Ah… bacne. How much we love to hate you…
They say our body is a temple and we should treat it as such. We agree with whoever “they” are. Sure, facial acne sucks and most of our attention is focused on chasing away any zits on our nose or forehead but having dozens of them scattered throughout your body isn’t much better.
Bacne makes skin look unattractive. It also ruins people’s confidence. No one wants to be afraid of taking their shirt off because they have ugly zits and acne scars underneath. Our physical hang ups and imperfections can get into our heads but we can take steps to improve upon them. That’s our goal and the reason we’re writing this.
By following this guide not only will you be one step closer to looking your best, but you’ll also gain confidence knowing that whenever your clothes do come off you’re revealing the best possible version of yourself.
First some background information:
Bacne as the name implies, is acne that forms on your back. But when we talk about bacne in this guide, we’re talking about acne found anywhere on the body except for the face and neck. You can have bacne pop up on your shoulders, arms, chest and even your butt.
Why do we get bacne anyways? For similar reasons we get acne on our face. Namely, clogged pores, overactive sebaceous glands, and hormones (We’re going to have an entire series on acne coming very soon!).
There also isn’t much of a difference between the types of acne you get on your face. Whiteheads, blackheads, cysts, pustules – all are just as likely to form on your body as they are on your cheeks or forehead.
The difference between facial acne and bacne lies in the way we treat them. Because your face has thinner and more sensitive skin than the rest of your body, we take a slightly different approach to treating bacne.
So without further ado, here’s our routine for treating bacne.
A Bacne Routine That Works
Step 0: Get Your Diet in Check
If you’ve read any of our other skin care articles, you know by now that we preach a healthy diet as the foundation of great skin. Giving your body the nutrients it needs to maintain and repair your skin will do a greater amount of good towards your effort than any of the other treatments outlined below.
That’s why this is Step 0: a prerequisite to the more specific advice we give below. Topical treatments like those in Steps 1-4 , treat the symptoms of bacne but we want to get to the root cause. Here’s our guide on skin nutrition which talks about the nutrients and foods you should and shouldn’t be eating. If you haven’t already, read that first before you read the rest of this guide.
Trust us – if your diet is poor, you’re making it much harder to see progress from using the routine below.
Step 1: Body Wash With Salicylic Acid
Okay now assuming you’ve got your diet in check, Step 1 of treating your bacne will come in the shower. You’ll want to use a body wash that contains salicylic acid at about 2% concentration.
Salicylic acid acts as an exfoliant which means it will remove the dull-looking older skin cells laying on top of the younger cells below. Salicylic acid does this by working underneath the surface of the skin, getting past any oil and grime and unclogging pores. This is beneficial because clogged pores and oily skin are what help bacne thrive.
You’ll want to focus on applying the body wash on your problem areas, and letting the wash do its job for a minute of two before rinsing it off with water.
Neutrogena’s Body Clear Body Wash is a good starter option (contains 2% salicylic acid) and is one of the most popular body washes around (you’ve probably seen it in your local Walmart or drugstore).
If you have sensitive skin we recommend using something like Cerave’s Renewing S.A. Cleanser instead. It also contains salicylic acid but unlike Neutrogena contains no synthetic fragrances which are one of the most common skin irritants in skincare products.
Step 2: Exfoliate Using AHAs, BHAs and/or Physical Scrubs
Step two can be done either in the shower or once you get out.
As mentioned above, exfoliation will remove older cells and reveal the younger cells underneath. We’re going to take exfoliation one step further by doing it another time. Unlike treating the acne on our face, we can use physical exfoliants, such as a scrub or loofah to help scrape off dead skin cells and unclog your pores. Your body’s skin is much less sensitive and can handle the scrubbing your face otherwise couldn’t.
Applying AHA exfoliating ingredients like glycolic or lactic acid to your loofah or body scrub combines both physical and chemical exfoliation into one.
Quick Word About AHAs
AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) exfoliators work only the surface of your skin unlike BHAs and salicylic acid which work both the surface and underneath. This doesn’t mean they’re inferior, they just work differently and have the added benefit of improving skin hydration thanks to their natural moisturizing properties.
If you have pustules or pimples that hurt, be very gentle or better yet, avoid scrubbing over them altogether so you don’t irritate them even further.
Scrubbing is best used on acne that isn’t heavily inflamed. How can you tell? They’ll appear as red or purplish marks (called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) on your skin and they won’t hurt as much when you use the scrub.
If you’re looking for a heavy duty body scrub try the TopNotch Body Brush. It comes with a 14 inch handle (great if you can’t reach every part of your back using only your hands) and has stiff bristles so no need to scrub extra hard.
For an AHA exfoliator, try Paula’s Choice RESIST Skin Revealing Body Lotion. It contains a mixture of gylcolic acid and antioxidants making it well-tolerated for most skin types. Apply to your scrub or loofah and then focus on touching up your problem areas. Again this doesn’t have to be your back. It could be anywhere on your body.
