Have you ever been walking down the beach in your most flattering bathing suit, and even though you know that Speedo makes you look good, you still hear people whisper behind your back. You check and there are no obvious embarrassments, but something must be wrong. As you start to sit and ponder what’s going on, you hear your spouse say, “Oooh, what’s that on your back?” That’s when you realize all that itching and burning on your back must be back acne!
Back Acne: What Causes It?
Acne Vulgaris is caused when dead skin cells and sebum (oil) clog the opening pore of a hair follicle. Sebum is oil produced in the sebaceous gland which is located adjacent to the hair follicle. When the sebaceous gland gets over stimulated due to hormones, or the skin doesn’t get cleaned well, the oil fills the pore, and dead skin cells that have sloughed off the skin from around the:
- Upper Chest
Clog the pore and become impacted (hardened into keratin). This sealing off of the pore opening causes the various skin blemishes and/or lesions:
- Seborrhea (scaly red skin/rosacea)
- Comedones (blackheads and whiteheads)
- Papules (pinheads)
- Pustules (pimples)
- Nodules (larger papules)
- Possible Scarring
Severity of back acne depends on several factors including cleanliness, how much back hair one has, the size of the sebaceous glands in the skin, and genetics.
Back Acne: Is It Treatable?
Yes, is the short answer. Treatment however, is not a magic pill or cream, and it doesn’t happen overnight. There are really a multitude of treatments that one can use on your back. It’s simply a matter of finding the one that is going to work the best for you.
- Good Hygiene
- Healthy Diet (low in Dairy and Glycemic content)
- Topical Creams and Ointments (Benzoyl Peroxides and Retinoids)
- Oral Medications (Retinoids and Antibiotics)
- Laser Treatment
- Surgery (in extreme cases)
Back Acne: Back Acne Products and A Typical Treatment Course
Most dermatologists will start by recommending a regimented cleaning schedule with a moisturizing soap and water. Regular soaps can dry out the skin, which is not the kind of clean you want.
- Glycolic acid
- Salicylic acid
Are sometimes recommended. These will clean out those clogged pores by exfoliating the back (scrubbing off the dead skin cells,) and opening them up so the sebum can run out where it will be washed off instead of hardening and making your back acne worse.
If this doesn’t get the job done many doctors will then add a twofold attack.
- Benzoyl Peroxide Cream –The back has a fairly tough skin so, it should tolerate any strength of BP Cream the doctor wants to use (2.5, 5, or 10% solution.) Just be sure to wash it off good to avoid skin irritation and bleaching of fabrics.
- Topical Antibiotics – Clindamycin is one example. This should be used with caution though. Some back acne, and indeed all acne strains, are showing a building resistance to current antibiotics, and the less you are able to use them, the more effective they are likely to be when you really need them. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about this.
The back is a tough place to clean just because of its location and most folk’s inability to reach all the areas. So, if topical creams don’t work it may be time to move to oral treatments.
- Oral Retinoids (Vitamin A Supplements, Accutane, etc.)
- Oral Antibiotics (Clindamycin, Erythromycin, Tetracycline)
- Oral Alternative Medicine (Egg Oil, Tea Tree Oil, Aloe Vera)
These will need to be prescribed and dosed by a physician, and as always, consult a physician before beginning any medical treatment.
If all the treatments used so far don’t help your back acne, then it may be time to move to more intensive and specific treatments.
- Dermabrasion – The removing of the blemished and scarred skin from the back (any effected area.) This used to be done, literally, with a small, electric, sterile sander. It was a painful treatment with an extended recovery phase, marked by pain and irritated skin. Now days the treatment is done in a much less violent manner. Small intense lasers burn away the skin cells, and the recovery is much improved.
- Phototherapy – There is good research to show that blue and red light from the visible spectrum can reduce back acne outbreaks and scarring. Short bursts of intense light have shown to reduce blemishes and outbreaks by as much as 80% depending on how often you get treated.
- Surgery – In the most severe cases surgery can be employed to lance large and painful nodules, and address deep scarring.
This was just an example of how one might approach the treating of back acne. One, or all, or none of these treatments might work for you; and one, or all, or none might not. The important thing is to consult a physician, particularly a dermatologist, to see what your best course of treatment might be.
What Causes Back Acne and How Can You Get Rid of It?
Back acne is caused by hair follicle pores being clogged by an overproduction of sebum and dead skin cells. It can be treated through a variety of procedures ranging from washing good to new advanced light and laser treatments. So, don’t give up, keep searching for answers as to how to treat your back acne.
What causes back acne?
a. A curse from an evil witch
b. Too much sunlight on the back
c. Clogged hair follicles
d. The wrong kind of bath soap
True or False: Back Acne is different from all other acnes.
Which of the following treatments always works on back acne?
b. Oral Retinoids
c. Good Hygiene
d. None of the above
Answers at the bottom of the page!
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Answers 1) c, 2) b, 3) d