We are all used to facial acne – it is nothing new or surprising, even if it is quite unpleasant. Body acne – especially back acne (or more colloquially, bacne), is a little bit different. Sure you might be able to hide it under clothes, and not have to face it day to day, but it can also be harder to figure out how to get rid of back acne, since it is harder to reach, not to mention that it makes wearing backpacks and tight clothes thoroughly unpleasant, because of the painful friction.
Did you have your heart set on a backless dress for a glamorous holiday party? Are you already dreaming of jumping into the ocean come summer, without worrying about the sea salt stinging your irritated skin? Regardless of whether your concerns are practical or aesthetic, it is undeniable that back acne can be unpleasant.
That is why I want to show you how to get rid of back acne through the best practices, best back acne treatments, and some important dos and don’t for getting rid of bacne.
A Refresher on Acne
It would be impossible to find a back acne treatment that will work, without first understanding what acne is in the first place. Acne refers to the inflamed blemishes that pop up after a pore has become clogged with a mixture of dirt, sweat, and excess oil. Once clogged, the pore is much likelier to become infected with the acne bacteria, which causes it to swell up with inflammation.
What Causes Back Acne, Specifically?
The causes of bacne are fundamentally the same as the causes of breakouts on the face: impurities, excess oil, dead skin buildup, and bacteria. However, the type of things that clog the pores on our back or trigger inflammation might be a little different.
Since the back is normally covered, clothing can trap sweat against the skin, thereby clogging the pore. The fact that the back is harder to reach, for proper hygiene, is also a factor. Additionally, the constant friction between the skin and clothes (possibly aggravated by a backpack) can increase the likelihood of inflammation.
Hormones are also a big culprit in acne, both for the face and the body. However, hormonal back acne is most frequently seen on teen boys and young men.
Dos and Dont’s for When You Have Bacne
There are a few habits and practices that increase the chances that you will suffer from back acne. Following all of the following things will help keep your back breakout free.
• Do follow my winning back acne treatment routine and product suggestions.
• Don’t wear tight clothes.
• Don’t use harsh or drying cleansing products.
• Do make sure shampoo and conditioner are totally washed away. Wash your back after washing your hair, to remove all the pore-clogging residue.
• Do use a light moisturizer for oily or acne prone skin.
• Don’t wear a heavy or irritating backpack.
• Do wash your clothes and bedsheets regularly, with fragrance free or gentle detergent.
• Do baby your skin with anti-inflammatories and a gentle touch.
• Don’t try dangerous or useless DIY bacne treatments, like: lemon juice, baking soda, vinegar, toothpaste, etc. I do mention a few DIY treatments here, but I assure you that they are safe and effective!
How to Get Rid of Back Acne, and Keep It Gone!
This is the most important section in this post. I go deep into how each one of these steps deals with each one of the factors that causes body acne. When you combine all of these steps, you can guarantee that your back acne will be reduced.
While the products I recommend here are definitely not one-size-fits-all, I give enough suggestions and explanations so that with a bit of trial and error you will find the perfect set of products, and create your own personal, perfect routine to get rid of back acne.
Just remember to patch test any new product for a few days, to make sure you are not sensitive to it, and don’t introduce more than one product into your routine at a time.
Cleansing the back is extremely important, because it removes all of the excess impurities, along with bacteria that might be present on the skin. Make sure the way you wash your back is effective. Use a gentle cleanser, and use your hand, a shower brush, or a sponge to reach your back, and thoroughly massage it in.
When you are done, rinse away the cleanser fully. If you do use a shower brush or sponge, make sure to clean them with soap and water, and then let them air dry, so they don’t introduce bacteria to your skin when you cleanse.
The best bacne treatment cleanser would be soap free and sodium lauryl sulfate free, and it could even contain active anti-acne ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, sulfur, or tea tree oil. However, since a cleanser does not stay on the skin for too long, an additional back acne treatment will be necessary.
If you are just interested in an excellent, gentle cleanser that won’t leave behind a comedogenic residue, and will not further irritate your skin, look no further than First Aid Beauty’s Ultra Repair Wash, which is available at Ulta. It is perfectly formulated, creamy and fragrance-free, and is guaranteed to not leave behind a comedogenic residue. It won’t foam up or leave your back feeling tight, which you might have to get used to if you have been using overly harsh cleansers for too long.
If you would like to boost up your anti-acne treatment with a medicated body wash, Murad’s Acne Body Wash, from Sephora, would likely be the way to go. It is loaded with both salicylic and glycolic acids, to remove dead skin build up and deal with the acne bacteria. It is free of irritating sulfates, and even contains green tea extract to sooth inflamed breakouts.
By exfoliating your skin a few times a week, you will be able to deal with the dead skin that can clog the pores, and thereby prevent as well as get rid of bacne. If your back breakouts are inflamed, an acidic, leave-on back acne treatment, like glycolic or lactic acid, will do the job best. If your body acne is largely under the skin and not swollen, you can use a physical scrub, which you must rinse away after using, or rely on your cleanser + loofah to do the job.
You can also make your own gentle scrub, out of soothing ground oatmeal mixed with non-comedogenic oil like safflower or grape seed, but just remember that you will have to remove the oil before applying a medicated treatment. Remember that when you mix your own products, they will spoil very quickly. It is best to make a small one-use batch, moments before hopping in the shower.
