Pimples on Neck: How to Effectively Treat Neck Acne Based on Science

Pimples on Neck: How to Treat Neck Acne

Pimples on the neck can range from small red bumps that look like an irritating rash to large pus-filled pustules that are sore and painful. Although neck acne can appear in many shapes and forms, it’s important to know how to treat these unsightly blemishes on your neck. In many cases, home remedies can effectively treat the symptoms of acne on your neck and get rid of the pimples.

Knowing what causes pimples to appear on the back, front or side of your neck can also help to prevent them. For example, men who shave often get small zit-like pimples under the chin or on their neck from shaving incorrectly. Or, clogged pores on the neck can become red and inflamed because of oil or dead skin cells causing sore pimples to appear. In some cases, treating neck acne means addressing any health conditions that are causing face and neck pimples.

Some of the best acne treatments for pimples on the neck contain antibacterial ingredients along with exfoliating properties. This can help to kill off bacteria that causes redness, inflammation, and infection in pores. Gentle natural scrubs also help to remove dead skin cells and prevent ingrown hairs from causing sore bumps on your neck.

In this article, I will explore the various reasons for pimples on the neck. You will also find helpful home remedies to get rid of acne on the neck.

What Causes Neck Acne?

The causes of neck acne are generally the same as acne that affects your face, back or chest – excess sebum and dead skin cells that block pores and become infected.

Treating the symptoms of acne on your neck can be more of a challenge than getting rid of other types of acne. The skin on the back of your neck is thicker than on your face or the front of your neck. Also, clothing is more liable to chafe or irritate the neck which can aggravate acne lesions on your neck.

According to the PubMed Health, acne pustules and pimples on the neck form when hair, sebum, or dead skin cells plug pores. This can trap bacteria in the pore or hair follicle that then becomes infected and results in swollen, red skin bumps of varying sizes. The neck pimples may or may not be sore, depending on how deep the infection is and the size of the pustule.1

Sometimes, deep painful cysts on the neck can form, especially on the back of the neck where more sebum is produced and the skin is thicker. Other types of large pimples that can form on the back of the neck are nodules and large whiteheads.

Doctors at PubMed Health say that blackheads are more common on the face than on the front or back of the neck.2

Reasons for Infected Pimples on the Neck

Let’s look in more detail at some of the most common reasons for pores and hair follicles on your neck becoming infected and turning into neck pimples.


Men often wonder why they get pimples on their neck after shaving. The reason for having bumps and pimples after shaving is that bacteria enter irritated pores on the neck which results in one or more pimples on the shaved area.

Expert in dermatology, Dr. Amanda Oakley explains that acne-like breakouts are common on the neck of men after shaving. This can cause painful pimples on the neck that are filled with pus and may be itchy and tender. The neck pimples may bleed due to repeated shaving.3

According to doctors from the American Academy of Dermatology, proper shaving techniques can do much to reduce the number of infected pimples after shaving. They recommend the best ways to shave your face and neck to avoid outbreaks:

  • Always wash your face and neck with warm water and apply shaving lotion to soften the bristles.
  • Shave in the direction of hair growth. On your neck, that generally means using downward strokes away from your chin.
  • Use a sharp razor and allow the razor to dry between shaves.

For a pre-shave lotion, why not try some coconut oil to soften your facial and neck hairs? Coconut oil is not only a great shaving oil, it also has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that will reduce the risk of infected pimples on your neck.

For more tips on how to reduce the appearance of bumps after shaving, please see my article on getting rid of razor burns naturally.

Hormonal issues

Hormonal changes in your body could result in large pustules on the back of your neck due to overactive sebaceous glands. This can cause painful neck pimples in teenage boys and girls or affect women during their menstrual cycle.

According to the journal Clinical, Cosmetic, and Investigational Dermatology, some people are more susceptible to hormonal acne. Androgens can stimulate excess sebum production that results in a greater risk of pustules forming. Also, other hormones affect sebaceous glands and sebum production. This can cause inflammation in pores as the bacteria Propionibacterium acnes cause infection.4

Some of the home treatments mentioned at the end of this article can help to reduce the symptoms of hormonal acne. However, you may need to see a dermatologist if you continue to suffer from large hard pustules on your neck or face.


Stress is connected with outbreaks of acne and you may notice more pimples on your neck when you are under a lot of stress. Stress affects everyone in different ways and in some people, it weakens the immune system and causes more pimples to appear on the face and neck.

A study published in the journal Acta Dermato-Venereologica found a connection between psychological stress and acne outbreaks. The study found that most adolescents who were stressed out noticed that this coincided with outbreaks of mild to moderate acne. However, there was no relationship between stress and increased sebum production. It seemed that stress-related acne was connected with factors other than excess sebum.5

Coping with stress better is one way to reduce acne outbreaks that cause pimples on your neck. You can try some natural techniques to deal with anxiety better or use essential oils for their calming properties.

