Whether you’ve opted for a sexy backless wedding dress silhouette for the big day, or are simply just hoping for clear and glowing skin, nothing can put a damper on things more than “bacne,”—a.k.a., back acne. Don’t stress, though! We’re here to help.
Brides spoke with Joshua Zeichner M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, for some info and advice on how to combat and prevent those pesky pimples from popping up.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the causes of acne on the back are actually the same as those that cause acne on the face. Zeichner explains, “Acne is caused by high levels of oil production in your follicles which promote growth of acne-causing bacteria. The oil gets trapped beneath cells that stick together in your pores, leading to inflammation.”
Additionally, he notes that chests and backs have a high concentration of oil glands, “making it a high risk location for breakouts.” Sweat can also get trapped underneath your clothing, which also puts your back at risk.
Luckily, there are some steps you can take to prevent bacne. First, be conscious of your clothing. “Make sure to wear workout clothes made of moisture wicking fabrics,” Zeichner advises. He also recommends avoiding sitting in wet or sweaty clothing, and to make sure to shower as soon as possible after working out. Fit matters, too. “Try to avoid tight-fitting clothing that can encourage sweat and oil to become trapped on the skin.”
In terms of products, sunscreen is always a must—especially during summer months—but be sure to opt for oil-free sunscreens. “Just as some products can cause breakouts on the face, they can do the same on the chest or the back,” explains Zeichner.
You may have heard that a leading factor in skincare is nutrition, and bacne is no exception. To avoid breakouts on your back from the inside out, it’s best to avoid high glycemic index foods, as Zeichner says they have been shown to spike blood sugar and promote inflammation which can cause breakouts in some people.
He adds, “try to stay away from foods that are high in sugar and starch. Rather than processed carbohydrates, stick to whole grains.”
Dairy can also be a culprit for breakouts. “Cow’s milk, particularly skim milk, has been shown to be associated with layers of acne in some people. Try a milk substitute like almond milk instead,” Zeichner says.
Additionally, if you’ve been adding whey protein to your morning smoothies, you may want to avoid that too, as it has been shown to cause breakouts in some people as well.
The first line of defense against back breakouts begins with a cleanser. “Because the back is such a large surface area and difficult to reach, cleansers are a great option. Even though they are called cleansers, think of them more as short-contact treatments,” says Zeichner. He explains, “You should apply them to the skin, let them sit and lather while you sing the alphabet, then rinse off.”
Exfoliation is key, too. It’s recommended to use an exfoliating body wash that can help clear away dead cells from your skin's surface. For example, Zeichner says Dove Exfoliating Body Wash is a great choice.
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On extra sweaty days and post-workout, it’s especially important to pay attention to how you care for your skin. While you may know this for your face, it’s just as important for your body. In these conditions, Zeichner says to look for a salicylic acid-containing scrub to help remove excess oil from the surface of the skin, like Neutrogena Acne Proofing Scrub.
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If you’re already dealing with back breakouts, pick up a product that contains benzoyl peroxide. “Benzoyl peroxide reduces the levels of acne causing bacteria, helps open up the pimples, and can reduce inflammation,” Zeichner says, adding that Clean and Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser with 10 percent benzoyl peroxide is a good choice.
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And finally, if you have a "big angry pimple,” it’s best to visit your dermatologist for a cortisone shot. These shots, according to Zeichner, “can help reduce inflammation in 24 hours.”
In fact, Zeichner’s own go-to emergency kit to treat an angry pimple is to combine 2 percent salicylic acid, 2.5 percent benzoyl peroxide, and 1 percent hydrocortisone cream.
Don’t Do It!
No matter how tempting, when dealing with bacne (and all breakouts, really) you must avoid picking and scratching—especially those red angry pimples beneath the surface of the skin. Zeichner warns that it causes more harm than good and can lead to permanent marks or scars.
The Bottom Line
Bottom line? If you’re breaking out, especially as your wedding day draws near, it’s best to visit a board certified dermatologist right away.
Zeichner explains, “Acne medications take several weeks to exert their full effect, so you don’t want to leave your acne treatment to the last minute.”