Photo: Cristiano Brizzi of Facibeni Fotografia
From plunging strappy styles, and sheer panels to pretty cutouts, there's nothing more swoon-worthy than a backless wedding dress to make a memorable statement at all angles. But as excited as you are to find the dress that's the one, it can also be nerve-racking if you're dealing with back acne.
"Bacne is harder to treat since the skin on your back is thicker and more difficult to access," says Jennifer Linder, M.D. board certified dermatologist and chief scientific officer for PCA Skin. "On top of genetics, hormones, and, of course, wedding planning stress, pore-clogging hair products, tight clothing, sweaty workout clothes and bedding can all be triggers for back acne." But if you start a regimen early (at least six months to a year before the big day), it's possible to find over-the-counter products that combat annoying breakouts in time for your wedding. Below, we bring you the best advice straight from the best skin pros in the biz for combatting those unsightly back pimples.
1. Start with a benzoyl peroxide body wash.
Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide are the two most common acne-fighting ingredients in over-the-counter products. "Benzoyl peroxide acts primarily as an antibacterial agent, but also removes excess oil," says dermatologist Dr. Sejal Shah. "Though it's safe for your skin, it's known to bleach clothing." The PanOxyl Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Creamy Wash is effective, but since it washes off in the shower, it'll be less likely to stain your clothes. "Use a loofah to reach the tricky areas of your back, and leave it on for five minutes to get the most of its benefits before washing it off," says Dr. Shah. (Benzoyl peroxide acne creamy wash, $11.99, PanOxyl available at Walgreens)
2. Take it easy on the scrubs.
"Daily exfoliation can be too much for skin that's broken out and potentially inflamed," says Dr. Linder. If you're looking for a deeper cleanse, slather on a back mask once a week instead. "You can alternate between a clay-type mask like PCA Purifying Mask that draws outs impurities and has subtle exfoliants or an enzyme mask that eats away at dirt and impurities without sloughing away and irritating your skin. PCA Revitalizing Mask is an enzyme-based option that also calms your skin with honey and papaya." (Purifying and revitalizing masks, $56 each, PCA Skin)
3. Slather on a soothing moisturizer.
Acne medications tend to be very drying so it's important to keep your back hydrated and wear loose, breathable clothing. "Moisturizers should be clearly labeled as 'oil-free' and 'non-comedogenic,' which means it won't exacerbate breakouts," says dermatologist Dr. Rachel Nazarian of Schweiger Dermatology Group. "Look for lotions or gels — rather than creams or ointments — because they are lightweight and will absorb quickly into your skin. Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion is a derm-approved favorite. (Moisturizing lotion, $10.79, Cetaphil available at Target)
4. Spritz on a salicylic acid treatment spray.
While benzoyl peroxide is great in the shower, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (or BHA) that acts primarily as an exfoliating agent, but also has some anti-inflammatory activity that can reduce oil on your skin. "I generally find it works well as a leave-on product and it tends to complement sensitive skin better than benzoyl peroxide," says Dr. Shah. "Murad Clarifying Body Spray makes it easy to treat the middle of your back with its 360 degree nozzle — it even sprays upside down." (Clarifying body spray, $40, Murad available at Sephora)
5. Generously apply SPF.
Wearing SPF on your wedding day is important when you're wearing a backless dress, but it's just as essential year-round, too. "Many topical acne medications will make your skin more susceptible to burning, even if you're wearing clothes covering your skin," says Dr. Nazarian. "Clothing doesn't block all ultraviolet light. Always use a sunscreen that's broad spectrum, oil-fee and non-comedogenic (much like your regular moisturizer) and contains a minimum SPF 30. La Roche-Posay Anthelios 60 is super lightweight too and doesn't cause breakouts." ("Anthelios 60" sunscreen lotion spray, $35, La Roche-Posay)
See More: Why You're Still Breaking Out (and What to Do About It Before You Get Married!)
6. Carry medicated wipes.
"Dermalogica Skin Purifying Wipes are towelettes saturated with salicylic acid acne medication making it easy to throw in your bag and discreetly apply during the day. Use it after a workout when you can't shower right away to remove excess oil and sweat that clog up your pores," says Dr. Shah. (Skin purifying wipes, $19, Dermalogica)
If you're still not seeing improvement within a few months, you may have more severe acne that needs prescription-strength treatment. See a dermatologist to figure out your best back acne game plan.