Acne of the face is already an annoying condition. Now, how must it feel on the back? Annoying is probably an understatement.So, in this article, we are going to look at the causes, treatment and prevention of acne on the back. Basically, how to get rid of back acne.
The problem with acne on the back is that it’s not immediately visible to you. Someone should point it out to you, and only then you are made aware of it. Or you must spend a lot of time admiring your backside (yeah, I’m looking at you, Instagram “influencers”).
Another problem is the reach. Your arms aren’t long enough to completely reach all part of your back. You need another person’s help, which is somewhat embarrassing.
It’s okay to ask for help for bodily functions after 60, but it’s somewhat embarrassing to do it in the prime of your youth.So, what is back acne? In extremely simple terms, pimples on the back is called back acne.
In a bit more specific terms, cysts or pustules formed on the back, either are painful or painless, which heal with or without rupturing, is called back acne.
It is of varying degrees, with grade 1 being mild, consisting of only a few blemishes and include whiteheads, blackheads and pimples, to grade 4, which is severe, covers a larger area and consists of cysts and pustules.
Sebaceous glands (also called oil glands) are present along with the hair follicles, which secrete sebum. Sebum is an oily substance.
Dust and dead skin cells present on the surface can cause a clogged pore, resulting in the sebum being trapped as well.
This eventually results in the clogged pore or follicle breaking down and resulting in an acne lesion, or acne breakouts.
Sometimes, the lesion can get infected by bacteria as well, because sebum is an excellent medium for bacterial growth and proliferation.
Hence, it is important to know how to get rid of back acne.
Types of lesions seen:
- whiteheads – a clogged pore staying clogged and forms a lesion under the skin with a white cap
- blackheads – a clogged pore opening up, and having a black cap (due to the reaction between the sebum and the air)
- papules – small pink lesions which might be tender
- pustules – a pus-filled papule with a reddened base; also called a pimple
- nodules – a pimple formed deep below the surface of the skin, which is hard, tender and painful
- cysts – large pimples which are very painful and can scar the skin
Acne can affect any place which has hair follicles. This can include your chest, face, scalp, back, buttocks, genitalia (yes, this is possible, don’t laugh you immature blockhead) and limbs.
Facial acne with acne affecting any other area is usually a sign that your acne is a more severe form.
Now, coming to the causes of back acne. Only after knowing why you get it can you know how to get rid of back acne. So why do you get it?
These are the main reasons why you get back acne:
- Genetics – blame your parents for this and move forward to the treatment and general prevention, because you cannot alter anything here.
- Hormonal disturbances – disturbances in hormone levels can alter the amount of oil produced by the skin, and oily skin is a main cause for back acne. Puberty is one such time period, but adolescent acne usually resolves in a few years. In women, menstruation and pregnancy are two other phases when the hormones are not at their usual levels, resulting in acne.
- Medications – medications such as anti-depressants, androgens (male hormones) can cause back acne
- Sweat – tight or synthetic clothing can trap sweat and clog pores and make your skin prone to acne.
- Stress – stress can cause hormonal imbalances and indirectly cause acne.
- Diet – the American Academy of Dermatology in a study found that diet rich in carbohydrates and fat (foods that have a high glycaemic index), which increases the level of sugar in the body, is also responsible for acne,
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Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritties of how to get rid of back acne.
1. Over-the-counter medicines
Creams are probably one of the most popular modalities of treatment out there. Ointments with added benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid is one of the best treatment options available.
Plus, it has the added advantage of being over-the-counter medicinal ointments, so you don’t need a prescription from a registered medical practitioner to buy it.
Benzoyl peroxide is used to treat mild to moderate acne. It kills bacteria that cause acne, and it also helps in exfoliating the skin by causing it to dry up and peel off. Used daily, it reduces the acne and prevents flare up episodes as well.
5.3% is the usual concentration that is given at the beginning, and if it doesn’t work, then move up to 10% concentration.
Benzoyl peroxide stains clothes, so remember to let it dry before you put on your clothes or lie down on the bed.
Salicylic acid is another active ingredient that helps in treating acne. Ointments which contain salicylic acid are available almost everywhere.
If you can’t find any, powder up some aspirin, add water to make a paste, and apply it on the affected area. This also works wonders and is a must in the knowledge of how to get rid of a hickey.
Ointments aren’t the only way to apply these medicines. Body washes are also available containing these meds, but one thing you’ll have to keep in mind is that you should let the body wash sit on your skin for a few minutes (2-5 minutes should be enough).
This helps by making the medicines penetrate your skin and leads to a more effective result.
Keep in mind that they cause dryness, and may cause irritation if kept on too long.
2. Catalysing agents
Agents like retinoid (adapalene 0.1%), and glycolic acid help the benzoyl peroxide to act better.
Adapalene, an over-the-counter retinoid, can help benzoyl peroxide act more effectively by unclogging the pores and helping the BPO go deep into the follicle and deep cleanse the follicle.
Adapalene works by reducing inflammation and swelling. So, it makes the lesion more open to the action of the benzoyl peroxide, thereby making this combination an effective method belonging in how to get rid of a hickey.
Glycolic acid is an alphahydroxy acid, and it helps in exfoliating the skin. This means that all the dead cells are removed and this prevents clogging of the pores and thereby prevents further acne formation.
Also, removing the surface layer of dead skin cells helps the lower layers of cells retain moisture, as excess dead skin causes the body to produce more oils, thereby making it more prone to acne.
This promotes healing of the skin and the gentle exfoliating action helps to fight off further episodes and flares of acne that might occur.
Hence, catalysing agents have a major place in the
various methods on how to get rid of a hickey.
