In its most simple definition, acne is an infection of the skin that is caused by changes in the oil or sebaceous glands. Acne vulgaris, which means “common acne” is the most prevalent type of acne among teenagers and adults and is often characterized by pimples, redness, blackheads, whiteheads and oily skin.
The common areas where acne invades are on the face, chest, shoulders, upper arms, neck and back. About 60% of those who have acne reported to have back acne or what is also called as—“bacne”.
What causes back acne?
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, acne, in general, is caused by the over activity of the sebaceous or oil glands. When the sebaceous glands produce too much oil, it may combine with the skin cells and lead to clogging of the pores. As the pores become clogged, bacteria will multiply.
Other factors that cause or worsen acne include:
- Emotional Stress
- Food with high glycemic load
Aside from those mentioned above, back acne may be brought about by the following:
When sweat is left behind, it mixes with oil and toxins of the skin. This will, eventually, leave pores irritated or clogged which then results to back acne.
Wearing clothes that have tight fitting may an important factor especially if these clothes are made out of materials that suffocate your skin and do not allow it to breathe. As a result, your skin will be irritated and thus, back acne will show up.
Acne mechanica or the type of back acne brought about by irritation and moisture aggravation usually occurs when something is repeatedly rubbing against the skin—things like backpacks, shoulder straps or machines for weightlifting may result to this type of back acne.
Bedsheets, blankets or any other material that comes in contact with your skin, constantly, may absorb dirt from your skin which possibly accumulates over time. Understandably, this becomes a ground for bacteria to multiply if these materials are not regularly cleaned.
Types of Back Acne
Just like facial acne, there are several types of back acne lesions that may appear on your back; these may include following:
These are tiny blemishes that appear as black dots; also known as comedones or clogged pores, blackheads are open comedones with trapped debris inside the follicle. Because it is an open comedone, the follicle becomes oxidized and therefore, appears black.
Also known as closed comedones, whiteheads develop when follicles are clogged by sebum or oil and dead skin cells that stay underneath your skin forming a white bump.
Papules occur when bacteria, sebum and dead skin cells underneath your skin have become inflamed. Papules are characterized by swelling, redness and the absence of pus.
Next to papules are pustules or what is commonly called as “pimple”. Pustules are similar to papules but this time, it brings an extra package with it—yellowish or whitish pus. This type of acne lesion may be more sensitive and painful.
- Nodules and Cysts
These are often large and inflamed blemishes that last for months. Nodules develop deep below the skin and harden over time. Cysts may be larger and may contain pus—they are often painful and may cause scarring to the skin.
Treatment for Back Acne
Dealing with back acne may be more troublesome than you think. It is tough not being able to comfortably lay in bed or against the couch. Some may even experience painful sensations as acne lesions rub against a hard surface. Besides this, women and men, whether teenagers or adults, may also find it embarrassing to wear clothes that reveal their back—just like facial acne, bacne also brings people’s self-esteem downhill.
Because back acne brings so much negativity in life, it is, therefore, important to address the problem as soon as possible. Several treatments ranging from home remedies to medical laser treatments are available for this skin problem.
Some of the most effective ways to remedy back acne are the following.
- Sea Salt Remedy
One remedy for back acne and acne, in general, that has been around for quite some time is using sea salt. Several people with acne are often advised to dip themselves in sea water. However, there are other ways as to how to use sea salt in treating acne.
Although it is not really known how sea salt treats acne, it is believed that sea salt kills off the bacteria that causes acne. Sea salt may also restore the skin’s ideal pH balance as well as the skin’s natural oil balance. Furthermore, sea salt helps in exfoliation and in the promotion of skin regrowth. It contains minerals that prevents skin infection as well as minerals that regulate production of sebum or oil.
Sea salt may be used alone or with other natural ingredients. You may use it regularly or until your skin becomes better. The following are some ways to make use of sea salt for facial and back acne:
- With water – Sea salt may be mixed with water and applied on the back or facial area as paste for 15 minutes.
- With almond oil – Mix sea salt with almond oil and leave it on the back or face for 5 minutes.
- With honey – Mix sea salt with raw honey and hot water and apply to the skin for 10 minutes.
- With baking soda – Mix sea salt with baking soda and water until enough to make a paste and apply on the area until it dries up.
- With vitamin E – Mix the oil from 2 capsules of vitamin E with sea salt enough to make a paste and then apply as spot treatments for 20 minutes.
- Sea salt bath – Mix sea salt with borax and white clay in warm water and soak for 15-30 minutes
The sea salt remedies mentioned above are just some of the many ways to use sea salt as acne spot treatment or acne facial wash. Furthermore, sea salt remedy has been proven to get rid of back acne in as fast as a week or two when done consistently.
