Acne is one of the most common skin issues out there, but we tend to only focus on the face while acne that occurs elsewhere on the body such as back or chest is less talked about, mainly because it is less visible.
However, in Singapore where the humidity and warm weather make it almost impossible for us to constantly cover up our back, back acne, or “bacne”, can be incredibly frustrating. But worry no more, because we have done the research and we’re going to tell you all you need to know about this annoying, but actually treatable and preventable, condition, so that you don’t have to suffer from it anymore! Read on to find out what exactly pimples on the back are, what causes them, how to get of them, and what products can you use to manage them.
What is back acne or pimples on the back?
Back acne, as the name suggests, is acne that occurs on your back, typically the upper back area, between your shoulder blades. Just like face acne, there are several types of back acne: whiteheads, blackheads, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts.
Whiteheads and blackheads, also referred to as comedones, are excess sebum trapped inside hair follicles. When the sebum is still deep inside the follicle, it is called a closed comedone, or whitehead. When the sebum pushes through the surface of the skin and comes into contact with air, it becomes a blackhead, or open comedone.
When the hair follicles become irritated and inflamed, they become papules or pustules – red, raised pimples, sometimes with pus at the head (pustules).
Nodules and cysts are large, painful lumps that go deep into the skin. They occur when the hair follicles get further inflamed and infected.
What causes back acne?
Wherever it occurs on your body, be it your face, back or chest, acne happens when your pores are clogged with excess sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria. Each of you pores is an opening to a hair follicle and a sebaceous gland responsible for producing sebum to lubricate the skin. When the sebaceous gland over-produces sebum or when dead skin cells are not removed from the surface of the skin, these materials get trapped in the hair follicles. These blocked follicles then become an ideal environment for bacteria to grow, leading to inflammation, which we call acne.
Acne is often the result of genetics and hormonal fluctuations, but external factors such as medications, cosmetic products or sweat can play a part, too.
The back area is particularly prone to acne as the skin here in thicker than many other parts of the body, which means it is easier for the pores here to get clogged. Excessive sweat that is not washed off properly can cause a bacteria buildup on your back, and dried sweat can also mix with dirt and dead skin cells to further clog your pores.
Another less known culprit of back acne is the shampoo and conditioner that you use. The pore-clogging ingredients in these products get washed down your back when you shower and increase the likelihood of breakouts.
How to get rid of back acne
While breakouts can mostly be attributed to genetics, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to prevent, or at least minimise it. Here are steps you can take to get rid of the annoying acne on your back:
1. Wear loose-fitting, sweat-wicking clothes
Tight clothing, especially in Singapore’s humid weather, can increase friction between the shirt material and your sweaty back, which could agitate the skin and exacerbate acne. Instead, opt for loose-fitting clothes made of sweat-wicking material, especially during a workout, to let your skin breathe.
2. Change bed sheets and pillowcases regularly
And by regularly we mean twice a week for pillowcases and at least once a week for bedsheets. You can’t see it, but your bed sheets and pillowcases can harbor a horrifying amount of dirt, bacteria, and dead skin cells just after a few days. Imagine rolling around on all that for hours every night!
3. Wash your body after rinsing off your conditioner
When you rinse off your conditioner with only water after you have already washed your body, some of it stay on your back and potentially lead to acne, especially if the conditioner contains any pore-clogging substances, What you should do instead is to wash your body after rinsing off the conditioner to make sure you get all of it off your body.
4. Don’t use abrasive scrubs
When we have acne, the first instinct is to use a harsh exfoliating tool such as rough loofahs or back brushes to scrub it off. However, not only is it not how pimples on the back can be gotten rid of, abrasive scrubs can irritate and aggravate the skin further, which could worsen your back acne.
5. Change out workout clothes immediately
While it is tempting to sit around scrolling through your phone as you catch your breath after an intense workout session, the longer you wait to change out your sweaty clothes, the higher the chance of bacteria buildup on our skin. And if you aren’t doing it already, remember to wash your workout clothes after every session instead of re-wearing them even if they “don’t smell that bad”.
6. Use acne-friendly hair and body care products
We pay so much attention to choosing the right facial products for our acne prone skin, but often don’t give a second thought when it comes to hair and body care. Choose products that are labelled non-comedogenic (which means they won’t clog your pores!), or those that are specifically formulated for acne prone, sensitive skin.
You can also choose products that contain acne fighting ingredients such as salicylic acid, which helps remove dead skin cells, or benzoyl peroxide, which kills bacteria on your skin.
