There are tons of products and information about acne, but few of them focus on a common variation – back acne. According to Acne.org, about two-thirds of people with facial acne also suffer from back acne. Although dermatologists generally consider back acne to be the same skin condition as facial acne, there are a few key differences due to the larger and oilier pores on the back. This can lead to more severe outbreaks of acne nodules and cysts when compared to facial acne, leading dermatologists to look at specific prevention and treatment options for this skin condition.
Back acne can develop as the result of one or a combination of many possible factors. First of all, it is much more prevalent in men and can continue well into adulthood. Acne.org reports that 20 percent of healthy adult men have back acne. (To learn about the various types of acne that can be found on the body, see Breaking Down The Different Types Of Acne.)
Like facial acne, the progression into puberty seems to be an initial trigger for back acne as well. The reason for this is that the maturation of the oil glands takes place during this period, resulting in more clogged pores and excess oil on the skin. This is the same phenomenon that occurs with facial acne. Another similarity between facial and back acne is that if someone in your family has acne, you will also be more likely to have it. Also, acne may be triggered by the use of certain drugs or hormone therapies, which includes steroids, estrogen or testosterone.
However, with back acne there is one other factor which comes into play that does not factor into facial acne in most cases. Back acne is sometimes categorized as acne mechanica, which is ache caused by the irritation of the skin in a particular area. Because the back is usually covered, the clothing a person wears could be one cause of the back acne if the items of clothing happen to irritate the skin. Other activities that may increase irritation include wearing a backpack, getting a back rub or using a weight lifting machine that rests on your shoulders. Acne mechanica is often worse when the affected area is moist, so wearing irritating or tight-fitting clothing or doing one of the activities above may make the condition worsen.
Because oily skin can be one major cause of back acne, maintaining good hygiene can be one way to help prevent this skin condition. A few of the steps you can take in your daily routine are:
- Wash your back with a mild soap or cleanser in the morning, at night and after intense exercise. Don’t use harsh soaps or scrubbing pads since these can worsen your skin condition. If you have trouble reaching your back, purchase a back-washing scrubber (usually placed on a long stick for easier use) or enlist the help of a friend or family member.
- If you have hair long enough that it comes into contact with your neck and back, make sure to wash it regularly. People with oily hair should try to wash their hair once per day.
- If you do get an acne lesion, do not pick at it. Doing so may increase your risk of infection and can leave a scar, like a keloid.
- Be sure to put on sunscreen of at least SPF 15 when you’ll be out in the sun. Getting a sunburn can make your skin more acne prone.
In addition to making sure your skin in clean and healthy, you can also take steps to reduce the chance of developing back acne by wearing breathable clothing and avoiding any activities that irritate the skin on your back. One example of this is to use a shoulder bag rather than a backpack if you find that your backpack irritates your back.
There are several treatment options to get rid of back acne. In addition to taking the prevention steps described above, you can also use:
- Over-the-counter products: The vast majority of over-the-counter acne products are topical. Look for products which contain benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid, all of which are developed to treat acne. Be aware that these products may cause redness or dryness of the skin. Reduce the number of times you use the product per day or per week if this occurs, or try another product instead.
- Prescription medications: If over-the-counter products are unable to clear up your back acne, you can see a dermatologist about getting a prescription for acne medication. These prescriptions may be either topical or oral. In some cases, an anti-biotic is taken. In others, a Retin-A, benzoyl peroxide, sulfur, resorcinol, or salicylic acid product is used.
- Skin treatments: Certain skin treatments have been developed for severe acne. One option is a laser procedure called photodynamic therapy. Other options include chemical skin peeling, dermabrasion or injecting acne cysts with cortisone. Ask your doctor if you want to find out whether these treatments could help get rid of your back acne.
For more information on how to treat and prevent back acne and other forms of body acne, read Best Tips For Getting Rid Of Body Acne.