Oatmeal is another natural back acne remedy that is beneficial for both dry and oily skin. What it does it that it absorbs excess oil off the skin and in the process, it clears away dirt as well as other toxins.
According to dermatologists, oatmeal is also a good treatment option for those people with sensitive skin. The use of oatmeal in the field of treatment has been common in treating other skin problems such as the following:
- Dry skin
- Poison ivy
- Insect bites
- Chicken pox
- Razor burns
Oatmeal is deemed as an absorber, cleanser and exfoliator as it is blessed with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. With that said, oatmeal reduces pimples and prevents further breakouts. It also aids in drying up pimples quickly for it to heal. When used as a scrub, it also aids in exfoliating dead skin cells that may contribute to back acne.
Some methods to get rid of back acne or acne with the use of oatmeal are the following:
- Cook oatmeal with honey (optional) and then apply to the affected skin and leave on for 20-30 minutes.
- Grind oatmeal to make an oatmeal powder, mix it with 1 tbsp. of baking soda and water to create a paste and apply on the area until it dries.
- Mix powdered oatmeal with yogurt and honey and apply on the back or face for 20 minutes.
- Cook oatmeal with milk and apply it to the skin for 15 minutes.
- Pour oatmeal powder in tub and soak for 15-30 minutes.
It is important to note that uncooked oatmeal will do better exfoliation of dead skin cells rather than cooked oatmeal. For good results, oatmeal paste may be massaged on the skin if you are aiming to exfoliate. Furthermore, the use of organic oatmeal is ideal for these treatments.
- Tea tree oil
Also known as nature’s benzoyl peroxide, tea tree oil is an essential oil that originates from leaves native to Australia. Orally, this essential oil is toxic but the realm of skin and cosmetic care, all over the world, has used this topical Holy Grail for quite some time now.
Tea tree oil contains antimicrobial properties which continuously proves its effectiveness in treating skin conditions such as herpes, dandruff and acne, among many others. Basically, tea tree contains a compound, terpinen-4-ol, that kills off bacteria causing acne. Furthermore, it possesses antiseptic and antifungal benefits that help the skin avoid breakouts. Because this essential oil is able to penetrate deeply into the skin, it is able to unclog blocked oil glands and in the process, disinfect and dry the pimples. It also aids in controlling oil production of the skin as well as restoring its balance. Aside from this, tea tree oil also helps in removing damaged skin cells.
Some of the methods in using tea tree oil for back acne are listed below:
- Use it as a spot treatment—by using a cotton pad or tissue, pour drops of tea tree oil on it and use apply it on the acne spots one by one. Leave it overnight for it to reduce the swelling and redness. You can repeat this process every night before you go to bed.
- Use it while taking a bath—after taking a shower, dip a washcloth in diluted tea tree oil and then apply it on the affected areas. After a few minutes, wash it off with water. Do this regularly.
- Use it with honey—mix a few drops of tea tree oil with 1 tbsp. of honey and then apply it on the back. Wait for a few hours or overnight before rinsing it off.
- Witch Hazel
One of the best herbs used to treat acne is witch hazel, a natural home remedy that has been prevalent for centuries. Native to Japan, North America and China, this plant is used to treat many skin issues including the following:
- Skin sores
- Insect bites
- Razor burns
- Oily skin
What allows witch hazel to treat skin problems are its properties—its twigs, bark and leaves contain catechol tannin which is an active astringent used for cleansing the skin. Witch hazel cleanses the clogged skin pores. Furthermore, it has anti-inflammatory properties that will take care of the swelling and redness brought about by acne lesions. Commonly used witch hazel, found in stores, is usually distilled.
Witch hazel slows down the growth of bacteria on the skin when used as a natural cleanser. It also reduces the appearance of the pores but not the pores, themselves. It gently deals with the irritations and prevents breakouts. To treat acne, witch hazel can easily be applied directly to the affected area when there is a breakout.
Witch hazel may be used in the following ways:
- Use it alone—simply soak a cotton ball or cotton pad in witch hazel and apply it on the your back acne as a toner, serum or as a lotion.
- Use it with essential oils like tea tree oil, coconut oil or jojoba oil—mix a few drops of the oil to witch hazel before applying it on your back with the use of cotton pads.
As for the results of witch hazel treatment, some have claimed it to be more effective when combining it with the use of other antibacterial ingredients such as apple cider vinegar, coconut oil and tea tree oil. Besides being affordable, witch hazel has truly proven its wonders to people suffering acne.
- Life Style Change
You can only go so far with spot treatments, herbs, creams and other home remedies—and still, the problem will come back. Perhaps, this time it is best to treat the issue from within.
