The face is the most common place to develop pimples, pustules, and the like, and any acne sufferer will tell you just how debilitating it can be trying to cover their blemishes from the world on a daily basis.
However, if you’re reading this, you’ll probably know all too well how unsightly acne can also erupt on other parts of the body including the back, chest, shoulders, and buttocks. And while, for the most part, spots on these areas aren’t as noticeable as those that show up on the face, it can be equally as embarrassing and uncomfortable if you suffer from them, (not to mention put a dampener on your plans) especially as you head into summer or draw ever-nearer to that vacation you’ve been looking forward to all year, where you’ll no doubt be showing a bit more skin than usual.
If your ‘bacne’ (that’s what people are calling it nowadays) has left you feeling anxious to the point that you’re dodging a day at the beach with your pals for fear of exposing your flare-ups then we’ve got your back. Yes, we’ve got you covered on all the things you can do to banish your unsolicited bacne so you’re no longer compelled to cover up.
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What causes back acne?
An informed person is a force to be reckoned with in the fight against acne. So, where best to start than by learning the root cause of your unruly eruptions?
Any area on the body that contains hair follicles is vulnerable to acne outbursts due to the oils produced within the glands, known as sebum. While sebum is important in providing essential moisture to our skin and hair, too much of it can cause dead skin cells and bacteria to accumulate, leading to the pores becoming blocked and forming pimples.
So what causes excess sebum production in some people? Well, it could be down to a number of issues including:
- Genetics: Some family lines have a genetic tendency to overproduce sebum or dead skin cells, resulting in breakouts.
- Medications: Certain medications can cause acne as a side-effect.
- Hormones: Hormonal fluctuations during puberty can flare up acne, and for women, it can be a recurrent event thanks to menstruation and pregnancy.
- Stress: Stress-induced hormones can bind to receptors in the skin’s sebaceous glands, boosting oil production and triggering pimples.
- Sweating: Sweat can mix with bacteria on the skin and clog pores.
- Food triggers: There is some evidence that certain foods, such as white bread and dairy products, can cause blood sugar levels to rise, thereby causing acne.
And while all pimples are downright annoying at the best of times, they’re not all created equal; some can be passive while others are quite painful and will make their presence known. Here’s the difference between them:
- Whiteheads: A small, white bump appears when the clogged follicle remains closed underneath the surface of the skin.
- Blackheads: When the whitehead opens up on the surface, it reacts with the air causing it to form a black tip.
- Papules: A small, pink bump that is often tender to touch and forms as a result of an inflamed hair follicle.
- Pustules: This type of pimple is filled with pus and has a reddened base.
- Nodules: Forming in the deeper layers of the skin, this lesion is hardened, large and painful, often causing tissue damage.
- Cysts: Also characterized by a large, red, painful bump, the bacteria that causes cysts often extend deep into the skin and can cause permanent scarring if left untreated.
The majority of people suffer from acne during their teens and early 20s, thanks to an upsurge in hormones, but the good news is that the condition usually resolves itself over time. However, there’s an unlucky bunch of us that continue to face flare-ups well into our late 20s and even early 30s. But thanks to research and medical advancements, all hope is not lost. Read on to learn what you can do to effectively treat your back acne and prevent it from coming back to settle old scores.
How can I treat my back acne?
You don’t have to wait around for some miracle to remove the bane of bacne. Instead, you can take action from the comfort of your own home (for the most part) to achieve clearer skin.
- Use over-the-counter medications: Zit-zapping ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and retinoid products all work wonders in killing bacteria, removing sebum and dead skin cells, and unblocking pores.
- Don’t pick your pimples: As tempting as it is, picking your pimples will not only worsen your acne but also leave you with unsightly scars that are a lot harder to get rid of than the pimple itself.
- Use tea tree oil: This essential oil has amazing antimicrobial and antibacterial properties that are great for killing acne-causing bacteria.
- Wear sunscreen: While it is widely believed that the sun can heal acne, actually going out in the sun without protecting your skin with a broad spectrum SPF won’t be doing your back any favors.
- Exfoliate (gently): And ‘gently’ is the operative word here. A little exfoliation can go a long way in eliminating your bacne, but rubbing your skin raw will worsen the inflammation, so be sure to have a light touch.
- See a dermatologist: When all else fails in the quest for a blemish-free back, a dermatologist is your knight in shining armor. Armed with a whole host of prescription treatments and know-how in their artillery, these skincare experts can treat every type of acne with great success. Some medications they may prescribe include antibiotics, hormonal birth control, or prescription-strength vitamin A, as well as offering chemical peels and laser treatments.
What can I do to prevent my back acne from coming back?
Making a few lifestyle changes can be so simple yet effective in banishing your back breakouts. Besides, adopting anti-acne skincare habits is likely to make your treatment of choice work much better for you in preventing any furious flare-ups in the future.
- Shower after a workout: Or after doing anything that makes you work up a sweat; this point cannot be stressed enough. Sweaty skin is a breeding ground for acne-causing bacteria, so if you cannot shower straight away, at the very least use a cleansing wipe to remove as much sweat as possible from your body.
- Wear clean, loose-fitting clothing: The above also applies to your daily duds. Washing your clothes frequently will prevent lurking bacteria from transferring back to the skin. Your skin will also thank you for choosing loose track pants and t-shirts over tight-fitting yoga pants and compression sportswear as they can irritate and block hair follicles.
- Avoid friction against your back: Whilst we’re on the topic of irritation, it’s worth noting that anything that rubs against your back can aggravate your acne, not just tight clothing; that includes backpacks, bra straps, and even athletic equipment.
- Use oil-free, gentle skincare products: Harsh chemicals and abrasive cleansing products can all irritate and damage the delicate surface of the skin. What’s more, avoid body washes and moisturizers that contain oil as they will only clog your pores; instead, opt for products that say they’re oil-free or ‘non-comedogenic’ if they’re being fancy.
- Avoid certain medications: Drugs containing the male hormone, androgen, or those used to treat depression, such as lithium, are known acne triggers. If you take such medications, speak with your doctor about using possible alternatives.
- Eat healthy: Try and incorporate more anti-inflammatory foods like fruit and vegetables, proteins, and healthy fats like omega 3 from oily fish into your diet, whilst cutting down on carbs, dairy, and processed foods.
- Keep hair off your back: Especially if you have long locks as the oil can transfer to your back. Also, flip your hair to the front when washing it as the chemicals from your shampoo and conditioner will only further enrage your already-angry acne.
- Change your bedsheets often: Your bedding can play host to a bunch of unwelcome guests in the form of bacteria and dead skin cells that aren’t visible to the naked eye. So it is important that you get into the habit of changing your sheets at least once a week.
While back and body acne is much easier to hide than that which shows up on your face, it doesn’t mean it’s any less stressful or damaging to your self-esteem, but because it’s a treatable condition you don’t have to carry on suffering in silence. With a pinch of preparation, patience, and perseverance, the above methods should have you bacne-free and feeling your best a lot sooner than you may think.