- Back acne is a common skin condition for both adults and teenagers.
- In women, it is usually caused by hormonal fluctuations.
- Effective treatments include over the counter products, prescription medications, natural remedies.
- Lifestyle changes can improve back acne caused by poor hygiene practices.
Acne is caused by dead skin cells, dirt, bacteria and oils becoming trapped in the pores of your skin. It can occur anywhere on the body but appears most often on the face and torso, including the back. Back acne or “bacne” is a common condition that can be treated with lifestyle changes and over the counter products specifically developed for easy use on the back.
What Causes Back Acne?
Back acne can occur when sweat is trapped on the skin. It is more likely to appear if you wear tight clothing or equipment that rubs against your back and if you do not shower after physical exercise.
For women, hormones are often the underlying cause of breakouts. Diet, stress and genetics also can cause acne on the back and elsewhere on the body.
Back acne scars
Inflamed, severe back acne is the most likely to leave scars, but even smaller blemishes can scar if you pop or pick at them.
There are three types of acne scars: pitted, raised and hyperpigmented. The type of scar you develop depends on your skin type, with darker skin tones being more likely to experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Back Acne in Women vs. Men
Back acne in men is usually caused by trapped sweat, diet, stress and genetics. Hormones are rarely the cause of back acne for adult men. The appropriate treatment for acne in men will depend on the severity of the issue.
For women, back acne that appears a few days before menstruation can be a sign of high androgen levels. Androgen is the same hormone that increases sebum or oil production in the sebaceous glands of your skin and causes acne in teenagers.
Acne on the back or elsewhere on the body can also be an early sign of pregnancy but is accompanied by other symptoms such as a missed period.
If your acne is hormonal, it will likely respond best to hormonal therapies such as combined oral contraceptives rather than over the counter products.
How to Get Rid of Back Acne
In many cases, back acne is easily treatable. Depending on the severity of your acne, you can address it with topical over the counter products, prescription medication and/or home remedies. In some cases, back acne will disappear on its own if the causes (e.g. stress, unhealthy diet) are removed.
Active ingredients that treat back acne
Look for products containing salicylic acid, a beta-hydroxy acid that reduces sebum production and inflammation while exfoliating your skin. It’s available in sprays, cleansers, spot treatments and many other types of skin care products.
Another key acne-fighting ingredient is benzoyl peroxide. Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria by releasing oxygen into clogged pores. Unlike antibiotics, it does not cause bacterial resistance, making it safe to use for long periods of time.
Topical benzoyl peroxide bleaches fabric, so take precautions to not stain your clothes or bedding. You can avoid this problem altogether by using benzoyl peroxide in the form of a rinse-off body wash.
Zinc is an anti-inflammatory that can be used topically or orally. If taken orally, it is an effective alternative to antibiotics for people who cannot take them and is associated with fewer side effects.
For more severe acne, adapalene is a slow-acting retinoid that treats blemishes with less of the redness and peeling associated with stronger retinoids. It is available at a concentration of 0.1% over the counter and at 0.3% by prescription.
Acne on the body can be treated with body washes, body sprays and spot treatments. A combination of several products may be the best approach to get rid of stubborn blemishes.
Medicated body washes are used in the shower. They should be left on your skin for a few minutes before rinsing to give the active ingredients time to penetrate your pores.
Body sprays contain the same active ingredients as cleansers, formulated as a spray for easy application on your back. These can be applied in the morning and evening to gently exfoliate your skin and heal your acne.
Spot treatments contain higher concentrations of acne-fighting active ingredients. They are applied directly to individual acne lesions to reduce inflammation quickly. Spot treatments are available in the form of serums, gels, lotions and creams.
Another type of spot treatment is a hydrocolloid bandage, which pulls fluid from blemishes and protects them from outside bacteria.
If your back acne does not respond to over the counter products, consult a dermatologist. Moderate to severe acne is often more effectively treated with oral medications that eliminate infection in your skin from the inside out.
Oral medications for acne include isotretinoin, a powerful retinoid, and antibiotics such as minocycline or doxycycline. Both are only taken for short periods of time in order to prevent the bacteria from developing resistance to treatment.
Another class of oral medications for acne are combined oral contraceptives, which are effective for women with hormonal back acne.
Home remedies can be used on their own to clear up mild acne cases or supplement a skin care routine involving over the counter acne treatments.
One scientifically accepted home remedy for acne is tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is an anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial as well as an astringent, meaning it can target the three major symptoms of acne—inflammation, bacterial infection and excess sebum.
To use tea tree oil, apply a few drops to a damp cotton pad and wipe over breakouts and acne-prone areas of skin.
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup raw, unpasteurized honey
- Combine ingredients in a small container.
- In the shower, rub the mixture onto your skin using your fingers or a back scrub brush.
- Rinse thoroughly.
The sugar exfoliates your skin, leaving it smooth and less susceptible to clogged pores, while the honey has antibacterial properties.
Keep in mind that scrubs are only suitable for non-inflamed acne such as blackheads and acne-prone skin. Scrubbing will only further irritate inflamed lesions and should be avoided.
Prevent back acne from recurring by continuing to use a medicated body wash, even after your acne has subsided.
Shower immediately after exercise or physical activity to prevent sweat from remaining on your skin and clogging your pores. If you cannot shower, use a cleansing wipe on acne-prone areas and change out of sweaty clothing.
Use only non-comedogenic, oil-free sunscreens and other products on your skin
Wash your sheets and pillowcases once a week so that dead skin cells and bacteria do not build up and irritate your skin while you sleep.
Preventing back acne scars
Acne scars are usually caused by inflammation, so resist the urge to pop pimples or pick at your skin. Your fingers can push bacteria deeper into your pores and introduce more bacteria.
Including topical retinoids as part of your anti-acne regimen can reduce the risk of scarring from very inflamed acne.
Back acne can be caused by diet, stress, lifestyle habits and genetics. For teenagers and adult women, it is often due to hormonal fluctuations in the body.
Treat back acne on your own with medicated body washes, exfoliants and natural remedies. Look for products containing active ingredients such as salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil to reduce inflammation and sebum in your skin.
If you find you cannot manage your back acne on your own, a doctor or dermatologist can prescribe a medication such as a retinoid or oral contraceptive to get rid of your back acne permanently.
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