Acne On Arms

Normally characterized by blemishes and pimples, acne can appear anywhere on the body but is most commonly seen on the face, neck, arms, shoulders and back.

What is acne on arms?

When people experience acne on arms, they generally have bumps, blemishes and pimples on their skin. Although patients may experience acne on either their forearms or upper arms, in some cases, the entire arm may be affected.

Although acne is a common skin condition, patients can find it very distressing. As well as being painful, uncomfortable and itchy, people are often self-conscious when they have acne and will attempt to cover their skin so that it’s not visible to other people.

What causes acne on arms?

Like other types of skin conditions, acne on arms can be caused by a variety of issues, such as:

  • Bacterial infections
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Hormonal problems
  • Build-up of dead skin
  • Blocked hair follicles
  • Keratosis Pilaris
  • Food intolerances

When people experience acne on arms, it’s important to identify what is causing the condition. Although acne can often be treated, an effective resolution may depend on the exact cause of the blemishes.

If a patient experiences skin problems due to a food intolerance, for example, changing their diet may be enough to eliminate the condition. Alternatively, a bacterial infection may need to be treated with antibiotics in order for the patient’s skin to improve.

Often, doctors will examine the patient’s skin in order to determine what is the most likely cause of their condition. Although acne on the arms can be characterized by various types of blemishes, some are more common than others. When people experience acne, they may have any or all of the following types of blemishes:

  •  Blackheads
  •  Whiteheads
  •  Pustules
  •  Papules
  •  Cysts
  •  Nodules

Although Keratosis Pilaris is a separate condition, patients may wrongly assume it is acne on arms. Generally, Keratosis Pilaris causes small bumps to appear on the upper arms and legs and requires different treatment to acne. Whilst the condition is not typically painful, patients may want to obtain treatment in order to reduce the appearance of the bumps.

What are the symptoms of acne on the arms?

Depending on the cause of acne on the arms, patients may experience symptoms for quite some time. If the condition is caused by a hormonal imbalance, for example, patients may be more likely to experience symptoms during their teenage years when puberty is occurring and their hormones are subject to sudden changes. If a hormone imbalance continues into adulthood, the symptoms of acne on arms may also continue.

When people are affected by acne on arms, they may experience the following symptoms:

  • Blemishes on the upper and forearms
  • Painful lesions on the arms
  • Cysts, nodules, whiteheads and blackheads on the affected areas
  • Itching and persistent discomfort
  • Broken skin

Once present, acne on arms can have various effects. As well as being uncomfortable, blemishes can be particularly painful. Nodules and cysts are typically fairly large blemishes and can be extremely painful and may take some time to reduce. Although these types of blemishes are more common on the face, back and shoulders, they may also appear on the arms or legs.

In addition to this, some patients may experience intense itching due to acne on arms. If patients scratch the affected areas, they may exacerbate the blemishes and cause increased pain and discomfort. Although it can be difficult to ignore persistent itching, patients are often prescribed a medicated cream to reduce itching when it is problematic.

A further complication of acne on arms is the possibility of infections occurring. In a bid to reduce the severity of their symptoms, patients may employ self-care techniques and try to pop or squeeze the blemishes on their skin. This often results in broken skin and increases the risk of infection occurring. If the area is hot to the touch, especially painful and/or weeping, patients should obtain medical advice in case an infection has taken hold. Similarly, if patients feel unwell or display a fever, they should seek medical assistance.

In some instances, patients may experience scarring as a result of acne on arms. Even when the blemishes have been fully treated, scarring may remain and may require additional treatment if the patient wishes to reduce the appearance of the scars.

How is acne on arms treated?

When patients first develop acne on arms, they may try a variety of products in order to improve the appearance of their skin. Whilst some over-the-counter products can be effective, patients should be wary of trying too many products as this could aggravate their skin further. Generally, it is advisable to visit a physician or dermatologist to access expert advice and treatment.

Before treatment begins, a physician or dermatologist may try to determine what is causing the condition. Although numerous patients may suffer from acne on arms, the condition can have various causes and effective treatment will depend on the specific cause in each individual’s case.

If a patient is experiencing acne on arms due to a build-up of dead skin or blocked hair follicles, they may be advised to treat the condition at home. Although this type of acne can often be treated with a regime of exfoliation, patients will usually need to exfoliate their skin regularly and may be advised to use medicated products in order to prevent the blemishes from returning.

Alternatively, if a bacterial infection is believed to be causing the symptoms, patients may be prescribed antibiotic medication in order to reduce the blemishes and alleviate the discomfort associated with the condition.

If hormonal imbalances are causing or exacerbating a patient’s acne, they may be treated with hormonal medication. Birth control pills may be prescribed to women with acne on arms, for example, whilst male patients may undergo tests to determine if their hormone levels are within the appropriate range.

Most commonly, patients with acne on arms are prescribed topical medications. These often take the form of washes, scrubs and moisturizers and generally contain either benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Once applied, these active ingredients help to reduce current blemishes and prevent future blemishes from occurring.

Whilst some treatments for acne on arms provide a temporary solution, they can often be used on a long-term basis and can, therefore, offer relief from the symptoms associated with acne on arms.

Preventing acne on arms

A good skin care routine can often prevent acne on arms, particularly if the individual's hormone levels are not contributing to the condition. Exfoliating the skin regularly can prevent the build-up of dead skin, which is often a contributing factor to acne on arms. Although exfoliation may be used as a form of treatment for acne on arms, it can also be used as a preventative measure and will usually keep the skin in good condition, thus reducing the risk of acne on the arms developing.

In addition to this, eating a healthy diet can also help to prevent blemishes from occurring on the arms and other parts of the body. Whilst food intake is not always a contributing factor to acne, diet can play a significant role in the appearance of skin. By maintaining a healthy diet and engaging in an appropriate skincare routine, patients may be able to reduce the likelihood of acne on arms occurring.