No matter where it is, acne is a bummer. Period. But it can be even tougher to deal with and cover up when it’s on your back—especially in the hot summer months when all you want to do is throw on a swimsuit or backless dress. Though its origins are very similar to facial acne, the causes and methods for treating it are very different. Below, we breakdown bacne, so you have the best shot at beating it.
What Is Bacne:
“Bacne” is another term for back acne or body acne. It can take the form of a pimple, blackhead, pustule and cyst, and is typically located on the back, upper arms and the backside. Bacne can be tougher to treat than facial acne, since blemishes are often deep and inflamed, with large cystic breakouts and nodules causing significant scarring.
What Causes It:
Just like your face, bacne results from the same combination of oil production, sticky skin cells, and P. acnes bacteria on the skin. It’s often caused by hereditary and hormonal factors, but stress, sweat and irritating clothing can also trigger a breakout. Sweaty, tight-fitting gym clothing in a non-breathable fabric is ground zero for bacne. Synthetic materials, which are thicker than cotton, clog pores by trapping sweat and oils as they rub against skin. Experts recommend wearing lightweight, loose fabrics to the gym. Bed sheets can also breed bacteria—as oil, dead skin cells and sweat rub off your body while you sleep—and the back is the area most exposed while sleeping. Sheets in a lightweight cotton fabric are ideal, and it’s important to change them regularly.
How To Clear Back Acne:
Many experts recommend a benzoyl peroxide or salicyclic acid body wash as a bacne treatment. Though benzoyl peroxide can be too harsh and irritating for the face, it should be fine for the tougher, larger-pored skin of the body. A 10-percent benzoyl peroxide wash, used daily, is often the recommended percentage for the back. Once applied, it should sit on the skin for a couple minutes to allow it to properly soak into the skin before washing it off. After the shower, apply a glycolic or salicyclic acid product to help with skin cell turnover throughout the day (a spray bottle works best in reaching the back area). In more extreme cases, a dermatologist will prescribe an oral antibiotic to get the back acne under control. Experts also recommend showering immediately after any activity that causes you to sweat and make sure you don’t touch or pick your acne, which will only aggravate the breakout and may lead to it spreading to other parts of your body. And don’t forget sunscreen! To prevent bacne from leaving dark scars, apply broad-spectrum protection. (Which should be applied every day, anyways!)