Cosmetics that clog pores

Some cosmetics have the tendency to block up pores and cause breakouts on your neck or face. This may happen if you have sensitive skin and use cosmetics that irritate your skin. Other lotions, moisturizers, and creams can be comedogenic (that is, they block pores).

Doctors say that greasy cosmetics very often block pores and cause acne outbreaks. However, because everyone’s skin is different, it may be a matter of trial and error to find skin care products that don’t cause acne.6

Dead skin cells

Dead skin cells that build up on your neck and around your hairline can cause neck pimples and acne outbreaks. This often happens around the neck because collars and clothing around the neck can cause further irritation.

Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that pimples, pustules, papules, and large cystic acne spots can be the result of dead skin cells and sebum clogging pores. These infected pimples on your neck or face can become sore, itchy, and cause psychological distress.7

At the end of the article, you can find recipes for natural exfoliating scrubs that can help to remove dead skin cells and prevent an outbreak of neck pimples.

Heat rash

A heat rash can cause a number of tiny pimples to form on your neck or face due to sweat getting trapped in pores and becoming infected.

Dr. Jerry Balentine on eMedicineHealth says that heat rash is caused by exposure to hot environments. It causes an itchy rash of small red bumps on your neck and other areas that can sometimes be painful. The bumps heat rash causes may look like tiny blisters. The neck and face are the most common areas of the body where these irritating bumps form.8

For more information on what to do for heat rash, please see my article on how to get rid of a rash quickly and naturally.

Polycystic ovary syndrome

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can cause large hard nodules or pus-filled pustules on the back of the neck or front of the neck. Polycystic ovary syndrome causes hormonal imbalances in the body. This results in women having irregular periods, finding it difficult to lose weight, or suffering from excessive hair growth.

According to Dr. Bethanee Schlosser from the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, PCOS can cause acne-like symptoms on the upper neck, jawline, chin, and cheeks. The bumps on or just below the hairline on the neck or face are like tender knots that don’t have a white head. The large lumps tend to flare up just before menstruation.9

If you suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, you can find helpful home remedies in my article on the best ways to treat PCOS naturally.

Types of Pimples on Neck

Various types of pimples and zits can appear on your neck that may also be tender to touch, painful, or filled with pus. According to PubMed Health, the types of acne lesions that can affect the skin on your neck are:2

  • Papules on the neck. Small pink bumps just under the surface of the skin.
  • Pustules. Larger inflamed bumps that are usually filled with pus with a dark red swollen base.
  • Nodules. Hard painful bumps under the skin that are large and painful to touch.
  • Cystic acne. Large, pus-filled bumps that are deep in the skin and can cause scarring if popped.

Location and Symptoms of Neck Acne

Pimples on the front of your neck

Men often find that after shaving they are left with small, red inflamed bumps in the area that they’ve shaved. This could be aggravated if you have to wear a collar and tie at work as the friction may irritate the small bumps and cause them to become more inflamed. This is sometimes referred to as razor burn.

Large pimples on the back of your neck

Large pimples or neck cysts can form on the back of your upper neck due to oils and sebum which can block your pores. If you have long hair, then you may frequently experience acne outbreaks just below your hairline due to oil from your hair. Sometimes, your skin care products may be to blame for this type of breakout.

Small, rash-like pimples on your neck

Tiny bumps and pimples that form a rash and are filled with pus or clear fluid often appear on the front of your neck. The most common causes are shaving or heat rash.

Acne on neck and jawline

Outbreaks of acne along the jawline and upper neck are common when hormonal fluctuations are to blame for the pimples. One cause of acne under your jawline is acne mechanica which can result if you often wear a helmet, and the chin strap can cause acne breakouts on your neck.

Cystic neck acne

Cystic neck acne can be a reason for large painful lumps to appear on the front of your neck or back of your neck depending on the cause. Sometimes, cystic acne on the back of your neck is a result of deep infection when pores become blocked. Acne cysts on the front of the neck can develop if you try to pop pimples and the infection goes deeper into your skin.

Hard red bumps on neck

Dr. William Blahd on WebMD says that hard lumps on your neck could be a skin cyst that develops as a result of infection and may need to be drained by a doctor. Or, a hard neck lump that isn’t red could be caused by swollen lymph nodes in your neck due to a bacterial or viral infection. These hard lumps usually appear on the side of your neck, under the jawline, or just below your ear.9, 10

How to Pop a Pimple on Your Neck

Many people want to know how to pop a pimple on their neck without causing an infection. Although it’s never a good idea to make a habit of popping zits, many don’t like the idea of having a large pus-filled pustule on their neck.