A major lifestyle change can do so much when it comes to clearing your skin up for good. Acne, in some cases, are often caused by either poor diet or poor lifestyle choices.
When it comes to getting rid of back or facial acne, a healthy and balanced diet may be what it takes to completely treat the problem.
When it comes to a healthy diet, you can start by drinking plenty of water since water helps you flush out toxins from your system. It is also advised to eat more fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains. To avoid more inflammation, it is recommended to avoid eating oily, fatty and salty food. Food rich in sugar should also be off the list—this means processed foods such as fast food and junk food should be dropped. Reduced intake of caffeine and alcohol may also may also help in treating acne. Food that are high in glycemic index, such as white bread, cereal, and pasta, should also be avoided.
Besides changing the diet to a more balanced one, the body should also get enough rest and sleep in order for hormones to properly regulate and in order to avoid excessive sebum secretion. Furthermore, going for stress-relieving activities such as yoga or other physical exercises will also prevent fluctuations in hormones that may cause acne.
Bad habits such as smoking and drinking should be given up as well. Necessary changes in your skin regimen—from harsh products to mild and gentle ones—will also be of great help if you want to see good results for your back or facial acne.
- Oral and Topical Antibiotics
If the usually effective home remedies and lifestyle changes still do not do the job of treating your back acne—perhaps, it may be time to look into oral and topical antibiotics.
As a standard of care in managing acne of severe to moderate level, oral antibiotics are used for acne that covers a large body surface area, like the back, or acne that resists topical therapy.
Antibiotics work in such a way that they reduce bacteria on the surface of the skin as well as in the follicles. They also have anti-inflammatory benefits. Because of increasing resistance to bacteria, less severe forms of acne are best not treated with oral antibiotics. Furthermore, it is also best for antibiotic therapy to only be short-lived.
In antibiotic therapies for treating acne, oral antibiotics such as the following are often administered:
As for topical antibiotics, the following are commonly given to the acne patients:
The use of antibiotics, however, drowns in quite a lot of controversy especially when it comes to issues of bacterial resistance. Aside from that, antibiotics may also have their side effects when applied topically or orally. Some side effects from taking it orally are bacterial resistance, allergy, photosensitivity and disturbance in the gastrointestinal tract. On the other hand, side effects from applying it topically include dryness and scaling of the skin.
When going for antibiotics—make sure to meet a professional who will administer the right type and dosage for your case. If possible, limit the course of antibiotic therapy to 3 months or less. And for better results, apply topical retinoid along with the antibiotics.
Despite its downsides, the use of antibiotics is one of the quickest way to see results when getting rid of acne. But if the acne problem is still treatable with other milder alternatives—it is best to go for those instead of opting for antibiotics.
- Topical Retinoid
Another option to get rid of acne is the use of topical retinoid. Topical retinoids are lotions, gels and creams that contain medicines derived from vitamin A. The use of these lead to proliferation as well as reduction of keratinization of skin cells.
There are quite a number of topical retinoid can easily be obtained over the counter even without prescription from a dermatologist. With that, many acne-suffering people may experiment on their acne-affected areas with over-the-counter retinoid creams.
Some retinoid gel and creams that are available in pharmacies and supermarkets are the following:
Topical retinoids are used to treat mild to moderately severe forms of acne. Usually, the effects of the treatment become noticeable within a couple of weeks. However, for some people, it may take up to 6 weeks or more before improvement becomes evident as it will depend on the person’s skin and how it reacts to it.
When opting for topical retinoid, it is important to know that there are side effects to its use and these include stinging, redness, peeling, swelling, and even blistering in the areas where it is applied. These side effects are common for those people with sensitive skin or those who are using retinoid for the first time.
Because retinoid often peel the topmost layer of the skin, there may be an increased chance of sunburn. Moreover, irritation as a side effect may also come from using soaps, cleansers and other peeling agents or astringents in certain cosmetics.
In the first few weeks of using topical retinoid on the face, the back or whatever acne-affected area, it may be a possible flare-up of acne. However, this should not stop you from using it as this acne flare-up will eventually calm down as you continue to use it.
- Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) and Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs)
Besides topical and oral antibiotics and retinoids, there are also acids that aid in getting rid of acne. Alpha Hydroxy Acids or AHAs, such as lactic acid and glycolic acid, function as exfoliators of the outer part of the skin. AHAs are often confused with Beta Hydroxy Acids or BHAs which are acids that exfoliate the internal aspect of your skin. Both acids are great treatments for acne.
In treating acne, AHAs usually come in the form of gel, lotion and toners. Some medicated cleansers and body wash also have AHAs in them. However, it may be best to use AHAs that stay longer on the skin, when trying to treat acne. Because AHAs exfoliates, it helps smoothen out the texture of the skin. Besides treating acne, for some people, it may also even out skin tone and give the skin a glow.
