While acne is often thought of as a facial skin issue, it can affect skin all over the body, including the back. In general, back acne can be treated using the same range of treatments available for addressing facial acne, but the special challenges sometimes associated with back acne may call for professional dermatology treatments like microdermabrasion.
Regardless of where, acne is caused by a common set of skin conditions, according to Acne.org. The American Academy of Dermatology states that acne blemishes usually appear as a result of skin pore blockages created by excess skin oil, called sebum, and dead skin cells improperly shed from the epidermis. The body may produce excessive sebum as a result of puberty-related hormone fluctuations, inherited traits, contact-based skin reactions and other causes. In addition to clogging the pores, higher sebum levels also contribute to the spread of bacteria on the skin, which can further aggravate blemishes and cause them to spread or become inflamed.
Though there isn't anything especially unique about the way back acne is formed, there are relevant considerations when treating acne on this area of the body. According to Acne.org, sebaceous glands on your back are larger than the ones on your face, which means that if your body produces excess sebum, the problem may be more severe on your back skin. The result is often a higher frequency of the most severe forms of acne, such as nodules and cysts, which are large, pus-filled bumps located deeper in the skin. Complicating matters, back skin is thicker than facial skin, so topical treatments may be less effective for treating back acne, especially when it comes to deep nodules and cysts.
Types of Microdermabrasion
Microdermabrasion treatments can roughly be categorized into three types, according to the skin health site Dermadoctor. The first type is an at-home treatment involving creams that contain abrasive particles like granulated pumice. While these creams treat the skin using roughly the same principle as professional microdermabrasion treatments, they generally only exfoliate the skin rather than abrade away entire layers. This type is only considered microdermabrasion in the sense that the term has been adopted by many manufacturers of these exfoliating solutions.
The next type involves machinery that is operated by an esthitician. Estheticians are not physicians, but are trained in cosmetological disciplines. Their professional microdermabrasion equipment involves a closed-air system through which small abrasive particles can circulate and gently pelt the skin, slowly wearing away the outermost layers.
The third type consists of equipment that is similar to the machines used by estheticians, only more powerful. These are intended to be used by dermatologists or other physicians, and are capable of exposing much deeper layers of skin.
Professional microdermabrasion treatments usually begin with a consultation with an esthetician or dermatologist to determine if microdermabrasion is appropriate for your condition, according to Leslie Baumann's book, "The Skin Type Solution." If it is appropriate, you may be sent home with an exfoliating solution to use for a period of time before your first appointment. When you arrive for your appointment, your back skin will be treated with gentle antibacterial soaps. The microdermabrasion process itself involves your caregiver moving a hand-held tube across your back; the tube blows abrasive particles against your skin and simultaneously vacuums up the used particles and loosened skin cells. When the process is complete, the treated skin may be covered with lotions or sunscreen. You may also be provided with solutions to apply at home for the next several days. Multiple treatments may be required.
Though microdermabrasion can expose and dislodge blackheads, clean pores, and minimize acne scars, Dermadoctor warns that it is not to be considered acne therapy. Decisions about whether microdermabrasion is safe or beneficial for your back acne are best made by dermatologists. Since microdermabrasion literally abrades away entire layers of skin, the risk of reactions like bleeding, sensitivity, and infection increase with deeper treatments or harsher abrasives. Re-using abrasive particles or unsterilized equipment can also increase the infection risk. However, as long as you're receiving treatment from a responsible and trained physician or esthetician, these scenarios are unlikely. Failure to treat your recently abraded skin with prescribed solutions as directed by your physician may also expose you to increased risk for infection, sunburns or other skin damage.