7. See a dermatologist
If your back acne doesn’t improve after using all of the above tips or if the acne is moderate to severe, seek professional help from a dermatologist to effectively treat your condition.
Products we would recommend for back acne
1. Mario Badescu A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap
This body soap contains fruit enzymes to gently exfoliate the skin to remove dead skin cells and dirt without drying out the skin. The ginseng extract helps to further soothe and calm the irritated skin.
You can get the Mario Badescu A.H.A. Botanical Body Soap from Sephora at SGD20.
2. Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Bar for Face and Body
With a medicated formula containing 2% encapsulated salicylic acid, the Clinique Anti-Blemish Solutions Cleansing Bar for Face and Body helps to remove buildup of dead skin cells from the surface of the skin and reduce the chance of pore clogging.
The cleansing bar is available at all Clinique counters nationwide.
3. Gallinée Cleansing Bar
The Gallinée Cleansing Bar is a gentle yet effective cleansing solution for you body. It contains lactic acid, a gentle form of AHAs, to exfoliate the skin. Meanwhile, the prebiotics provide the skin with good bacteria to maintain its barrier while removing the harmful bacteria that cause acne.
This cleansing bar is also soap-free, which means it won’t strip the skin of its natural moisture like soap bars tend to do.
You can get the Gallinée Cleansing Bar from Sephora at SGD23.
4. The Body Shop Tea Tree Skin Clearing Body Wash
The signature Tea Tree line from The Body Shop is well known for its effective anti acne properties and this body wash is no exception. It contains organic tea tree oil to remove blemishes on your body, giving you clearer and smoother skin.
The Tea Tree Skin Clearing Body Wash is available at all The Body Shop stores nationwide at SGD19.
5. Herbivore Botanicals Bamboo Charcoal – Deep Cleanse Detoxifying Soap Bar
Skin that is prone to clogged pores can benefit from a deep cleanse, which is why the Bamboo Charcoal soap bar from Herbivore Botanicals is such a great product for back acne. The activated bamboo charcoal will cleanse the skin thoroughly and remove any toxins and impurities from your pores.
The Herbivore Botanicals Bamboo Charcoal Soap Bar is available on Sephora at SGD19.
6. Paula’s Choice Clear Acne Body Spray 2% BHA
Body washes with exfoliating properties are great for daily maintenance but a dedicated exfoliant can do wonders for acne prone skin. The Paula’s Choice Clear Acne Body Spray contains 2% BHA (salicylic acid) to unclog the pores and calm redness on the skin.
The spray bottle that can dispense product from any angle makes the product particularly convenient for applying on the back.
The Clear Acne Body Spray 2% BHA is available on Paula’s Choice’s website at SGD43.
7. Sebamed Everyday Shampoo
As we mentioned earlier, the shampoo and conditioner you use can very much be responsible for your back acne. It’s important that you choose a shampoo that is gentle and doesn’t irritate the skin like the Everyday Shampoo from Sebamed. The formula in this shampoo is soap-free, alkali-free and has mild cleansing properties, perfectly safe for your body and scalp skin.
The Sebamed Every Shampoo is available on Watsons at SGD28.80.
8. Clear 2 Perfection Non-comedogenic Nourishing Conditioner
As for conditioner, the Clear 2 Perfection Non-comedogenic Nourishing Conditioner is highly raved about as the go-to non-comedogenic conditioner for those suffering from back acne. Developed by an experienced esthetician, it contains a botanical blend to nourish the hair without any waxy, pore-clogging ingredients that could cause breakouts on the body.
You can order this conditioner from Amazon, at USD22.
9. QV Skin Lotion Repairs Skin
Unlike a body wash, which is washed off almost instantly, a lotion stays on your skin for an extended period of time. That’s why it’s important to find a lotion that is safe for acne prone skin. The QV Skin Lotion Repairs Skin is specially formulated for sensitive skin. It is non-comedogenic, free from fragrance, colour, lanolin and propylene glycol, which means it is less likely to cause breakouts than regular lotions.
You can buy this lotion from Watsons at SGD27.10 for a 500ml bottle.
10. Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Lotion 2% BHA
For those who don’t want to bother with a separate exfoliant, the Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Lotion 2% BHA offers the purifying function of an exfoliant and the nourishing power of a lotion in one product. The 2% salicylic acid clears out the pores and smooths out skin texture while the antioxidants work to protect the skin from harmful environmental factors. No wonder it’s such a well-loved product by those suffering from pimples on the back!
The Paula’s Choice Weightless Body Lotion 2% BHA retails for SGD46 on their website.
Featured image credit: Wishtrend