One common AHA that is readily available in the market is glycolic acid. Most acne treatment product with glycolic acid only contains 10% of the acid in them. As for lactic acid, there is not much product that uses it. AHAs are also used as base for chemical peels that also aid in acne treatment.
On the other hand, BHAs, also known as salicylic acid, help in preventing congested skin. Because they are oil-soluble, they help in dissolving sebum and contribute to treating clogged pores, blackheads and acne, in general.
Like AHAs, BHAs may also come in toners, gels, lotions, moisturizers, gels and facial cleansers and will work better if you leave it on your skin longer. For those with sensitive skin, however, it may not be best to leave this on.
There are also available BHA peels in the market and oftentimes, products only contain 2% of salicylic acid. With BHAs, it is important to start slow and gradually build up treatment to avoid skin irritation.
When oral and topical antibiotics fail and when topical retinoid is not doing enough work, most people with acne are advised by dermatologists to go for isotretinoin.
Isotretinoin is an oral retinoid that was developed in the 1950s. Originally, it was known as Accutane. This retinoid is often used only used for severe acne—that is, having cystic or nodular acne. It is one of the most effective medication for treatment of acne, in general.
Isotretinoin works by shrinking the oil glands which is far too often the largest contributor to acne problems. Without these active oil glands, acne will disappear. That being said, there will be a reduction in the production of sebum or oil. Furthermore, this retinoid also has anti-inflammatory properties and will inhibit grown of bacteria.
Most isotretinoin courses are limited to 4 to 7 months in order to reduce the risk of congenital abnormalities. However, it may also be prescribed for several years but in low dosage or through an intermittent manner. When taking isotretinoin, it is best to take it with milk or water after eating. You can also take it in an empty stomach.
However, its effectiveness comes with certain side effects such as dry skin, dry lips, elevated triglycerides and cholesterol and in cases of pregnancy, birth defects. This is why the use of isotretinoin should be with precaution.
Taking isotretinoin should always be under the advice and monitoring of a medical professional and not just by yourself as this may be very dangerous for you. Because of its possible long-term side effects, the use of isotretinoin is not something dermatologists just toss around. That being said, people who are trying to get rid of acne should avoid, at all costs, buying isotretinoin products sold online and taking it without the supervision of a medical professional.
- Laser Treatments
With the rise of technology, the ways to get rid of back acne and general acne have also evolved from just natural homemade remedies to advanced laser treatments.
Costing a couple of hundred dollars for every session, laser therapy often aims to prevent papules and pustules but seems to have lesser effect on comedones. Lasers work in such a way that they excite porphyrins or the compounds that live within the bacteria. When porphyrins become excited, they tend to damage the walls of the bacteria and in effect, the bacteria is killed. Aside from this, laser treatments also help reduce other symptoms of acne as there is reduction in bacteria. It may also reduce oil levels of the skin.
Common side effects when undergoing laser treatments for acne include pain or discomfort, during the procedure, redness, inflammation, peeling, crusting or blistering. And in some cases, there could be skin darkening which makes it essential for those undergoing the treatment to try as much as possible to avoid sun exposure.
As for its effectiveness, studies have shown that it is effective. However, there are cases wherein follow-ups are not done and so, the effectiveness is also affected. But overall, all studies have shown that laser treatments, indeed, improve the symptoms of acne.
There are also situations wherein bacteria grow back quickly and so acne problems come back, this tells us that lase treatment is best paired with other forms of acne treatments in order to ensure a completely acne-free face and body.
One common laser treatment for acne is Intense Pulse Light Therapy (IPL), also referred to as Photo Facial, is said to destroy bacteria and prevent future breakouts while eliminating current ones. In some cases, IPL is combined with Fraxel, another laser treatment targeting the scars, to achieve clear skin.
Let us face it—having back acne or acne, in general, truly affects the way we see ourselves as well as how we feel about ourselves. We cannot deny that besides feeling the actual pain of pimples popping and stinging treatments, having acne also shakes our confidence and gives rise to our insecurities. They often cause us embarrassment and unwanted attention which, sometimes, is accompanied by bullying.
Needless to say, acne has such a massive effect in our self-esteem. With that, we must not take this skin problem lightly but rather seriously. In cases wherein it is mild, home remedies may do the magic and as for those cases in moderate level, retinoids and antibiotics may do the work. But when we are dealing with recurring moderate to severe acne, we will realize that there may be no single treatment for this problem and perhaps, it may be best for us to approach this issue at a more holistic level. Even for mild cases and for all other cases, incorporating lifestyle changes as well as other treatments, may they be oral, topical or technological, might just be what will free our body from acne.