Back acne, or "bacne," is a troublesome condition for many, particularly over the summer months. Here, Jayme Bashian, director and lead esthetician of Simply Posh Aesthetic Spa, provides five client tips to clear bacne and prevent its return.
Acne vs. Bacne
Acne is the same wherever it appears. But acne on the back can be particularly stubborn to eliminate and hard to prevent. As with acne on the face, back acne is most common in teens and young adults, in the years when the sebaceous glands are most active.
"The sebaceous glands produce sebum, or oil," says Bashian. "The characteristic pimples, blackheads and cysts of acne are caused by oil and dead skin clogging the pores and attracting bacteria that can cause an infection. Back acne is more difficult to treat and prevent than facial acne because the pores on the back are larger and become clogged more easily. It is also harder to keep the skin free of irritating fabrics and, especially in the summertime, long hair."
1. Keep the Back Clean
Poor hygiene won't cause back acne, but good hygiene will help prevent it and clear blemishes. Advise clients to shower daily and especially right after exercise or any activity that generates perspiration.
Advise them not to clean the skin more than twice a day, not to scrub hard, not to use very hot water and not to use harsh antibacterial soaps. Tell them to shower or bathe in warm water, using a gentle body wash or cleanser that will not clog pores. Recommend one with acne-fighting ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. They should exfoliate gently to remove pore-clogging dead skin cells no more than twice a week using a soft sponge and a mild scrub.
2. Keep Fabric Clean
Always change into clean underwear and clothes before and after exercising, and put a clean towel on exercise machines and mats at the gym. Exercise increases circulation and generates heat, which causes increased production of sebum, and perspiration and bacteria will aggravate acne. Avoid synthetic fabrics; choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothes that allow the skin to breathe and perspiration to evaporate. Change bed linens twice a week to keep sloughed-off skin cells and oil away from your back.
3. Avoid Excessive Sun Exposure
Contrary to popular wisdom, the sun will not dry pimples or clear up acne. In fact, the sun damages cells and weakens the skin, making it more vulnerable to blemishes. And while perspiration cools the body and cleanses the skin of dirt, dead cells and excess oil, if those materials are left on the skin as perspiration dries, they will clog the pores and cause breakouts.
Advise clients to use facial sunscreen, which is formulated to avoid clogging pores, on any part of the body that is prone to breakouts. Sunscreens intended for the body lack that protection.
4. Keep Wet Hair Away
Conditioner and hair-styling products left on the hair are a frequent cause of blemishes on the back. After shampooing and conditioning in the shower, clients should pull long hair forward and wash their back last to keep the residue of hair products off their back. Similarly, tell them to not leave wet hair on their back after swimming. They should not use a towel that has been used on their hair on their body.
Many people believe that certain foods such as chocolates, foods high in fat or oily foods cause or exacerbate breakouts. While there is no scientific evidence that this is the case, Bashia suggests to advise clients to avoid any food that they think makes their acne worse.
"A healthy, well-balanced diet is as good for your skin as it is for your overall well-being," she says. "You shouldn't have to make major changes to your diet to clear up acne."
"Back acne is troublesome, especially at this time of year," says Bashian. "But there are many effective treatments that, along with good personal habits, can eliminate or reduce its occurrence. Everyone can enjoy the skin-baring joys of summer!"