What is back acne?
Back acne is a common type of acne that develops on the back, usually the upper back, upper shoulders and lower neck. Besides the face, the upper back contains more oil-producing sebaceous glands than most other parts of the body, making it a place where acne develops easily. It is colloquially known as “bacne”.
Acne can consist of:
- white dots
- Black spots
- Cysts, in extreme cases
Back acne occurs when sweat, dirt, oil, dead skin cells and bacteria get trapped in the pores of the skin. The condition is strongly associated with sporting activities that trigger sweating, as well as chafing from sportswear and equipment. This combination gets trapped in the pores, causing bacterial growth, irritation, and inflammation below the skin’s surface.
What causes back acne?
The body produces sebum in glands connected to hair follicles. Once released, sebum travels up hair follicles to add a protective layer to hair and skin. Follicles and pores can become clogged with sebum and accumulate dead skin cells, sweat and debris. The more sebum your skin produces, the more likely this clogging is.
Dermatologists agree that acne usually has several causes. Overproduction of sebum, accumulation of dead skin cells and sweating are the most common. Genetics is also an important risk factor for acne.
Hormonal changes can also cause back acne, especially during adolescence, due to a sudden increase in androgen levels. Although acne affects both sexes at any age, adult women are particularly susceptible to hormonal acne due to hormonal changes during pregnancy, menstruation, menopause and when faced with reproductive health issues. such as polycystic ovary syndrome, also known as PCOS.
How to Treat Back Acne
Be sure to talk to your doctor before starting treatment. If you are not already seeing a dermatologist, your healthcare professional can guide you through the first steps in treating and managing back acne.
Most cases of back acne go away on their own. For mild to moderate back acne that doesn’t go away in a few weeks, over-the-counter acne treatment products can get it under control. The American Academy of Dermatology Association recommends using a benzoyl peroxide foaming cleanser as a first line treatment for acne.
Salicylic acid is another recommended treatment that can also be effective. The AAD suggests starting with a wort containing 5.3% benzoyl peroxide. This strength is less likely to cause dryness or irritation. However, if this does not seem effective, you can try using the higher concentration of 10%. The over-the-counter retinoid adapalene 0.1% (Differin and others) is also suggested.
When to See a Dermatologist for Back Acne
If your back acne isn’t improving after eight weeks of a self-help regimen, it’s time to see a dermatologist. If you are not already seeing a dermatologist or your insurance requires a referral to see specialists, you may want to start by seeing your primary care provider. He can guide you through the first stages of treatment and, if necessary, refer you to a dermatologist in your health insurance network.
When back acne is severe, a dermatologist may recommend prescription medication. They include oral antibiotics such as erythromycin and doxycycline as well as topical treatments such as prescription retinoids and antibiotic creams.
For women, birth control pills can be an effective treatment for acne, especially if it seems related to a menstrual cycle. If you have back acne, mention it at your next visit to the obstetrician-gynecologist or woman. If other treatments fail, doctors may prescribe oral isotretinoin, also known by the brand name Accutane.
You may need to see a dermatologist if you don’t see any difference in your acne after six to eight weeks of over-the-counter treatments, or if the acne gets worse. If you feel severe pain or inflammation or have signs of infection, such as fever, your dermatologist can help.
Dermatologists can also determine if you have acne or another skin condition. If it is severe back acne, they can prescribe appropriate medication, if necessary.
As with other forms of acne, back acne can cause scarring and changes in skin color, such as darkening or lightening of the skin, in severe cases. If you already have scars, various treatments can help you get rid of acne scars. Among them:
- chemical peels
- Skin graft
- Laser resurfacing
If you are already taking acne medication, but your condition is getting worse or not improving, your dermatologist will adjust all prescriptions to find the right dosage or medication for you.
Can back acne be prevented?
There is currently no foolproof approach to preventing back acne entirely, as it is affected by so many different things. Genetics, hormones and external factors all play a role in causing acne.
Strategies that can help prevent breakouts or reduce acne and skin irritation include:
- Regularly wash towels, sheets and pillowcases.
- Wash clothes regularly, especially tight-fitting clothes such as bras and undershirts.
- Exercise in loose clothing made from natural fibers such as cotton or sweat-wicking fabrics.
- Avoid accessories that rub against your back and shoulders like backpacks. If possible, opt for hand luggage.
- Shower and put on clean clothes immediately after exercise or use oil-free cleansing wipes.
- Wash training clothes and equipment after each use.
- Keep hairsprays and hair gels away from your back.
- Resistant to any urge to pick and pop pimples, even on your back.
Also, opt for skin care products labeled “non-comedogenic.” Those that don’t have it on the label can make clogged pores worse.
Your lifestyle and diet can also impact how much acne you experience. A balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables and limits foods high in processed carbohydrates and dairy can reduce your risk of rashes. You may find that these changes also have other positive effects on your health, such as reducing your risk of diabetes and heart disease.
Taking a holistic approach to caring for your skin and your health can be beneficial. If you’re concerned about your risk of back acne, talk to your dermatologist. Early intervention can help minimize scarring and other complications.
Please seek the advice of a healthcare professional before making healthcare decisions.
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