Acne on the back, or "bacne" as it is commonly reffered to, can be harder to treat than facial acne. Blemishes are often deep and highly inflamed. Large cystic breakouts and nodules often occur. These serious lesions can cause significant scarring. Often, acne on the back and body needs to be treated aggressively with help from your dermatologist.If your back acne is mild, and you only have occasional breakouts, you may be able to get sufficient clearing benefit from on over-the-counter body wash. Look for one containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Use it every day, but don't scrub the skin too aggressively as that may actually cause acne to worsen.
Some common body washes made for body acne include:
- Murad Acne Body Wash (salicylic acid)
- Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash (salicylic acid)
- Phisoderm Anti-blemish Body Wash (salicylic acid)
- AcneFree Acne Body Wash (benzoyl peroxide)
- OXY Body Wash (benzoyl peroxide)
If you aren't getting good results from your OTC products after a few weeks, it's time to see your doctor. Don't wait. Mild breakouts can quickly progress into something more severe.
Your dermatologist may suggest a benzoyl peroxide gel, lotion or cleanser. Lower concentrations of this medication can be found over-the-counter at the drugstore. Stronger prescriptions are also available. The back can generally tolerate higher percentages than the face.
Benzoyl peroxide gels or lotions are to be applied to a cleansed back once or twice daily. It can stain your clothing, so wait until it's fully dry before you get dressed (cleansers are used once or twice a day and don't pose as great of staining risk).
Your doctor may also prescribe topical antibiotics. Like benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotics are applied to cleansed skin once or twice a day. They work by killing the bacterium that causes acne breakouts. Topical retinoids, such as Differin, are also commonly used.
To get moderate to severe back acne under control, you'll probably need an oral medication as well as topical treatments. Oral antibiotics commonly prescribed to help with back breakouts include:
Acne on the body can be irritated by sweat, so make sure you shower right after a workout. Anything that traps heat against the skin, or causes friction, can also worsen breakouts. This includes sports equipment, backpacks, purse and bra straps, and tight clothing. Try to limit these triggers as much as you can.
It can take a lot of time to successfully clear a case of back acne, so try to be patient. You have to be very consistent with your medications and daily skin care routine. If you don't feel like your medications are working, let your dermatologist know. It can take several tries before finding the treatment, or treatments, that works for you. With time, consistency, and help from your dermatologist, you can get your breakouts under control.
"Questions and Answers About Acne." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). Jan 2006. National Institutes of Health.
"What is Acne?" AcneNet. 2007. American Academy of Dermatology. 27 Sep 2008.