Rinsing out conditioner as the very last step of your shower routine seems like a smart plan. While you’re busy washing your body and, perhaps, exfoliating or shaving, you can let those moisturizing ingredients soak in and work their softening magic. If this sounds like your typical regimen, however, you might want to reassess—especially if you’re struggling with body acne.
In a recent TikTok with more than 21,000 views, board-certified dermatologist Lindsey Zubritsky, MD, shared a common mistake that can cause chest and back zits—and it’s one that many of us are guilty of. “I’m noticing [a lot of you] are putting conditioner in your hair, you’re wrapping it up, you’re letting it sit, and rinsing your conditioner is the final step of your ‘everything’ shower,” Dr. Zubritsky says in the video.
The problem with that practice, she says: When conditioner residue drips down your back, chest, and/or other parts of your body, it can clog your pores and cause pesky breakouts if it’s not properly cleaned off with water and soap. “Because conditioners tend to be thick and creamy, they can be difficult to remove effectively with just water,” Dr. Zubrisky tells SELF. That’s why, she says, washing your body should actually be the last step of your shower routine.
Maryland-based dermatologist Ife J. Rodney, MD, founding director of Eternal Dermatology Aesthetics and professor of dermatology at George Washington University, agrees. “The order in which you use these products matters,” Dr. Rodney tells SELF. “And using conditioner at the very end can indeed increase the risk of body acne for some people.” Again, that’s because conditioners—which can make hair feel soft, silky, and manageable—also tend to contain hydrating, occlusive ingredients like oils (such as coconut and jojoba) and silicones (dimethicone is a common one), she says.
“These ingredients can be problematic when they come into contact with the skin on your back or other acne-prone areas because they create a barrier on the skin’s surface and trap dead skin cells, sweat, and sebum beneath it,” Dr. Rodney explains. As a result, this buildup can contribute to those annoying bumps, pustules, or cysts you may know and loathe.
So if you’re dealing with body breakouts—or want to avoid that frustrating situation to begin with—Dr. Zubritsky suggests a different approach: Start from the top (wash and condition your hair first) and finish at the bottom (clean your body as a final step). All you really need is a gentle body wash and maybe a washcloth, she adds. And if you’re particularly prone to breakouts, you can also consider a cleanser with acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide to get those bumps, uh, off your back.