As much as we love swapping tips and tricks to solve our biggest fashion and beauty dilemmas, there are some questions we may not feel comfortable asking our friends about, let alone Google without going incognito. Don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. In this series, we’re tackling those embarrassing queries by turning to experts in the field to get you the answers you need — minus any awkward feelings.

No matter where they pop up, pimples can make us want to hide from the rest of the world. But according to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne is one of the most common skincare concerns, affecting up to 50 million Americans annually. And while forehead, chin, and even booty breakouts get attention, consider an often-forgotten problem area: your chest. Dermatologists will tell you that your neck and chest are an extension of your complexion, which means you need to give the area the same TLC to prevent and treat pimples as you do your face. But first, you need to know what causes them. More on that, as well as how to heal them once and for all, below.

What causes chest acne?

Woman covering her chest with her hand.

“Chest acne is driven by many of the same factors as facial acne, such as hormonal changes, lifestyle, family history, and sometimes medication,” says Roman Bronfenbrener, a board-certified dermatologist at the University of Pennsylvania. While all of these play a role in the formation of new breakouts, lifestyle choices have the largest effect. (Photo via CoffeeAndMilk/Getty)

As contradictory as it may seem, some of the products that lead to healthier skin and hair — like sunscreen and hair oils — can result in zit flareups on your chest. Toronto-based board-certified dermatologist Sandy Skotnicki explains that no matter your hair length, the oils you put in it, as well as those that naturally occur, can wreak havoc on your chest when rinsed down your body in the shower. And if you have long hair, a simple graze of oily ends at any point can trigger the formation of zits. What you put in your body plays a role too. “Diet is controversial, but some evidence suggests foods with high glycemic indexes [like fried foods and white bread] aggravate acne,” Skotnicki adds.

Given the many causes of chest flares, it should come as no surprise how unpredictable they can be. “For many patients, chest acne is a chronic condition with periods of worsening and improvement,” notes Bronfenbrener. So the real question is …

How do you keep your décolletage Clear?

Redhead woman covering her chest in front of a turquoise blue background.

There are two steps to a blemish-free chest: prevention and treatment. For prevention, cleansing the skin is a must. “It’s a good idea to wash your chest and remove oils [such as] sunscreen in the shower,” suggests Skotnicki. If you go this route, she says, never scrub or harshly rub the area, as it can irritate the pimples and make everything look and feel worse. Instead, use a gentle, acne-erasing cleanser (like Go-To Properly Clean ($24)) and a washcloth to wipe away dirt and debris. Those with longer hair might also want to avoid putting oils in their hair and sleep with their strands pulled back to avoid any potentially acne-triggering transfers from tresses to chest. (Photo via Deagreez/Getty)

If treatment is what you’re here for, we have a few options. Before going full force with a medicated regimen, Skotnicki advises trying your luck with a formula enhanced by benzoyl peroxide, a potent ingredient that targets acne-causing bacteria. Clearogen Acne Lotion ($32) contains a blend of 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide concentrate, aloe, and green tea to banish breakouts, protect against new blemishes, and soothe irritated, inflamed skin in the interim.

If your pimples persist, don’t panic. “Oftentimes chest acne may be more cystic and deep, making penetration of topical [products] difficult to achieve,” notes Bronfenbrener. To get to the root of the problem, kick it up a notch with a prescription solution prescribed by your dermatologist.

Have any more awkward beauty questions? Let us know @BritandCo!

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Illustrations by Marisa Kumtong