Everything You Need to Know about Acne Mechanica

Acne mechanica in athletes

 If there’s one type of acne very few people have heard of, it’s probably acne mechanica. What does acne have to do with mechanics, anyway? But have you noticed that you sometimes get these annoying pimples after your skin gets rubbed on? That’s most likely acne mechanica, or “sports-induced acne.” In this article, we’re going to discuss more about this skin condition, including what’s causing it, what are the symptoms, and how you can deal with it.

What Is Acne Mechanica?

“Acne mechanica” is a term used to describe local exacerbations such as inflammatory papules and pustules that are caused by skin friction, pressure on the skin, heat, or when the skin is exposed to air. It varies in appearance from very small comedones to large, inflamed papules and pustules.

Anyone can get this type of acne, but it’s especially common in athletes, soldiers, and students. It can also develop anywhere on the face or body.

However, breakouts tend to occur on the forehead, chin, jawline, neck, and shoulders. And if you’re already prone to acne, you’re unfortunately more likely to develop acne mechanica too.

What Causes Acne Mechanica?

Anything that traps heat against the body, rubs, or puts pressure on the skin for a prolonged period of time can trigger acne mechanica. Some of the most common things responsible for the development of this type of acne include:

  • Athletic equipment, knee pads, shin guards.
  • Hats, helmets, and headbands.
  • Tight-fitting clothes and undergarments.
  • Straps from backpacks, bags, or other containers.
  • Bra straps.

Who Gets Acne Mechanica?

Researchers found that the following people are more likely to develop acne mechanica than others:

  • Teenagers and young adults who already have a problem with acne.
  • People with sandpaper acne, which is defined by the presence of many small, undeveloped lesions that are nearly invisible but feel rough to the touch.
  • Soldiers who are stationed in hot and humid places.

Is It Acne Mechanica or Is It Common Acne?

Acne mechanica and common acne tend to look identical, so it can be confusing to distinguish between the two. Here are some clues you may be dealing rather than common acne:

  • Your skin is relatively clear in other areas than those mentioned above. If you’re breaking out in strategic spots such as the forehead, and you tend to wear hats or headbands, then you are likely dealing with acne mechanica.
  • Your acne suddenly developed after you began working out.
  • You have papules and pustules during the sports season, but your skin clears up in the offseason.
  • The acne on your back and shoulders clears up during the summer and returns when you return to school and have to wear a backpack.

How Do You Treat Acne Mechanica?

Most cases of acne mechanica are treated with common acne ingredients such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These come in the form of a facial cleanser or body wash, which should be used daily. It’s important not to scrub your skin too hard, otherwise you will only aggravate the condition. Gentle cleansing works wonders.

Benzoyl peroxide lotions may also be prescribed. At first, your dermatologist may recommend using these products only a few times per week, but you may have to gradually work up to twice a day. Your skin needs time to acclimate to benzoyl peroxide, otherwise, you may experience a lot of dryness.

Wearing clothes made of natural fabrics, like breathable cotton, can also help. Unfortunately, most sports attire is made from synthetic fabrics. Nonetheless, if you can wear a cotton t-shirt underneath or use a natural material under your athletic pads, it’s worth giving it a try.

Consult a dermatologist to confirm your diagnosis. They can provide you with additional information on how to clear your skin and get rid of the stubborn acne mechanica.

How Do You Stop Acne Mechanica?

Because acne mechanica has clear causes, you can try some preventive measures to keep it at bay:

  • Take a shower promptly after exercising.
  • Use a salicylic acid cleanser on your face even if you can’t spot any pimples yet.
  • Avoid clothes made of synthetic materials when you’re not working out.
  • Avoid tight-fitted clothes.


Acne is a frustrating problem most people have dealt with sometime in their lives. If you’re patient and consistent with your treatment and preventive measures, you should see improvement in your skin soon enough. Call your physician to discuss your concerns; prescription acne medications may be necessary. And, whatever you do, don’t let acne steal the fun out of life!

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