It’s hotter than the devil’s pecker outside, and all that sweat from triple-digit temperatures can trigger some seriously annoying back acne.
Breakouts on your back, otherwise known as “bacne,” are a common and often embarrassing effect of the summer heat. Unlike your run-of-the-mill face pimple, back acne has a tendency to linger throughout hot summer months, following you from the pool to the beach and everywhere in between.
Why does back acne only rear its ugly head when the weather gets hotter, and how do you get rid of it ASAP? Very Good Light spoke to Dr. Mary Stevenson, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City, to get to the bottom of what causes back acne and how to treat it. Below, we’ve rounded up a few of the most asked questions regarding back acne. With the help of Dr. Stevenson’s expert advice, you’ll be bacne-free and back to feeling confident in a swimsuit in no time.
What causes back acne? Is it the same as face ane?
Back acne is similar to face acne in that they’re both caused by clogged oil in your sebaceous glands. Your sebaceous glands produce oil (called sebum) to lubricate your skin and hair. Sebum keeps your skin moist and helps prevent infection. In the summer, your body produces more oil than normal, which can lead to clogged pores, inflammation, and acne.
“For the most part, people get back acne because you have a lot of sebaceous glands on the skin there,” explains Dr. Stevenson. “During the hot summertime, it can be worse because sweat and clothing causes more occlusion, which can contribute to the problem.”
Why do I tend to get it on my shoulders?
Most people who suffer from back acne tend to experience the worst breakouts on their shoulders; Dr. Stevenson explains why.
“There’s something historically called pomade acne,” she says. “Hair products that people were using on the front line of their forehead and on the top of their back caused inflammation and acne.”
The thick texture of hair creams and greasy sunscreens combined with the increase in sweat and oil production can definitely increase the amount of acne you experience. Although bacne is mostly caused by the sebaceous glands on your back, pomade acne can contribute to overall back acne. Dr. Stevenson suggests keeping your hair off your back and taking a break from hair creams and oil-clogging sunscreens to see if your back breakouts clear up.
How do I get rid of back acne?
The treatment depends on the severity of the case. At the mild end, back acne can be treated with a benzoyl peroxide wash ($15). Salicylic wipes ($5) are great for if you’re on-the-go and you can’t get to a shower after you’ve been outside. Adapalene gel, the acne and wrinkle-fighting miracle topical drug, can be used once or twice a week at bedtime on moderate breakouts. People with really bad acne might consider a course of Accutane, which can be prescribed by a dermatologist. For most cases, Dr. Stevenson has a surefire treatment for stopping bacne in its tracks.
“In terms of the triple threat for back acne, it’s really benzoyl peroxide, a topical antibiotic like clindamycin solution, and a retinoid,” says Dr. Stevenson.
Should I exfoliate my back acne?
“Light exfoliation can help loosen dead skin cells, but less is more here, so you really want to be gentle,” warns Dr. Stevenson. “If you exfoliate aggressively, that’s just going to drive the inflammatory process and it’s going to make your acne more angry.”
Use a gentle exfoliator, like the Yo Glow Facial Enzyme Scrub from Wishful ($39) once or twice a week for best results.
What can I do to prevent back acne?
“You want to do things to stay cool and dry,” explains Dr. Stevenson. “You want to wear lighter sweat-wicking fabric, and if you’re going to be outside at the beach, you want to buy sunscreen that is non-comedogenic, meaning it does not help form pimples.”
Staying cool and dry is a tall order in the hot summer months, but if that’s not possible, just try to shower often. It’s best to shower immediately after a workout or a dip in the pool, or at the very least, give the areas where you’re prone to breakouts a quick wipe down with a salicylic acid wipe ($5).
What can I do to prevent scarring from back acne?
“If this is something you’re struggling with, I tell all patients, don’t pick, because it will scar,” warns Dr. Stevenson. “Stay out of the sun and wear sunscreen—something non-comedogenic.”
I repeat: DO. NOT. PICK. You’re more prone to scarring in the summer when the sun is beating down on your skin. Wearing sunscreen daily and religiously can prevent those healing acne breakouts from scarring and resulting in hyperpigmentation.
My bacne is out of control and nothing seems to work. HELP!
If you’re struggling with severe bacne, you might want to consider a visit to your dermatologist. Sometimes medications can contribute to acne, so a dermatologist has the ability to look at your breakouts next to your personal medical history and decide the right course of action.
“There are so many different treatments we have at our disposal, ranging from topical to oral pills to combinations of things,” says Dr. Stevenson. “The majority of patients can be helped so that they don’t end up with scarring. There’s no point to suffer with this any longer.”
– Back acne is caused by clogged oil in your sebaceous glands, which operate in overdrive in the summer months
– Gentle exfoliation can help, but keep it to once or twice a week
– To prevent back acne, take showers often, wear lighter, sweat-wicking fabrics, and non-comedogenic sunscreen
– If you’re struggling with back acne, don’t be afraid to see a derm