Before we look at the safest way to pop a pimple on your neck, a word of warning: never try to squeeze or pop a large cyst or pimple that hasn’t formed a head. You could end up pushing the infection deeper into your skin and cause permanent scarring.

How to safely pop a pimple on your neck:

According to dermatologist Dr. Cynthia Bailey, if you must pop a pustule, this is what you should do:

  1. Wait until there is a firm head on the pimple and the pus is close to the surface.
  2. Thoroughly wash your hands and dry with a clean towel.
  3. Put a pin through a flame to sterilize it and allow it to cool.
  4. Wipe the pin with an alcohol swab.
  5. Gently cleanse the top of the zit with an alcohol swab.
  6. Hold the pin parallel to the surface of the skin and carefully pop the center of the zit’s head.
  7. Gently squeeze the pus from the pimple, but only if the pus comes out easily. If not, stop.
  8. Cleanse the popped pimple on your neck with an alcohol swab.

How to Get Rid of Neck Acne – The Best Natural Treatments

Let’s look at the best types of natural neck acne treatments to help get rid of and prevent pimples on your neck. You will notice that there is medical research that backs up the home remedies for acne on the neck.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil is one of the best ways to treat neck acne because of its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. A few drops of tea tree can be added to any acne home remedy to help speed up the healing process.

The journal Letters in Applied Microbiology reported that tea tree oil is an effective natural antibacterial agent against Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus aureus strains of bacteria. The researchers concluded that tea tree oil is effective for treating acne.12

Other research has shown that tea tree oil is as effective as popular anti-acne pharmaceutical drugs. Applying tea tree oil to acne pimples reduced redness, inflammation, and caused fewer side effects than benzoyl peroxide.13

How to use tea tree oil to get rid of pimples on your neck

There are a number of ways to use tea tree oil to treat neck acne.

First, you can apply a drop or two of undiluted tea tree oil to a small area of skin as a spot treatment. All you need to do is put a drop of tea tree oil on a cotton bud and dab it on and around a pustule or acne cyst. Use daily to kill off infection and reduce the signs of inflammation.

Tea tree oil and witch hazel

Or, you can add 5-10 drops of tea tree oil to 30 ml witch hazel which is good for treating acne. Use a cotton ball to apply the acne treatment to your neck to treat acne outbreaks on your neck. Use 3 times a day for best results and treat unsightly acne neck pimples.

Tea tree oil and aloe vera

Another way to use tea tree oil as a natural remedy for acne on your neck is to combine it with aloe vera. The Indian Journal of Dermatology states that aloe vera has an anti-acne effect and can treat acne vulgaris. Mix 5-10 drops tea tree oil with 30 ml aloe vera and apply to your neck daily to soothe irritation and get rid of pimples on your neck quickly.

Baking soda

Baking soda has a two-fold effect when using it as an acne treatment for treating the symptoms of neck acne. First, baking soda has antibacterial properties to remove bacteria from your skin. Second, the grainy texture of baking soda makes it an excellent way to remove dead skin cells and dry excess sebum.

According to research into the medicinal properties of baking soda, researchers have found that baking soda help to heal wounds and kill off various strains of bacteria.14, 15

How to use baking soda for treating neck acne:

  1. In a bowl, mix 2 tbsp. baking soda, 1 tsp. lemon juice and enough water to make a thick smooth paste.
  2. Apply the baking soda remedy to the inflamed neck pimples or cyst and leave for 15 minutes.
  3. Rinse off with warm water and pat dry.
  4. Use once a day until the pustules on your neck have gone and there is no more irritation.

Baking soda can also be used as a natural acne treatment for other parts of your body and can help treat the symptoms of back acne.

Lavender oil

Lavender essential oil helps to soothe inflamed pimples on your neck and kill off acne-causing bacteria very quickly. Like tea tree oil, lavender essential oil is gentle enough to be used as a spot treatment directly on an itchy or sore neck pustule to treat it naturally.

According to research published in the journal Molecules, lavender essential oil has strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It was found that lavender oil effectively kills off Propionibacterium acnes strain of bacteria and can cause the appearance of red inflamed pimples.16

How to use lavender oil for treating acne on the neck:

You can either dab a drop of lavender oil on the neck pimple or you can combine it with witch hazel or aloe vera as in the tea tree oil remedy. You can also add a few drops to any of the acne remedies in this article.

Other essential oils that are effective for treating the symptoms of acne on the neck include:

  • Rosemary oil
  • Clary sage
  • Lemon oil
  • Eucalyptus oil
  • Chamomile oil
  • Sandalwood oil

To use any of the above essential oil to get rid of pimples and cysts on your neck, you should dilute 2-3 drops essential oil in a tablespoon of carrier oil like sweet almond oil or coconut oil. Apply daily to moisturize your neck and prevent pimples from appearing.

