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How to get rid of bacne fast, according to skin experts

Acne doesn't only affect the skin on our faces. Put simply, stress and blocked pores can show up anywhere on the body but especially as ‘bacne’, otherwise known as back acne. This is because the upper torso has more oil-producing glands than elsewhere on the body, making it a finicky beast when it comes to lifestyle and beauty habits as well as skincare choices.

While breakouts are just as common on the back and neck as on the face, bacne comes with its own specific set of challenges.

There's no blanket approach to treat bumps and, in a strange twist of fate, just because you get spots on the face doesn't automatically mean you will also get body acne. According to cosmetic dermatologist Dr Sam Bunting, only 15% of people who get facial acne will also suffer from body acne.

No wonder bacne is so shrouded in mystery. We know what to do if our acne is hormonal, the specific ingredients to incorporate into our regimes, and the treatments to tackle acne scarring. But when it comes to our backs, it's a problem we tend to ignore for most of the year – that is, until the warmer months roll around and we start reaching for those off-the-shoulder outfits and strappy summer dresses.

Really though, we shouldn't be waiting to treat bacne or simply covering it up with a jumper during the winter months. Neglecting the condition will only make it harder to treat in the long run.

The good news is, simple tweaks to our daily personal care routines can make a huge difference and they're easier to implement than you think. So if you're keen to get rid of your bacne once and for all, here's what you need to know according to the skincare experts.

What is ‘bacne’ or back acne?

Bacne is acne that occurs (yep, you guessed it) on your upper back and shoulders, since these areas contain the most sebaceous glands. It is exceptionally common and can appear as bumps, whiteheads or blackheads as well as more severe cystic acne.

What causes bacne?

Back acne develops in the same way as spots on the face. "Excess sebum production combined with the build-up of dead skin cell, and bacteria can result in blocked pores", says dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk. "The skin on our backs is extremely thick so the potential for this happening is very high", she adds.

“The accumulation of oil and dead skin cells in our pores creates an ideal environment for a particular bacterium called 'propionibacterium' acne to thrive," she continues. "This triggers inflammation in the skin leading to angry red bumps and pus-filled spots."

Bacne can be caused by:

Changes in hormones: If you're pregnant or going through puberty you are more likely to get bacne and acne breakouts.

Excessive sweating – "Body acne is more probable during the summer, if you work out regularly and if your skin is already acne-prone", says Julie Morris, an aesthetic nurse at Effortless Skin. Sweat can get trapped between your skin and your clothing. When it does, your pores can get clogged because the bacteria that causes acne thrives in moist, damp conditions. So keeping your sweaty sports gear on for hours creates the perfect storm.

Hair products: Having long hair can cause bacne because the oil from your lengthy locks, combined with hair products, can be deposited on your back.

Friction: Backpacks, sports equipment and non-breathable clothing can rub against sweaty skin, causing blocked pores.

Skincare products: Fragrance and comedogenic ingredients in your shower gel and body lotion can inflame and clog pores.

Stress and anxiety: Both cause the body to produce more of the stress hormone cortisol, which, in turn, prompts sebaceous glands to produce more oil.

Different types of back acne

As with facial acne, there are different types of bacne:

• Mild: Mostly whiteheads and blackheads, caused by plugged follicles, with a few papules and pus-filled pustules.

• Moderate: More widespread whiteheads and blackheads, with many papules and pustules.

• Severe: Lots of large, painful papules, pustules or cysts, which may result in some acne scarring.

How to clear up your bacne

There are simple steps we can take daily to help curb breakouts on the back and neck:

1. Shower immediately after working out

Bacteria loves warm, moist conditions so it's important to remove your gym clothes as soon as possible, especially bra tops, and make sure skin is sweat-free and clean.

“Wash your skin in the shower every day, using a loofah or wash cloth to help achieve a thorough cleanse,” says Dr Kluk. This is even more important if you've just worked out as the build up of sweat and dirt inside your clothes can block pores and trigger breakouts.

Also good to have on your radar is Lululemon’s Silverescent workout gear. We love the Swiftly Tech Racerback Tank Top, which is woven with the line's antibacterial silver yarn to help keep skin bacteria and sweat-free.

2. Wash bras after every wear (or every other wear at least)

While we wouldn't dream of wearing the same pair of pants two days in a row, many of us fail to wash our bras regularly enough. “However, if you're experiencing bacne, it's more important to make sure your bra is clean as bad bacteria can build up on the straps,” says Dr Kluk.

