- Back acne is a common skin condition resulting from a buildup of dead skin cells, oil and bacteria on the skin
- Effective treatments include over the counter medication, lifestyle changes and natural remedies
- More severe back acne can be treated with prescription medication
Acne develops when sebum, the oil naturally produced by the skin, becomes trapped inside a pore along with dead skin cells, dirt and bacteria. One of the most common places for acne to appear is on the upper back, as the skin there has a relatively high number of oil glands.
By changing a few habits and using over the counter (OTC) products or prescription medication, you can get rid of back acne quickly and prevent it from recurring.
What Causes Back Acne?
Back acne, sometimes referred to as “bacne”, is a common type of body acne. It has many of the same causes as facial acne including hormonal fluctuations during puberty or during the menstrual cycle. Diet, stress, and genetics also contribute to breakouts.
Other causes specific to back acne include not showering after working out, wearing tight, nonbreathable clothing that traps sweat against the skin, oily hair touching the back and comedogenic or pore-clogging sunscreen.
8 Ways to Get Rid of Back Acne Naturally
Back acne can often be resolved with a few habit changes and all-natural acne treatments. The following remedies involve slight changes to your daily routine to eliminate potential causes of back acne and to dry up existing blemishes.
Avoid tight or irritating clothing
Tight clothing, especially in synthetic nonbreathable fabrics such as polyester, can prevent sweat from evaporating from your skin. Opt for loose-fitting clothing in breathable fabrics for both your exercise wear and regular clothing to reduce back acne. Ensure that tight-fitting garments such as sports bras are made of breathable fabrics.
Don’t let hair products touch your skin
Make sure that shampoo and conditioner are thoroughly rinsed from your skin before getting out of the shower, or wash your hair in the sink to avoid those products from contacting your skin altogether.
A routine of regularly eliminating the buildup of dead skin cells can rapidly reduce the severity of your acne. Use a chemical exfoliant such as glycolic acid or a mechanical exfoliator such as a scrub brush. Use caution if you have very inflamed acne to avoid causing further irritation.
Keep hair off your back
Your hair and your hair products contain oils that may block pores if they come into frequent contact with your back. Wash long hair regularly and keep it in a bun or ponytail so it doesn’t transfer oils onto your skin.
Launder your bedsheets
It is important to regularly wash your bedsheets as bacteria can build up on them, exacerbating body acne. And rather than sleeping on cotton, find ultrabreathable, hypoallergenic sheets made from eucalyptus or bamboo, which will wick moisture from the body better than cotton would.
Shower right after exercising
By showering immediately after exercise, you minimize the amount of time that sweat sits on your skin, working its way into your pores and causing breakouts. Take care to wash your back using a noncomedogenic, oil-free cleanser.
Sleeping shirtless helps your body regulate its temperature, causing you to sweat less and keep pores clear. It is also believed that following this practice allows your skin to “breathe” and rejuvenate.
Use tea tree oil
To use tea tree oil, dampen a cotton pad with water and pour a few drops of the extract on it. Swipe the pad over the affected area or individual lesions; repeat once or twice a day until your acne clears up.
Tea tree oil works well for back acne because unlike benzoyl peroxide, it does not stain clothing and can be applied both day and night.
Best Products for Back Acne
If you have chronic back acne that doesn’t respond to natural remedies, your next step is to purchase over-the-counter products.
Acne body washes formulated with active ingredients are safe to use every day. If desired, you can apply spot treatments to individual blemishes. Anti-acne body sprays, which are designed to be left on the skin all day, are also available for easy application on hard-to-reach areas like the back.
All these products work by killing acne-causing bacteria or reducing sebum production to dry out existing blemishes and prevent new ones from forming.
Benzoyl peroxide is available as a gel, cream or lotion and in concentrations ranging from 2–10%. It releases oxygen inside clogged pores to kill the bacteria that causes acne without causing bacterial resistance.
Use a soap or cleanser containing benzoyl peroxide in the shower. At night, apply a gel or cream containing a higher concentration directly to blemishes, keeping in mind that benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothing and bedding.
Salicylic acid works in several ways to clear up acne. As a beta-hydroxy acid, it’s lipophilic, meaning it dissolves in oil and can effectively break up clogs in pores that lead to blackheads and whiteheads. It reduces inflammation and sebum production to discourage more acne from developing.
Salicylic acid is available in many types of skin care products including cleansers, gels, sprays and creams.
Zinc can be either ingested orally or applied topically in a cream. It is an anti-inflammatory and can reduce sebum production. Although oral zinc is considered more effective than topical zinc, it is associated with side effects including nausea and vomiting, so a topical cream may be an overall better treatment.
Masks can supplement your daily skin care routine to combat acne. You can simply apply a rinse-off product you already use to your skin, such as a salicylic acid cleanser, and wait 10–15 minutes before rinsing it off. This way, the active ingredients have more time to penetrate your skin.
Best Prescription Options for Getting Rid of Back Acne
If your back acne does not respond to OTC products, it is time to consult a doctor or dermatologist who will prescribe a stronger medication.
Some common prescription options are retinoic acid, isotretinoin and adapalene, all of which are retinoids that calm acne flare-ups and reduce inflammation. If you have severely inflamed, cystic acne you may also be prescribed antibiotics.
If your acne is caused by hormones, it can be managed with combined oral contraceptives, a certain class of birth control pills. Another treatment for hormonal acne is spironolactone, an anti-androgen that reduces sebum production.
You can spot-treat individual blemishes by using serums or gels containing high concentrations of active ingredients such as salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. Alternatively, hydrocolloid bandages (sometimes referred to as pimple stickers) can quickly dry out blemishes and reduce inflammation in a matter of hours.
How to Get Rid of Back Acne Scars
Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation is treated with hydroquinone, a skin bleaching agent. Particularly dark patches of hyperpigmentation can be lightened with laser therapy and chemical peels.
Back acne is caused by changes in hormones, diet, stress and genetics. It can also be caused by wearing tight clothing that traps sweat against your skin or pore-clogging hair products that end up touching your back.
There are many options available for treating acne, ranging from simple lifestyle changes to dermatologist-prescribed products. Get rid of back acne naturally by showering immediately after exercise, wearing breathable, loose-fitting clothing and keeping hair products away from your skin. For a natural remedy, try tea tree oil, which effectively reduces inflammation and dries out acne lesions.
If your back acne persists, many OTC topical treatments are effective at clearing up active acne and preventing further breakouts. Look for masks, gels, body washes, body sprays and spot treatments containing active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. If your back acne persists, seek the advice of a dermatologist, who can prescribe stronger medications.
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