Oatmeal exfoliating scrub

Ground oatmeal can help to soothe an irritated neck that has outbreaks of pimples on it. Oatmeal is a natural anti-inflammatory treatment that helps to take the irritation out of acne and inflamed skin.

A study in 2012 into the beneficial properties of oatmeal found that it can be used for addressing a number of skin issues. For example, oatmeal helps to get rid of bacteria that block pores, reduces itchiness, and soothes redness and irritation in pustules and pimples.17

How to make your own oatmeal scrub for treating neck acne:

  1. Mix 2 tbsp. ground oatmeal with 1 tbsp. baking soda and add a few drops of lavender oil.
  2. Add enough water to create a thick smooth paste.
  3. Using circular motions, apply the oatmeal remedy to your neck to help remove dead skin cells.
  4. Leave to dry to help cleanse bacteria from your skin and soothe irritation.
  5. Rinse with warm water and pat dry with a clean towel.
  6. Use 2 times a week to reduce acne breakouts and pimples on your neck.

Sugar scrub

A sugar scrub can also help to naturally exfoliate the skin on your neck and prevent excess sebum and dead skin cells from causing pimples on your neck.

When using a sugar scrub for acne, you can add some lemon juice to help peel away dead skin cells and nourish your skin. This recipe also contains raw honey for its healing powers and essential oils to reduce the symptoms of acne.

How to make a sugar scrub for treating acne symptoms:

  1. Combine 1/4 cup brown sugar, the juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 tsp. raw honey and a few drops of tea tree oil or lavender oil.
  2. Massage the sugar scrub to your neck to help treat acne symptoms and remove excess oil and dead skin cells.
  3. Leave on your neck for 5 minutes to allow the honey and essential oil to nourish your skin and heal your pimples.
  4. Rinse off with warm water.
  5. For best results, apply 2 times a week to keep the pores on your neck free of grime, bacteria, and excess sebum.

How to Prevent Pimples on Neck

With proper skin care, there is much that you can do to prevent pimples causing unsightly acne lesions on your neck. Some ways of preventing acne outbreaks on your neck are recommended by dermatologist Dr. Stephanie Gardner include:

  • Cleanse your skin. To prevent acne and pimples on your neck, it’s important to keep your neck clean and free of dirt and grime that could cause infected pores. You should use mild soap and avoid scrubbing or irritating your skin.
  • Moisturize daily. Use some natural oils like jojoba oil or sweet almond oil as a moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated and protected.
  • Be careful with makeup. Some makeup and skin care products can block the pores on your neck. If you notice that you have a breakout, try changing some of your beauty product. Choose “noncomedogenic” products.
  • Keep hair clean. Oily hair or dirty hair can cause excess oil on the back of your neck and cause pimples below your hairline. Use the appropriate shampoo for your hair type.
  • Avoid touching your neck. Your hands and fingers can spread bacteria to your neck and cause irritation on your skin. Try to avoid popping pimples on your neck and if you do so, always wash your hand thoroughly.

When to See a Doctor

In the majority of cases, you can treat pimples on your neck and outbreaks of neck acne with effective home remedies. However, in cases of severe neck acne or hormonal acne, you may need medical treatment.

According to dermatologist Dr. Stephanie Gardner, you should see a doctor for pustules and acne on your neck in the following circumstances:18

  • The acne is severe and persistent.
  • You have acne cysts and nodules on the back or front of your neck.
  • Pimples appeared after you started taking medication for anxiety, depression, or another condition.
  • Outbreaks of acne and pimples or pustules on your neck are causing you embarrassment.

Read my other related articles:

Medical Sources

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  2. NCBI. Acne lesions.
  3. DermNetNZ. Folliculitis barbae and pseudofolliculitis.
  4. Clin Cosmet Investig Dermatol. 2016; 9: 241–248.
  5. Acta Derm Venereol.2007;87(2):135-9.
  6. NCBI. Skin care for acne-prone skin.
  7. MayoClinic. Acne.
  8. eMedicineNet. Heat rash.
  9. WebMD. Cysts, lumps, bumps, and your skin.
  10. WebMD. Swollen glands.
  11. WebMD. Before you pop a pimple.
  12. Lett Appl Microbiol.1995 Oct;21(4):242-5.
  13. Med J Aust.1990 Oct 15;153(8):455-8.
  14. Am J Dent.1995 Jun;8(3):125-7.
  15. Compend Contin Educ Dent Suppl.1997;18(21):S17-21;quiz S46.
  16. 2010 Apr 30;15(5):3200-10.
  17. IJDVL. Oatmeal in dermatology.
  18. WebMD. Teen acne: when should you see a doctor.

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