BACK ACNE, also known as “bacne”, is a buzzkill.
Any clogged pores, blackheads, whiteheads, and general oiliness can keep you from taking your shirt off and bother you even if you keep your shirt on.
Back acne can be painful, recurring, and although there is an avalanche of products on the market that promise to eliminate the bacne, many rarely do.
The good news is that you box treat back acne – you just need to be careful and regimented to do it. And, with the right approach, you can even prevent a future flare-up from occurring and reduce the damage caused by old ones.
The following action steps will help you fix back acne for good so you can be free to take your shirt off anytime, anywhere. (Within reason.)
How to Treat Back Acne
First, never pick or push acne. You will cause long term scarring.
Second, using a washcloth or long-handled body brush, gently cleanse daily with an antibacterial cleanser, such as Hibiclens Antiseptic Skin Cleanser ($10), “to limit the amount of bacteria on the skin,” says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, MD, and continue until the rash clears.
Or, if your back gets really sweaty during workouts, you may need to address the yeast-causing bacteria, which thrives in humid environments. In this case, use an anti-dandruff shampoo, such as Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo ($10), as a body wash, says Dr. Engelman.
And follow your wash with a lightweight gel moisturizer, like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Body Gel-Cream ($13), to avoid over-drying your skin.
When the active rash has subsided, exfoliate the area daily with a product containing glycolic or lactic acid, such as Smoothing Solution Soft Services ($34), to help keep pores open. (Scrubs are off limits, as they can spread bacteria and cause dark spots.) For even more exfoliation, ask your dermatologist for a chemical peel.
STEP 5: Target stubborn pimples with a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, such as La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Double Action Acne Treatment ($31). For harder to reach areas, try a salicylic acid acne spray, such as Paula’s Choice Clear ($26).
How to Prevent Back Acne
First, continue your treatment plan from above. Even after you are in the clear, following these steps will minimize your risk of the bacne reappearing or at least reduce the frequency. Get off every other day, then every three days if you stay zit-free, says dermatologist Bruce Katz, MD
And then add a retinoid, a vitamin A derivative that increases cell turnover and keeps pores open and clear. Apply a gel, such as Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment ($22), daily in areas that usually break out.
Consider avoiding workout clothes made from synthetic fabrics, which, yes, “absorb sweat pretty well, but they’re also irritating to the skin,” says Dr. Katz. Instead, he recommends 100% cotton, which absorbs sweat but won’t irritate your skin.
And, finally, avoid foods that raise your blood sugar, like sugary post-workout drinks and dairy products, both of which Dr. Engelman says have been linked to acne.
How to remove back acne scars
Fractional C02 lasers are the most effective for treating acne scars, even on the back, Dr. Katz says. A few sessions will smooth the edges of the scar and stimulate collagen production. Lasers may not be recommended for darker skin tones, but a radio frequency microneedling treatment, like Morpheus8, can repair scars with tiny (harmless) needles. Talk to your dermatologist.
A version of this article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of men’s health.
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