Back acne affects about 60% of all people who suffer from facial acne. While back acne affects most of the population during their teenage years and perhaps into their early twenties, some people suffer from back acne well into their forties.
Back acne can also appear on the torso, arms, chest, shoulders and buttocks. It affects men more often than women and is often more difficult to treat than facial acne because the skin is tougher and thicker and there are more sweat glands in these areas, producing thousands of sebaceous (oil) glands that can clog the pores.
Back acne can appear in the form of non-inflammatory acne (blackheads and whiteheads), or inflammatory acne (papules, pustules, nodules and cysts). Inflammatory acne forms deep under the skin surface and can be painful. Read more about these types of acne and how they occur.
Prevention is the Best Defense
If you suffer from facial acne, but do not have body or back acne, preventing back acne is the best defense. If you have had back acne and are now clear of the blemishes and lesions, you know how hard it is to treat – prevention is the best defense.
Preventing back acne requires a methodical approach and a daily routine designed to keep the skin clear and healthy.
- Shower immediately following physical activity that causes the skin to sweat. Perspiration gets trapped on the skin, mixing with oils, and clogs the pores. Showering prevents this cycle. Avoid using hot, steaming water – this may feel good, but if you already have inflamed acne, this will only serve to irritate the lesions more. Use tepid water and a mild soap instead.
- Gently does it. Wash the skin with a soft wash cloth or synthetic puffy – avoid harsh loofas and back brushes.
- Pat the skin dry with a clean towel – avoid a hard rub down with the towel while drying off. Again, this may feel good, but it will only irritate the skin and perhaps spread the acne.
- Exfoliate weekly. This removes the build-up of dead skin cells, avoiding clogged, blocked pores. Do not scrub the skin, this can over stimulate clear skin and irritate or damage inflamed skin.
- Avoid irritants. Wash clothes in a mild detergent. Select soaps and detergents for sensitive skin. While you may not have sensitive skin, using products for sensitive skin will prevent further irritation.
- Avoid wearing tight clothing that rubs the skin. Avoid irritating fabrics such as wool, leather or synthetic fabrics that do not ‘breathe’. Breathable fabrics will also help prevent the accumulation of sweat on the skin – one of the biggest causes of back acne.
- Change the sheets. Your bed sheets could be a contributor to your back acne problems. Make sure they are changed and/or washed at least 2-3 times a week if you already have back acne.
- If you use a backpack, try adjusting the straps so the backpack sits lower on the back, avoiding pressure and rubbing against the acne.
- If you have blemishes and/or lesions, do not squeeze or pick them. This can not only damage the skin and increase the likelihood or scarring, it can lead to further infection and spreading of the bacteria.
- Pay attention to your diet – while there is no direct evidence linking oily food, sugar, white flour, sodas etc., to back acne, a healthy diet and drinking lots does not hurt.