Even with so much information on acne available, there are still a lot of questions about the most common skin condition in the US Specifically, how does acne on our bodies differ than the acne on our faces? Also, why do people get back acne, or “bacne,” how can you reduce it, and how do you treat an area you can’t even reach? Here, skin-care experts explain how to tackle it and the scars it leaves behind.
What It Is
“Bacne” is usually a condition that happens alongside normal acne, explains Omaha, NE dermatologist Joel Schlessinger, MD. Genetics and diet can factor in, but “bacne” is typically the result of an accumulation of dead skin cells and oil in pores, combined with an overgrowth of a common skin bacteria. “There are, however, many situations where it can occur without accompanying acne,” he adds. “In my patients, I often find that milk and milk products, such as cheese or yogurt, can cause acne to flare due to the hormones that are inside of milk. I ask my patients to switch to almond or oat milk as they have none of the hormones and all the ‘good stuff’ that can help build bones and maintain health.”
“Nourishing yourself through whole food sources, choosing organic fruits, vegetables, and protein sources free of hormones and antibiotics, as well as limiting or avoiding processed foods and refined sugars can be very helpful for ‘bacne’,” adds New York dermatologist Libby Rhee MD. “Drinking plenty of water and avoiding alcohol, flavored sodas (even diet), and juices from concentrate are also nutritional choices that can be helpful when combating truncal acne.”
How to Treat It
The best way to prevent “bacne” scars from forming is to frequently cleanse the skin to prevent and treat active pimples and to decrease, says Beverly Hills, CA oculoplastic Surgeon Christopher Zoumalan, MD. “Body cleansers with ingredients such as salicylic acid can help unclog pores and reduce swelling. It is important to moisturize the skin after cleansing with an oil-free body lotion that will balance the skin but not clog pores.”
Our experts also recommend using a loofah or exfoliating gloves with a gentle exfoliating cleanser in the shower. “Make sure not to scrub the skin too aggressively, which can compromise the skin’s moisture barrier and lead to irritation and potentially even more acne down the road,” shares Dr. Rhee.
“Showering after a workout, wearing sweat-wicking clothing, keeping your hair tied up and off your back, and exfoliating with a alphahydroxy or betahydroxy acid regularly can help prevent back acne,” adds New York dermatologist Jody A. Levine, MD. “Washing your back with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser daily is effective as well.”
Do This, Not That
The experts say it’s crucial to not pick at or try to pop any pimples on your back, as this will damage skin and make scars more likely. “Salicylic acid, retinoids, alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), and lactic acid may help the appearance of ‘bacne’ scars and improve the texture of the skin,” adds Dr. Zoumalan.
Choose an exfoliating body cream as they are able to target scarring and textural concerns as they moisturize. “There are a few such as ISDIN’s Uradin Lotion 10 ($39) and CeraVe SA Lotion for Rough & Bumpy Skin ($19) with salicylic acid,” says Dr. Rhee. “Finally, incorporating a topical retinoid into your back skin care routine is super helpful since retinoids are clinically proven to improve the appearance of scars and skin texture over time. I love RoDerm’s CustomRx tretinoin-based creams because they are super effective and feel good.”
The thicker, more raised hypertrophic scars are the most common type of scars caused by “bacne.” “If they become pitted or thickened over time or have a purple or reddish pigmentation, specially formulated appearance scar creams, like Skinuva Scar Cream ($75), may be beneficial in improving the appearance of the scarring,” Dr. Zoumalan explains. “Carefully applying it over the acne scar twice a day can help flatten and reduce the hyperpigmentation associated with acne scars.”
According to Dr. Schlessinger, you’d have better luck ensuring you don’t get a scar in the first place than treating an existing one, but if nothing else works there are in-office solutions that can help. “We often inject a mild steroid into these areas,” he says. “Many acne scars are still ‘active’ and the treatment of the acne can lead to resolution of the ‘scar’.”
“Chemical peels and lasers can prevent acne or enhance healing of acne and reduce the pigmentation and discoloration caused by acne, as well as improve skin tone and texture,” adds Dr. Levine. “Microdermabrasion can decongest pores and small comedones. Extractions or acne surgery is also a good treatment.”
“If you experience recurring cases, it is important to speak with your dermatologist to address the potential cause of your ‘bacne’ and identify the best active treatment for you to prevent future scarring,” adds Dr. Zoumalan.
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