Treatment for Back Acne

Teenage boy (15-17) kneeling with soccer ball at park
Wearing a backpack may cause back acne. (Image: Michael Blann/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Acne is an inflammatory disease that leaves red spots on your skin. Apart from the face, the back is the most common area for acne breakouts. In fact, two-thirds of people who suffer from acne also suffer with the condition on their backs. Back acne affects 20 percent of all men and, while less common, is also prevalent in women.Back acne is often referred to as “bacne” and is painful as well as irritating and unsightly. A range of treatments for back acne are available, from gentle cleansing regimes to antibiotics and steroid creams.

Back Acne

Acne occurs when your skin’s sebaceous glands produce too much oil, resulting in pimples, pustules, whiteheads, blackheads or cysts. While the face contains the most sebaceous glands, the glands on your back are bigger, explains acne.org. In fact, the glands on your back produce more oil, and cause larger breaks in your skin, leaving your back more exposed to cysts and larger spots.

Causes

There are two causes of back acne: an increase in oil production or irritated skin. When your skin glands produce too much oil due to stress, genetics, hormonal imbalance or a poor diet, the increase in oil overproduction can clog up your skin follicles, preventing dead skin from escaping. This allows bacteria to breed and acne breakouts to occur. When clothing is warm and tight against the skin, acne may thrive, according to the University of Michigan’s Health Service, because tight clothing can also trap dead skin cells. Tight clothing or a wearing a backpack may aggravate back acne by spreading the bacteria, causing fresh outbreaks.

Prevention

Wearing loose, cotton clothing may help prevent the spread of back acne. Instead of wearing a backpack, carry a handheld bag to decrease skin irritations on your back. Wash the skin on your back, regularly and immediately after exercise -- but do not shower more than twice a day. Excessive bathing or showering may dry and irritate the skin on your back. To reduce the bacteria production on your skin's surface, use an antibacterial soap daily. Exfoliate your back with a sugar-based scrub a few times a week to remove dead skin cells that may clog your follicles. Do not wear shirts more than once and keep bed sheets clean. If you sweat a lot, wipe your back with a soft towel regularly.

Treatment

Because the skin on your back is tougher and denser than the skin on your face, treatments differ depending on the severity of your back acne. If you have mild back acne and washing the skin regularly is not enough to control it, topical treatments sold in drugstores may kill bacteria, dry the oil and remove dead skin cells. If over-the-counter treatments are too weak, a doctor may prescribe a topical cream for moderate cases of acne. In severe cases, Accutane may be prescribed. This medication comes in pill form and is derived from Vitamin A. Accutane has the power to shrink oil glands, but comes with serious side effects, such as dry eyes and lips, aching joints, itching and blurred vision. If your back acne leads to scars or cysts, you may be a candidate for laser treatment or surgery, but consult your doctor before scheduling any procedures.

Considerations

If you get red marks or irritations on your back, check with your doctor to ensure you are suffering from acne and not eczema, as this requires a completely different treatment.

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