Step 3: Moisturize With Lotion
After you’ve finished exfoliating using 2 different products, you’ll definitely want to use a body lotion that’ll add some moisture back to your skin. After exfoliation, your body’s skin will have become dry which isn’t necessarily a good thing. Dry skin can eventually overcompensate by producing even more oil than before. By moisturizing, you make sure your skin gets the hydration it needs to avoid feeling tight and inelastic.
Again, focus on your problem areas and use products that are labeled non-comedogenic (basically meaning they won’t aggravate your acne any further).
You likely already have a favorite body lotion or moisturizer so we’ll spare you the recommendations here but if you’re really at a loss for what to use leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to recommend one specifically for you.
Step 4: Spot Treatment
To spot treat bacne, you’re going to use benzoyl peroxide. Depending on how sensitive your skin is, you’ll want to start out by using a smaller concentration, say 2.5% before building your way up. Your skin becomes tolerant of benzoyl peroxide so once the 2.5% concentration wears off in effectiveness, after say a few weeks, move on to the 5%. You shouldn’t have to go any further than 10% and we recommend that you don’t because there have been studies which suggest 2.5% is just as effective as 10%.
Truth be told, benzoyl peroxide is a hit or miss for many people. If you’ve tried BP products in the past and find they didn’t work well for you (not even 2%), you wouldn’t be hurting yourself much by skipping this step.
Benzoyl peroxide is available both over the counter and with a prescription for larger concentrations. Simply apply a small amount of benzoyl peroxide by rubbing it over whatever whiteheads, pustules or blackheads you have.
So remember, after you leave the shower and apply your moisturizing lotion, that’s when you’ll want to spot treat problem areas. Some people like switching this step with the previous one — moisturizing after treating with BP but it doesn’t make too much of a difference. If you find the benzoyl peroxide is drying out your skin too much then moisturizing afterwards would be ideal.
Almost any brand of benzyoyl peroxide will do here as long as it’s the right concentration (under 10%). We prefer Acne.org’s Benzoyl Peroxide Treatment simply because it’s formulated using so little secondary ingredients (reducing the chances of irritation) and doesn’t turn white.
Optional Step: Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt aka magnesium sulfate is a chemical compound that has been well known for its benefits related to relieving joint pain, aiding muscle recovery, and reducing soreness.
There is also anecdotal evidence that Epsom salt is effective in treating bacne.
Although there haven’t been any scientific studies, many people have reported success and claim to have seen results in as little as a week. How does it work? Some of the salt supposedly gets absorbed through your skin which allows its healing properties to work from the inside out.
Even though we’re hesitant to recommend it since there hasn’t been a single study proving its effectiveness we still believe it’s worth giving it a try simply because we’ve heard so many good things about it. If anything, you’ll take a relaxing bath which is sure to relieve some stress.
All you need to do is take about a cup or two (depending on the size of your tub) of the salt and pour it into the water. Lay back for about half an hour, let your skin soak up the salt, and see what happens. A quick Google search of “epsom salt bacne” will show you hundreds of testimonials. Others have made creams out of Epsom and used it for their facial acne. Try it out and tell us your experience.
Now that you have a good routine down pat, let’s take a look at some other changes you can make to help prevent bacne from forming in the first place.
Wear Clean and Loose Clothing
You should make a conscious effort to only wear clean clothes. Used clothing filled with sweat and oil secreted by your skin will stick to the material which will then stick to your back clogging pores and encouraging bacne.
Change your shirt regularly, after exercising, and when you get home from work or school. Also try wearing looser clothing which will allow your skin to “breathe” and avoid having it tightly snug to your back or shoulders which are the two biggest problem areas for most people. And make sure your laundry detergent isn’t irritating your skin. Try a different one out for a while and see if it makes a difference.
Shower After Exercise
Showering after a gym workout or whenever you sweat is a must. Letting the sweat just dry off your skin won’t do you any favors You may also find that it helps just showering more often in general.
One thing to remember though is to use cooler water before you leave and warmer water when you’re going through your routine. Warm water will open up your pores while cold water will close them. You want your pores to be open so the body wash and salicylic acid can do their job. Before you get out gradually change the water temperature to cool or even cold if you can handle it which will seal off your pores and protect them from bacne causing bacteria while they’re still vulnerable.
Clean Your Bed Sheets
This is especially important if you sleep with no shirt or no clothes on. A common tip for facial acne is to change your pillow sheets because bacteria, sweat, and dirt build up which your face then rests pm for several hours a night. The same logic goes for the rest of your body’s skin. Change your sheets regularly and keep them clean so you aren’t laying in an environment that makes your bacne worse.
Bacne may seem impossible to treat but if you follow this routine diligently we’re confident you’ll see results. Don’t neglect your skin! Our appearance is the sum of numerous parts and improving one part improves the whole.
Good luck and tell us about your experience (especially if you’ve used Epsom salt for treating bacne). We’re always interested in learning from others and your experience can help others struggling with the same issue.