3. Don’t pick, squeeze or scratch your spots

“This increases inflammation and can open up the skin to even more harmful bacteria, potentially causing infections,” warns Dr Kluk. “Plus, spots are more likely to result in scarring after they have been picked.”

4. Change your sheets, pillow cases and towels regularly

Your bed linen can collect oil, dead skin cells, bacteria and residue from hair, skin and body products if you're not changing it once a week.

While there’s no definitive scientific evidence that silk pillowcases can stop bacne, they do have several benefits. For a start, silk is softer than cotton so there's less friction, which can cause inflammation and make spots worse. Silk is also less absorbent than cotton so there's less chance of your neck and shoulders rubbing against moisture and grime.

Silk pillowcase brand Slip was born when acne sufferer and company co-founder, Fiona Stewart, was prescribed a silk pillowcase by her dermatologist.

Silver-treated bed linen such as Aeyla's Clean Silver Sheets and Silvi's The Anti-Acne Silk Pillowcase are also good options as they have silver yarn woven throughout. Silver ions are positively charged while bacteria has a negative charge so, when in the same environment, they cancel each other out.

5. Avoid putting pressure on your back

Backpacks, in particular, can cause friction and trap sweat against your clothes, which is the perfect storm for a bacne breakout. One option is to wear a clean cotton T-shirt as a buffer; otherwise switch to a handheld bag.

6. Steer clear of oil-based body care

Where possible, avoid using body care laced with oils or comedogenic ingredients such as cocoa butter and coconut oil, says Dr Bunting. When in doubt, look for products that are labelled ‘noncomedogenic’, which means they are unlikely to clog pores.

7. Upgrade your shower gel

Regular body washes aren’t going to cut it if you are suffering from bacne. Instead, look for a body wash or cleansing bar that is unscented and contains the ingredients salicylic acid, glycolic acid or lactic acid.

Additionally, "use an exfoliating scrub in the shower two or three times per week to prevent dead skin cells from building up and blocking your pores,” advises Dr Kluk.

Beauty Pie AcidEnzyme Exfoliating Face & Body Cleanser is a light foam brimming with salicylic acid and papaya enzymes to dislodge blockages in pores. Zitsticka may be best known for its pimple patches, but the Silkshake Probiotic-Rich Body Wash with antibacterial tea tree is a good first port of call to deep cleanse acne-prone skin.

Another solid option is Carbon Theory Charcoal & Tea Tree Oil Exfoliating Body Soap Bar, as charcoal hoovers up impurities and La Roche-Posay Effaclar Purifying Foaming Gel is just as efficient at lifting away excess oil and bacteria on the body as it is on the face.

In a video she created to help back acne sufferers, Dr Bunting reveals this handy tip using CeraVe SA Smoothing Cleanser. “Leave it on the skin for a couple of minutes as this allows the salicylic acid to get into pores and have an effect,” she says, before adding that after rinsing you should always pat rather than rub skin dry as “breakout prone skin doesn't like friction”.

8. Apply these acne creams for the face to the back

Similarly, apply body lotions containing salicylic acid or acne creams that were originally designed for the face to the back to curb breakouts. “The back is typically very tolerant of actives and can handle a twice daily regime,” Dr Bunting notes.

Murad Blemish Control Clarifying Body Spray contains menthol, salicylic acid and niacinamide to go deep within the hair follicles to remove blockages, and Paula's Choice 2% BHA Body Spot Exfoliant can be applied after cleansing to prevent blocked pores.

Also good is the REN AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum, with exfoliating AHAs and a probiotic to calm and strengthen your skin barrier, or dot The Ordinary Salicylic Acid 2% Solution onto affected areas. If acne marks are also an issue, try the Dr Sam Bunting Flawless Neutralising Gel, a combination of azelaic acid, bakuchiol and salicylic acid.

Stinky smell aside, sulfur is another good ingredient for any type of acne as it is anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and super absorbent as it works to mop up excess oil on the skin's surface. You'll find it in Malin + Goetz 10% Sulfur Paste and Dermalogica Deep Breakout Liquid Patch, which transforms from a liquid to a breathable layer over blemishes to promote quick healing.

Finally, while benzoyl peroxide is typically recommended for facial acne, it is best avoided on the back as it can bleach bedsheets and clothes.

9. Get professional help

If you’ve tried all of these things and are still struggling to get on top of your breakouts, or are aware of developing scars, see a dermatologist who can advise you on prescription treatment.

This article was originally published on Glamour UK.

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