The term acne mechanica designates local exacerbations due to pressure, friction, rubbing, squeezing, or stretching. Examples are given of various physical traumata that provoke lesions in acne patients. The precipitating causes of stress are diverse, they include articles of clothing (tight straps and belts), recreational accouterments (football shoulder pads), or occupational pressure (rubbing of back in truck drivers). Sealing acne-bearing skin under adhesive for two weeks regularly induced new inflammatory lesions, which derived from the rupture of microcomedones that are not visible to the naked eye.
Acne mechanica is a form of acne that anyone can get, but it’s especially common in athletes, students, and soldiers. This type of acne is triggered by excess heat, pressure, friction or rubbing of the skin.
Acne mechanica can develop anywhere on the face or body (like the back, shoulders, or buttocks.) If you are already prone to breakouts, you’re more likely to develop acne mechanica.
In the early stages the skin may just feel rough or bumpy, even you can’t see actual pimples. But as acne mechanica progresses, these tiny breakouts can become irritated and progress to more obvious, inflamed blemishes.
What Causes Acne Mechanica?
The biggest difference between acne mechanica and run-of-the-mill common acne (called acne vulgaris) is the cause. While common acne has hormonal roots, the cause of acne mechanica is completely physical and it boils down to one word: friction.
Anything that traps heat against the body for a prolonged period of time, rubs or puts pressure on the skin can trigger acne mechanica.
These are things like:
- straps from backpacks, bags, and purses
- hats and headbands
- bra straps
- tight-fitting clothes and undergarments
- Athletic equipment, pads, and helmets
All of these things trap and hold heat and sweat against the skin, causing the hair follicles (AKA the pores) to become blocked. With continued rubbing, the pores become irritated and those tiny blemishes morph into larger, red pimples.
Athletic equipment is a prime culprit, especially for teen boys. Football or hockey pads, baseball caps, sweatbands, and helmets all can trigger acne mechanica, because they’re heavy, stiff, and don’t breathe. They can exert a lot of friction against the skin. And, let’s be honest, when you’re wearing them you’re getting sweaty. A perfect recipe for acne mechanica.
Soldiers are another group that commonly get this form of acne. Packing heavy gear for long periods of time puts pressure on the skin, causing irritation and breakouts. It’s especially common in young soldiers, stationed in hot and humid areas.
Tight-fitting clothes and undergarments are among other offenders. Ladies, breakouts can develop under snug bra straps. Friction from too snug or sweat-dampened clothes can trigger breakouts on the inner thighs, for example, or breakouts on the butt.
But it’s not just clothing and gear that can cause acne mechanica. Anything that puts pressure on the skin for long periods of time can trigger it. Violin players may notice an area of breakouts on the chin where their instrument rests. Talking on the phone for long periods of time regularly might cause breakouts on the side of the face.
So what can you do?
- Stop as much of the rubbing, friction on the skin. Athletes and soldiers need to keep their pads and equipment as clean as possible. wipe it down before and after the equipment use.
- Hats and helmets headbands must be wiped down before and after wearing them. If possible, adjust the helmet/hat back off the face.
- Phones should be put on speaker or text so it is not resting on the face.
- Use wireless headphones that don’t touch the skin.
- Women should never wear the same bra twice without washing them. Also, change up the configuration of the bra strap.
- Don’t wear tight, skin rubbing clothing all the time. (yoga pants)
- One of the worse form of acne mechanica can be caused when someone rubs or picks their own skin or rest their face in their hand.