Ask The Beauty Editor: What’s The Best Way To Clear Up Back Acne?

By Ashleigh Cometti
Collage / Julia Gessler

Dear Beauty Editor,

Now that the weather’s warming up, I’m keen to retrieve my summer options from the back of my wardrobe. But the thought of donning shoe-string straps is stressing me out, considering the pesky pimples that have taken up residence on my shoulders and upper back lately.



Spotty Shoulders

Dear Spotty Shoulders,

You’re not alone — more than half of people who struggle with acne also find it crops up on their back or body, which is equivalent to roughly 50 million people in the United States alone.

While back or body acne most often starts during puberty, it’s become increasingly common in adults, too. Caroline Parker, head of education for Dermalogica New Zealand, says while hormonal influences have a part to play in bacne cropping up for teens (plus their propensity to increased physical activity from playing sport, etc.), adults can experience bacne too — especially when there is a combination of sweat and friction caused from wearing tighter clothing.

But it isn’t just exercise and skintight clothing that’s to blame for these breakouts, Caroline says the causes of bacne are many. “Whether breakouts are on our face, chest or back, there are the same contributing factors of excess oil (sebum) production, and a build-up of skin cells which can block the skin and prevent the oil from exiting the follicle,” she says. “The combination of excess oil and a clogged follicle creates the perfect environment for acne-causing bacteria. Furthermore, the pores on our back are larger than on our face and are more prone to inflammatory breakouts.”

Below, Caroline shares her top five tips on how treat bacne (and get rid of any residual scarring).

  1. “Bacne isn’t caused by poor hygiene but being sure to shower as soon as possible after exercise or getting sweaty is a good practice, and wearing looser-fitting clothing, preferably cotton, as much as possible will help.”
  2. “Wash your back last in the shower, especially after washing your hair, so that you remove any residue of hair conditioner from your skin.”
  3. “Apply topical ingredients like salicylic acid to clear the pores and prevent future breakouts, plus oil-balancing botanical extracts, like argan oil, which also reduce redness.”
  4. “Avoid excessive sun exposure, as it dries and damages the skin and makes it more vulnerable.”
  5. “Regarding residual scarring after bacne, this can resolve over time especially when the breakout activity is reduced or eliminated, but there are also skin centres that offer treatments for breakout activity, including the use of the blue light LED.”

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These blemish-busting body sprays contain key ingredients said to target acne-causing bacteria — think salicylic acid, BHAs, tea tree oil and witch hazel.

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