5 Ways To Treat Back Acne: Esthetician's Tips

Oct. 7, 2020
Many of us have experienced back acne at some point in our lives. Ranging from mild to severe, it can be hard to treat due to the location. I’ve given too many back facials to count over the years, so I’m going to share some of my favorite products and methods! 
Your back and chest produce the same oils and sebum as your face. You can get all types of acne on your back, such as whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, papules, cysts, nodules, and acne scarring. But what contributes to breakouts on the back can vary.
What Causes Back Acne?
  • Sweat
  • Dead skin buildup 
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Tight clothing or friction
  • Product sensitivity
  • Back not being cleaned properly
  • Dirty clothing
  • Genetics
How to Treat 
I like a combination of physical and chemical exfoliation for the back. In the treatment room, I begin with a mechanical exfoliant of some sort, whether it be a scrub, gloves, or mitt. I then follow up with a chemical exfoliant like a mask or liquid and finish with unscented lotion to lock everything in. 
I don’t recommend body brushes, as they can harbor bacteria and mold, causing more breakouts in the future. In a back facial session, I use a Spacell Body Mitt because it’s naturally anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, and is gentle enough to use every day. An alternative would be exfoliating gloves. They can be machine washed and are an effective and affordable way to remove dead skin. Just apply your body wash to the body mitt or gloves and exfoliate away!

Get a deeper cleanse and remove dead skin with exfoliating gloves/mitts.

As for chemical exfoliation, it’s really hard to apply an exfoliating mask or toner on your back. Fill a spray bottle with a salicylic acid toner, and mist your back generously after a shower, then dress in loose clothing.
A sweaty, tight sports bra is a breeding ground for acne bacteria. Pack a washcloth and a loose shirt in your gym bag. When your workout is finished, take off your sweaty clothes if you can, and use the damp washcloth to remove some of the sweat on your back and shoulders. This would be the perfect time to use the salicylic acid spray bottle on your back! Change into loose, clean clothing for your trip home. This will kill a lot of the bacteria and oils from your workout, saving your skin until you can shower.

LAROCHE-POSAY Effaclar Clarifying Solution, Sanitas Beta Clarifying Solution, COSRX Clarifying Treatment Solution.

*Pro Tip: A toner with salicylic acid and glycolic acid can penetrate oil AND water, making it great for cutting through sweat.
Let’s say you have sensitive or reactive face. You fill your skincare routine with gentle, unscented products geared for sensitive skin. Then, you go to the drugstore and buy a cheap, heavily scented body wash and lotion! Do you see the problem with this? If your face is really sensitive, your body likely is too. If you wouldn’t dream of using a specific body wash or lotion on your face, you probably shouldn’t be using it on your body either. If you skin is finicky, stick to gentle formulations, and try to find fragrance-free when you can.
A remarkable ingredient to look for in your body wash is Zinc, largely for its anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes it phenominal not only for back acne, but acne on your chest, butt, arms, and legs! Moreover, Zinc can reduce ingrown hairs around the bikini line and keratosis pilaris (red bumps on arms). Zinc body washes are hard to come by, but you can use Nizoral anti-dandruff shampoo or Head and Shoulders Classic Clean shampoo as a body wash!

Try an unscented body lotion and either unscented or Zinc body wash.

*Pro Tip: With a Zinc body wash, I lather up and step away from the water while I shave, so the Zinc can stay on for a couple of extra minutes.
*Pro Tip: You can also use zinc body wash or shampoo on your face as a mask to treat small bumps and texture. Google: "Nizoral shampoo for fungal acne."
The order of your shower steps matter. A lot. Washing your body should always be the last thing you do! A lot of people want to leave their hair conditioner in for as long as possible, so they rinse it out at the very end. But most conditioners are formulated with non-soluble silicones (won’t dissolve in water). The silicones stay on your hair after rinsing and are what make your hair soft and smooth after conditioning. However, this means they will stay on your skin as well, even if you rinse thoroughly with water. Always wash your body with a sudsy/foaming body wash containing surfactants to remove the silicones.
Acne Mechanica is characterized as breakouts that are induced by excess friction, heat, and pressure. Tight clothing can cause heat and sweat to get trapped in your pores, leading to your breakouts. If you’re the type to live in athletic clothing, opt for looser fits so your skin can get adequate airflow. Or, if you are always wearing a backpack, you may see breakouts pop up where the straps lay. Try alternative styles and see if your breakouts are being caused by friction! The only way to stop acne mechanica is to cease whatever action is creating the irritation.
If you’ve got moderate or painful acne on your back, you could benefit from a professional back facial. You will receive safe extractions, and an aftercare plan suited for your skin type. As for scarring on your back, a chemical peel, microdermabrasion, or microneedling session administered by an esthetician can undeniably improve the appearance of scars. 
If your back acne is on the severe, painful, and cystic side, or if you’ve exhausted all at-home methods, a visit to a dermatologist will be your best option. Medications like Spironolactone or Accutane have been proven to help acne on the face AND body. Your dermatologist may prescribe you with proven-to-work topical treatments instead.
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