There are very few physical scrubs on the market that can do a better job than a DIY one… one of these magical scrubs, however, is DERMAdoctor’s KP Duty Body Scrub, which is sold at Sephora.
Despite being primarily marketed for sufferers of keratosis pilaris, the mixture of scrubbing grains and exfoliating acids, along with anti-inflammatory extracts like willow bark and green tea, make it fantastic for treating back acne.
3. Medicated Bacne Treatments
A specialized bacne treatment will address the bacteria that cause acne breakouts. You would want to apply a medicated anti-acne skin treatment, like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide, approximately once a day.
It is best applied after washing and exfoliating the skin, although salicylic acid, for example, actually works both as an anti-bacterial and as an exfoliant. You can also combine the treatment step with a moisturizer, to save time and kill two birds with one stone.
Murad’s Acne Complex Clarifying Body Spray, from Ulta, is one of those products that cover both grounds: it contains salicylic acid, and exfoliates a little further with a touch of glycolic acid. What’s even better is that it comes in a spray bottle, with back acne treatment in mind, so it can be simply held over the shoulder and sprayed.
A similar product from Proactiv, available at Ulta, contains a higher percentage of salicylic acid, and comes in large pads that should be easy to wipe across the back.
If you find salicylic acid alone is not a strong enough back acne treatment, you can replace it (or combine it) with a strong anti-bacterial ingredient. The most tested and regularly recommended anti-bacterial acne treatment is benzoyl peroxide.
Be warned, BP will bleach dark clothes and bedsheets; however, this ingredient is so potent and effective that it might be worth it. Paula’s Choice Extra Strength Daily Skin Clearing Treatment, from Nordstrom, should do the trick. Since BP is quite drying to the skin, the next step, moisturizing, becomes extra important.
You can also go the DIY route with your skin treatment. There is some evidence that tea tree oil at a 5% concentration can be as effective against acne as benzoyl peroxide.
You can mix a few drops of tea tree oil either with a toner, a moisturizer, or even any skin treatment you might already be using, and apply it to get rid of your bacne. You can also add a few drops of tea tree oil to a spray bottle filled with water, for easy application.
Just remember that these kinds of at-home blending experiments should be done right before application, since adding any new ingredient to a pre-existing formulation can compromise the preservative blend.
Using a gentle moisturizer, especially after showering and treating the bacne, is extremely important because it can minimize inflammation and strengthen the compromised acneic skin. A great moisturizer will reinforce your skin’s barrier functions, making it better able to protect the skin from acne bacteria.
Additionally, a great moisturizer will also sooth the inflammation of the pimples, immediately minimizing them. Make sure the moisturizer you use is appropriate for acne-prone skin, and bonus points if it can double as a medicated anti-acne treatment.
If you’re already happy with the bacne treatments you are using, or are looking for a basic lotion you can add a bit of tea tree oil to, the gorgeous oil-free formula of CeraVe Moisturizing Lotion from Ulta should do the trick. This cream has a cult following from those with dry and oily skin alike, and it is the best of the basic lotions.
For a DIY option, both grapeseed and rosehip oils are excellent for acne-prone skin, thanks to their non-comedogenic and anti-inflammatory essential fatty acid profile. They’re a perfect choice if you prefer natural products for treating back acne, and don’t mind the oily texture. Just make sure to use them immediately after a shower, so they can lock in all the water into your skin, keeping it hydrated.
For a two-in-one back acne treatment and moisturizer, Paula’s Choice has a 2% salicylic acid body lotion that is able to moisturizer, soothe, exfoliate, and prevent acne bacteria from proliferating. It is available at the Skin Store.
Some Extra Things You Could Do to Help Your Bacne Along On Its Way Out
These are a few additional things you could do to get rid of back acne. The routine I posted above is comprehensive and thorough, but you might find yourself wanting to help it along a bit.
• To soothe the skin a little more, as well as to have some relaxation, add oatmeal powder to your bath. It will help calm inflammation. You can make the whole experience even more relaxing with a few drops of lavender or chamomile essential oils.
• Give yourself an anti-acne back mask, after cleansing (and after exfoliating, if you exfoliate physically). Make yourself a blend of soothing honey, anti-inflammatory turmeric, softening yogurt, and a few drops of tea tree oil. Leave them on your back for 10-20 minutes, rinse away, and continue with your bacne fighting routine. Remember, this mask should be one-use only!
• To speed up cell-turnover and really recharge your skin and amp up your routine, a back facial could make a serious difference. Since facials cost serious money, make sure you receive a bacial that will make a difference. An acid peel, especially when paired with a purifying mask, is considered the best facial for acne-prone skin.
You don’t have to start scouring the Internet for salons that offer bacials, either. Chances are your favorite salon will be happily willing to adapt their anti-acne facials for your back.
• If you have a special event coming up, and you really want to wear a backless dress without the breakouts on your back showing, rope in a friend to help you apply makeup to your back. A full strength cream foundation like the CoverFX Totol Cover from Sephora will not move, as long as it is properly set with a mattifying powder.
• If you are suffering from serious acne, and my above routine doesn’t seem to work, it is time to see a dermatologist who can prescribe prescription-strength acne fighters.
How do you deal with your bacne? Does it bother you? Do you have your own special solutions for back acne? Comment to let us know!
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