Here's a really sexy skincare topic we're discussing today—bacne, or back acne, if you're not into abbrevs. It's something everyone has had at one point or another, but no one wants to talk about, because frankly, it's kind of embarassing to deal with. We get it, sometimes the internal monologues we craft in our heads lead us to believe we're the only ones who have to battle this obnoxious issue, but Washington D.C.-based dermatologist Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi assures us, it's actually more prevalent than you realize.
"It's actually very common, particularly as the weather gets hotter, stickier, and more humid. We're sweatier in general during that time, which can exacerbate the whole thing," she tells us. "The back actually has a lot of oil glands in it, which is why we see this problem."
Especially during peak heat and humidity, light, breathable clothes are key. Dr. Tanzi advises veering away from any too-tight materials that could occlude or block your back, and wearing your hair up could also help. "Constant covering up of the pores and skin itself—we call that occlusion—can cause breakouts," she explains. "Hair and tight clothing tend to do that, so go for something light and cotton-based to let your back breathe as much as it can."
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When it comes to treating the problem area, you'll want to inlcude a salicylic acid-based acne wash into your shower routine, and possibly a benzoyl peroxide-rich formula as well, which you can alternate as you see fit. Dr. Tanzi suggests washing your back and chest area with a salicylic acid wash one day, then with a benzoyl peroxide option on the following day to allow each formula to tag-team the issue. "They both do two slightly different things—salicylic acid helps to exfoliate and clear out the pores, whereas benzoyl peroxide also does that, but has anti-bacterial properties as well," she says. "On the days you use benzoyl peroxide, be sure to dry off with a white towel to avoid bleaching your dark clothes."
Wash only the affected areas, usually the chest and back, as covering your entire body in the stuff could cause the rest of your skin to dry out. Any formula rich in either ingredient should do the trick—we're big fans of Neutrogena's Body Clear Body Wash ($6; walmart.com)—though if the breakouts are particularly aggressive, she recommends using an alpha-beta peel pad over the area post-shower. Since they remove sweat and bacteria in a few sweeps, they're ideal for those times you can't shower after a workout. Dr. Dennis Gross's Universal Daily Peel Pads ($16; sephora.com) are great for use on the face and body.
Your best bet when it comes to covering the area is to go for a concealer-treatment hybrid, which dries out the activity while covering it. "My favorites are the ones that have sulfur in them, which can kind of smell, but do a great job at treating the issue," Dr. Tanzi tells us. "Sometimes the skin on the back takes longer than the skin on your face to heal, but it's safe to cover as needed. Just be sure to cover spot by spot, or just the largest areas, instead of applying makeup to your entire back."