Yes, Shower Mistakes Are a Real Thing—Here Are the 7 Most Common Ones

person using skincare product in shower

by Emily Laurence

Breakouts are never fun, but facial acne has a logical explanation: the face is the primary place where makeup is applied, which can clog pores. On top of that, we often touch our faces, which can spread pore-clogging oil and bacteria. But when a breakout happens somewhere else on the body, it’s a little more surprising. How does it happen?

There are many causes for body acne or bacne (acne on the back), but one that’s often overlooked is how you could be showering. It’s surprising, right? Showering is supposed to prevent skin problems, not cause them. Wondering what you could be doing wrong? Keep reading to see the seven most common mistakes people make in the shower, according to dermatologists.

7 Shower Mistakes That Can Cause Body Acne or Backne

1. Not showering soon enough

Technically, this mistake happens outside of the shower, but it still has to do with washing up and according to Dr. Suzanne Friedler, MD, FAAD, a board-certified fellow of the American Academy of Dermatology, it’s a biggie: staying in sweaty clothes. Maybe you get back from the gym and decide to make dinner and watch a little TV before hopping in the shower, for example.

Dr. Friedler says that staying in sweaty clothes can lead to bacteria growth, which can then cause body acne or bacne. This is why, if you can, you should hop in the shower as soon as you can—or at least change out of your sweaty clothes.

2. Your shampoo or conditioner has ingredients that are clogging your pores

“Comedogenic [pore-clogging] hair products are a typical aggregator of bacne but one of the least recognized,” says Dr. Aanand Geria, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Verona, New Jersey. Dr. Kristen Miller, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at Spectrum Skin and Laser, agrees saying, “Hair products that have ingredients which clog pores can also cause or worsen acne, especially on the forehead along the hairline.” 

Dr. Geria says that if your shampoo or conditioner has ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfates, sodium laureth sulfates, coconut oil or argan oil, it could be clogging your pores as it slides down your body and back. If you regularly experience acne on your body, look for a shampoo and conditioner that doesn’t contain these ingredients.

If you have long hair that is regularly coming into contact with your back, Dr. Miller says that this can be another cause of backne, due to the clog-poring ingredients in styling products coming into contact with the skin.

3. You wash your body before your hair

If your shampoo or conditioner has comedogenic ingredients like the ones Dr. Geria called out and you’re washing your body before your hair, you’re making a double mistake. This is because the pore-clogging ingredients will slide down your body and residue could stay there instead of being washed off with a body wash or soap. To prevent body acne or bacne, wash your hair first and then your body.

4. You need a different body wash

If acne on your body or back is something you experience, Dr. Miller and Dr. Geria recommend using a body wash or soap with benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. “Benzoyl peroxide removes acne-causing bacteria from the skin and reduces inflammation,” Dr. Geria says. (Just make sure to wash it all off in the shower or he says it could stain your towels.)

Dr. Miller says that benzoyl peroxide is both anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial. “It ranges in concentration from 2.5 to 10 percent and is available in most local pharmacies,” she says. She adds that body wash with benzoyl peroxide works best if it is applied to the skin for one to three minutes prior to rinsing.

As for the salicylic acid, Dr. Geria says it removes dead skin cells and excess oil. “Those who deal with blackheads can benefit from salicylic acid because it clears the pores,” he says. 

5. Your water is the wrong temperature

Believe it or not, the temperature of your water in the shower actually does impact your skin. Dr. Geria says that water that’s too hot or too cold can be a contributing factor to body acne. “Hot water will open your pores and allow excess sebum production, while cold water closes the skin’s pores and prohibits the secretion of sebum and bacteria,” he says. Stick to somewhere in the middle to prevent either from happening.

6. You’re reusing the same towel too often

It’s great to be eco-friendly and reuse the same towel a few times before tossing it into the laundry basket, but it does reach a level when it could be contributing to body acne or backne. “Wash your towel at least once a week,” Dr. Geria says. “If you don’t, bacteria begin to build up and can cause more breakouts.”

7. You’re using lotion with comedogenic (pore-clogging) ingredients

Remember how Dr. Geria said that comedogenic hair products can lead to bacne and body acne? He says that the same goes for lotions that are applied to the body after showering. Again, avoid ones with ingredients like sodium lauryl sulfates, sodium laureth sulfates, coconut oil and argan oil to prevent acne or backne.

The good news about these shower mistakes is that they’re all easy fixes. Switching out a product or two or changing the order in which you wash in the shower may be all that’s needed for preventing acne from forming in unsuspecting places. Sometimes, it really is the small things that can make the biggest difference. 




At Spectrum Skin and Laser we utilize the latest technologies and techniques, often in combination to best improve your results. Dr. Jeremy Brauer has remained at the forefront of these technological advances since the beginning of his career, and looks forward to meeting with you to discuss your needs. To schedule a consultation, please schedule below. 

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