Dr. Bruce Katz was featured in a Men's Health article entitled "Put Your Back Acne Behind You."
BACK ACNE, also known shorthand as "bacne," is a buzzkill.
Back acne can be painful, recurring, and although there are an avalanche of products out on the market that promise to clear up bacne, many rarely do.
The good news is that you can treat back acne—you just have to be careful and regimented about doing so. And, with the right approach, you can even prevent a future flare-up from occurring—plus reduce damage from old ones.
The following action steps will help you fix back acne for good so you can be free to take your shirt off whenever, wherever. (Within reason.)
How to Treat Back Acne
First off, never pick or pop back acne. You’ll cause long-term scarring.
Second, using a wash cloth or long-handled body brush, gently clean everyday with an antibacterial wash, like Hibiclens Antiseptic Skin Cleanser ($10), “to limit the amount of bacteria on the skin,” says dermatologist Dendy Engelman, M.D., and continue until the breakout subsides.
Or, if your back gets real sweaty during workouts, you may need to treat bacne-causing yeast, which thrives in moist environments. In that case, use a dandruff shampoo, like Head & Shoulders Classic Clean Shampoo ($10), as a bodywash, says Dr. Engelman.
And then follow your wash with a lightweight gel moisturizing lotion, like Neutrogena Hydro Boost Body Gel Cream ($13), to help avoid over-drying your skin.
When the active breakout is gone, exfoliate the area daily with a product containing glycolic or lactic acid, like Soft Services Smoothing Solution ($34), to help keep pores open. (Scrubs are a no-go, as they can spread bacteria and lead to dark spots.) For even more exfoliation, ask your dermatologist about a chemical peel.
STEP 5: Target lingering zits with a benzoyl peroxide spot treatment, like La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Action Acne Treatment ($31). For harder-to-reach areas, try a salicylic acid acne spray, like Paula’s Choice Clear ($26).
How to Prevent Back Acne
First, keep up your treatment plan from above. Even after you’re in the clear, following those steps will minimize your risk of bacne reemerging or at least reduce the frequency. Go down to every other day and then to every three days if you stay zit-free, says dermatologist Bruce Katz, M.D.
And then add a retinoid, a vitamin A derivative that increases cell turnover and keeps pores open and clear. Apply a gel, like Differin Adapalene Gel 0.1% Acne Treatment ($22), every day to the areas that usually break out.
Consider skipping workout clothes made from synthetic fabrics, which, yes, “soak up sweat pretty well, but they’re also irritating to the skin,” says Dr. Katz. He recommends 100 percent cotton instead, which absorbs sweat but won’t anger your skin.
And, finally, avoid foods that spike your blood sugar, like sugary post-workout drinks and dairy products, both of which, Dr. Engelman says, have been linked to acne.
How to Remove Back Acne Scars
Fractional C02 lasers are the most effective for treating acne scars, even on your back, says Dr. Katz. A few sessions will smooth scar edges and stimulate collagen production. Lasers may not be recommended for darker skin tones, but a radio-frequency microneedling treatment, like Morpheus8, can fix scarring with tiny (harmless) needles. Talk to your dermatologist.
A version of this article originally appeared in the July/August 2022 issue of Men's Health.