Blackheads and pimples don’t only appear on the face. For some, acne breakouts can be more widespread, affecting larger areas of the body. Besides the face, acne commonly occurs on the back, chest, neck, shoulders, and upper arms.
Back acne, sometimes called “bacne,” is fairly common among acne sufferers. Back and body acne affects males and females, teens and adults. However, body acne is more common, and often more severe, in males.
What Causes Back and Body Acne?
Body acne is caused by the same factors that trigger facial acne: overactive oil glands, excess dead skin cells, and a proliferation of acne-causing bacteria. Oil and dead skin cells become trapped within the follicle, or pore, and create a blockage. This blockage becomes a blackhead and may progress to a pimple, if bacteria invade.
Rubbing or pressure on the skin can irritate already inflamed follicles and exacerbate breakouts. It’s best to avoid sources of friction when you’re trying to heal body acne. Sources of friction include: tight-fitting clothing, too-snug collars, backpacks, purse straps, and athletic pads or gear.
Sweat can also irritate body acne. To minimize irritation, shower as soon as possible after exercising. Do not scrub the skin, even with a loofah or body puff. Remember, you want to avoid friction. A thorough, but gentle cleansing -- preferably with a salicylic acid wash -- is better than a vigorous scrubbing.
Treatments for Body Acne
Mild body acne often responds to good daily skin care and over-the-counter treatments. Try using a salicylic acid wash every day. Pads containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid can be wiped over affected areas. You may also want to try a lotion containing an alpha hydroxy acid, such as glycolic or lactic acid. Alpha hydroxy acids help to speed cell turnover, rapidly exfoliating the skin and reducing the number of pore blockages.
If you notice excessive irritation, dryness or peeling on any area of the body, scale back or discontinue use of the treatment product, and consult your doctor.
As with facial acne, it takes time to control body acne. You will most likely have to try several treatment products or medications before finding the one that works best for you. Fortunately, most cases of acne can be successfully cleared, given time and patience.