hair follicles. They are itchy and have redness around the area.
- Allergic Reactions To Food Or Medicine – Just like topical irritants can cause pimples, allergens in food can also lead to pimples breaking out on your arms. At times, reactions to medicines can also cause these pimples.
- Sun Allergy – If your skin is sensitive to sunlight, the areas of the skin commonly exposed to the sun such as the arms can develop hives in the form of rashes and pimples.
- Sweat – Sweating is an important mechanism to maintain the body’s temperature in hot and humid weather conditions. When you sweat, the pores open up so that the skin can breathe more freely and cool down. However, open pores with the excess sweat is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and can cause acne flare-ups on the arms. Not showering after sweating, from a physical activity, can increase the intensity of existing pimples on your arms.
- Sebaceous Glands – The sebaceous glands are responsible for secreting the necessary amount of oil and keeping the skin soft and moisturized. On the skin of the arms, more number of sebaceous glands are present increasing the chances of the oil being produced plugging the hair follicles and causing pimples.
- Androgens – This is a type of male hormones, which when produced in excess, can lead to increased production of natural sebum on the arms. This increased oil can clog pores with ease and cause arm acne.
- Estrogen – The level of this female hormone varies with the menstruation cycle in women and can trigger pimples on the arms.
How To Get Rid Of Pimples On Arms And Shoulders?
A chemical peel is constituted of an acid that is safe for use on the skin. This acid is usually extracted from natural sources, and its concentration is adjusted to suit different skin types. It works by exfoliating the top layer of the skin that contains the dead cells and excess keratin, which are blocking the hair follicles on the arms. It also helps to bring the excess oil production under control and possesses anti-inflammatory properties.
- Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA) such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid are often used in the form of chemical peels for treating pimples on the arms.
- Peels should be applied under a dermatologist’s supervision who will assess your skin, and suggest an apt peel type and peel concentration for your arm acne problem.
Usually, dermatologists also advise the usage of internal medications in combination with peels to bring the hormone levels under balance, if this is an underlying cause of your arm acne.
Here are some more tips from the dermatologist’s desk to reduce the occurrence and augmentation of the pimples on the arms.
Dermatologist’s Advice To Prevent Pimples On Arms & Shoulders
- Exfoliate The Right Way – Removing the dead skin cells and keratin on a regular basis is important to keep them from clogging the pores and causing pimples. Use a scrub made at home or an over-the-counter chemical exfoliator containing AHA or BHA (as recommended by the manufacturer) to prevent pimples on arms. Refrain from scrubbing excessively as this will only exaggerate the problem and cause redness and inflammation.
- Humidify – Dry skin can trigger keratosis pilaris and related pimple formation on the arms. A humidifier will help keep the dry air in the house moist enough so that your skin does not dry out.
- Moisturize – When the excess oil production (leading to pimples) is not caused due to a hormonal imbalance, it occurs to supply the skin with enough oils to keep it moisturized. To bring this surplus oil production under control, apply a suitable moisturizer on your arms to keep them hydrated and moisturized.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – A homemade chemical exfoliant can be made with this versatile vinegar. Apple cider vinegar contains lactic acid and malic acid that can help remove dead skin cells and prevent pores from getting plugged. Make a solution by diluting ½ cup of apple cider vinegar with a cup of plain water and spray this on your arms. Let this solution sit for 10 to 15 minutes and then wash it off. You can repeat this twice a week to see decent results.
- Essential Oils – A multipurpose essential oil that can be used to keep the pores from getting infected and developing into pimples is tea tree essential oil. Add about two to three drops of this to a tablespoon of virgin coconut oil and apply on your arms. Tea tree oil has antibacterial and antiviral properties that are beneficial for pimple prevention and treatment.
- Sunscreen – Protecting your skin from sun damage is essential to prevent pimple breakouts. Pimples related to sun allergy, heat rashes, and keratosis pilaris can be prevented by using this routine skin care product. A sunscreen with SPF 30+ is recommended.
- Gentle Cleansing – Using water that is too hot to shower (or bathe) can strip your skin of its natural oils. It is recommended to use lukewarm or tepid water and keep the bath time limited to not more 10 minutes. Also, using gentle cleansers is best so that excess absorption and removal of the natural sebum does not occur. Avoid cleansers that contain sodium lauryl sulphate and similar ingredients to ensure this.
- Diet Tips – Acne on arms are linked with vitamin A and vitamin E deficiencies. Low levels of zinc can also increase the chances of you developing these pimples. Food rich in these important nutrients should be included in the diet. Some examples are eggs, green veggies, oranges, almonds, olive oil, red meat, and pumpkin seeds. Along with including these in your diet, eliminate trans-fat, high sugar foods, and fried items from your daily intake to keep pimples at bay.
- Vitamins And Medications – When you feel that you lack essential nutrients in your diet, you can always start taking vitamin and mineral supplements to supply the body with enough amounts of these nutrients. Apart from these, a dermatologist may also prescribe you anti-acne medications that are needed to be taken internally (isotretinoin) or applied topically (retinoid creams, corticosteroids, etc.) to bring the arm pimples under control and prevent future breakouts.
Pimples on arms are common in men and women, more often than you think. Since a variety of reasons can cause them, it becomes difficult to treat them with one single remedy. However, chemical peels work well no matter what the causal factor of these pimples is. The results are even better when a proper skin care regimen along with a healthy diet accompany this cosmetic treatment.
Make the changes required now and book yourself an appointment with a good dermatologist to treat the pimples on your arms for the long-term.