How Should I Treat Back Acne?

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Treating back acne can be quite a challenge. Dealing with your facial problem is bad enough, now you have to cope with acne on your back.

The approach to addressing back acne is different than targeting pimples on the face. The back is made of tougher skin and oil glands are present in more numbers as well.

What is Back Acne?

Back acne refers to the pimples, blackheads and whiteheads, pustules and cysts that instead of occurring in the face, they affect the back, shoulders, upper arms, neck, and the chest. In fact, a lot of people suffer from back acne, body acne and facial acne. Those with back acne oftentimes have facial acne as well.

While the teenage years usually bring about breakouts, for some, back acne is still a problem even well into adulthood. It’s also seen to be more severe in men although it can occur in women especially those who are menstruating.

What Causes Back Acne?

There are many different factors that can contribute to breakouts. Food, stress, genetics, and hormones are some of the most common reasons why there’s a big, fat zit on your forehead and several smaller ones on your upper back. Though there is still no scientific explanation as what really causes acne, there are certainly factors that worsen existing symptoms.

However, the process of how these breakouts occur is still the same as with facial acne. When you combine overactive sebaceous (oil) glands and dead skin cells, this typically results in clogged pores and follicles, also known as blackheads and whiteheads. In turn, this creates the ideal setting for the growth of bacteria. The presence of bacteria will irritate the skin pores and hair follicles resulting in inflammation and redness.

Sometimes, you’re not sure what triggers the breakouts and it will take a few trial and error experiments to pin down the cause of those zits. For some, it’s their diet that may worsen back acne; for others, it’s the high stress situations they are in that significantly contribute to excessive sebum (oil) production.

Back Acne vs. Facial Acne

There is only one big difference between back acne and facial acne – the affected area where acne occurs. Back acne is basically facial acne which did not occur on the face, but rather distributed to the neck, chest, the upper arms, shoulders, and even the buttocks.

Like facial acne, it can also take on a variety of types – comedones, nodules, cysts, and others. Excessive oil production and the presence of other irritants that easily clog up the pores and follicles are the main causes of back acne.

However, treating back acne is more challenging than addressing its facial counterpart. Blackheads and whiteheads, pimples, nodules, and cysts form deeper into the skin layer as compared with these same acne types that occur on the face. The skin on the back is tougher and acne tends to become inflamed and more painful. The back also has numerous oil glands so that sweating is another factor that exacerbates back acne.

Treatments for Back Acne

Since facial acne and back acne are almost the same, the regimens used for treating pimples, whiteheads, blackheads, cysts and nodules on the face can also be used to treat those occurring on the upper arms, chest and back. Severe back acne warrants a visit to the dermatologist for the right treatment. Meanwhile, cysts and nodules will usually need consultation with a skin doctor.

  1. Frequent washing/bathing can help relieve the symptoms of back acne by getting rid of excess dead skin cells and washing away excess oil. Use a mild, anti-bacterial soap or a salicylic acid wash. However, do not overdo this since it can also cause skin dryness and irritation.
  2. Benzoyl peroxide is another compound used to address mild flare-ups. It can be in gel or cream form applied to the affected area or as a pad/patch that can be used to wipe the back and other areas of the body.
  3. Using a product containing alpha hydroxyl acid can help minimize pore clogging. Lactic acid and glycolic acid are examples of alpha hydroxyl acids which promote skin exfoliation.
  4.  For more severe forms, medications are taken per doctor’s recommendation. Oral contraceptives have been prescribed to women with acne due to hormonal imbalance.

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Prevention: The Best Back Acne Management Approach

Prevention is better than cure, but when it comes to acne, this is not easily the case. Since there are numerous factors affecting acne, it will take some time to finally see results. Other than you have to do experiments to see which treatment works for you, most of these treatments are not going to give overnight results. Products that promise quick results, more often than not, will prove to be ineffective.

Nonetheless, there are a few things you can do to prevent acne. Avoid your personal acne triggers – may that be high stress levels, a sleepless night, oily foods, or certain medications. Don’t put too much pressure on your back as well as avoid wearing tight clothes.

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