Antibiotics are given along with benzoyl peroxide so that antibiotic resistance is not developed. Plus, the combined treatment gets rid of the skin bacteria and reduces the redness associated with the lesion.
Clindamycin or erythromycin along with benzoyl peroxide is the preferred combination, as they are broad spectrum antibiotics, so they are effective against a wide range of bacteria.
Azelaic acid along with erythromycin is another combination that is used. Azelaic acid is an antibacterial agent, and so is effective against acne.
Dapsone is another drug that is used in gel form, for the treatment of inflammatory acne, especially in adults. But keep in mind that it causes dryness, and so may not be useful for all sorts of skin.
Oral antibiotics are used in cases of moderate to severe acne, so as to reduce bacterial count and inflammation. Tetracyclines like doxycycline are the drug of choice, and it is given for a short duration so as to not produce antibiotic resistance.
Oral antibiotics are again used in tandem with benzoyl peroxide, and not given solo.
4. Combined oral contraceptives and steroids
Oral contraceptives can be used to treat acne in women who wish to use it as a type of contraception as well. It is a combination of progesterone and oestrogen, and what it does is stabilise the hormone levels.
This prevents the oily character of the skin and so prevents the resulting acne as well.
Trans women (men who identify as women) also take this as part of their hormone replacement therapy regime, and this also works for them.
but keep in mind that it’ll take three to four months before results are seen, so don’t keep your hopes up for instantaneous results.
In the meantime, try other modalities of treatment like topical creams and body washes, and then once the contraceptives kick in, you can wean yourself off of them.
Spironolactone is another drug that may work. It is not an oral contraceptive, but it works by blocking the androgen receptors on the sebaceous glands present on the skin. This prevents the secretion of sebum into the clogged pore, and prevent the formation of acne.
Common side effects of oral contraceptives and spironolactone is weight gain, breast tenderness and nausea.
Steroids can also be injected straight into the vesicle, thereby reducing the inflammation. This ensures rapid improvement and decreased pain and overall improvement in the condition. But keep in mind that it is to be used only in nodular or cystic conditions, and it should be used as a last resort as it can compromise the immune system, making you susceptible to diseases.
Hence, steroids and OCPs are an important part of knowing how to get rid of back acne.
It is a powerful systemic retinoid, taken orally. It is usually considered as the last line of treatment for cystic acne.
Isotretinoin should be used only as a last resort, after careful consideration with your dermatologist, as it has many side effects, and the success percentage is not that high either. It should be the last resort after all other treatment modalities are exhausted.
How does isotretinoin work? It works by shrinking the sebaceous glands, thereby reducing the amount of oil produced. This thereby reduces the clogging of the pores, and thereby treats the acne effectively.
It has a laundry list of side effects though. It should not be used by pregnant women, or those who are breast feeding. Oral contraceptives are to be used throughout the duration of the course of the medication.
It can affect your vision, hair, your digestive system, nervous system and is altogether not recommended by most doctors. Plus, it messes with your head and may cause depression and an increased want for suicide.
Bottom line, it is not really worth it. But it is a part of the various ways of how to get rid of a hickey, and it has to be mentioned, if only to tell people to stay away from it.
6. Chemical peels
Doctors are prescribing chemical peels more and more now. Even salon spas are offering it as a part of their facial treatment. Now, what goes on in it, you may ask.
A chemical peel is usually acidic, and it penetrates the skin to exfoliate the skin and clear up the dead skin cells, clear and unclog the pores and makes way for new, healthy skin to proliferate.
It is effective against the acne scars and blemishes as well.
There are three types of peels, superficial, medium and deep.
Superficial only penetrates the superficial layer of skin, and it doesn’t cause much harm to skin. It can be used on all skin tones and it can be used how many ever times you want.
Medium peels penetrates a little deeper than superficial, and it may cause second degree burns to the skin.
Deep peels penetrate deep into the skin, and cleanse it. But it causes second degree burns and it is not suitable for dark skin tones as it causes hypopigmentation.
It can only be used once, as burning your skin off repeatedly can result in losing skin sensitivity, as the nerve endings are being burnt off as well.
Chemical peels are usually safe when done in a controlled environment, and it gives great results as well. Hence, it is an essential part of knowing how to get rid of back acne.
7. Incision and drainage
If you’re about to pop a pimple, STOP!!! Read this section of the article first.
A trained dermatologist can only do this procedure. He/she takes a sterile comedone extractor, and literally pops the lesion.
Another method is cutting open the lesion after local anaesthesia and removing the pus inside. Later on, a corticosteroid injection is given to reduce inflammation and redness.
This is quite literally a last option after all the topical modes of treatment are used and failed, and is usually done only for large cysts or nodules.
Do not attempt to do this yourself, as you can possibly hurt yourself and/or leave scars or blemishes.
Now, you must be thinking that until now, I have told you about so many methods of acne treatment involving exfoliation. And you’re right. But I haven’t told you about it in detail. And you need to know about exfoliation to know how to have a proper skin care routine.
Mechanical techniques involve using exfoliating gloves, wash cloths, wet sand (yes, it is a thing) and loofahs. They just scrub away the top layer of the skin and help increase the circulation by massaging the surrounding skin.
Chemical techniques involves irritating your skin and mildly burning away the dead skin present on the top layer.
Now, why is exfoliating important? It an important technique as it erodes away the caps of the lesions, and makes it open for the action of creams and lotions.
Another useful feature is that it opens up the pores, so that the creams and lotions can do a deep cleanse and get rid of the gunk stored in the pores.
Hence, exfoliation is an important part of the steps of knowing how to get rid of back acne.
9. Laser treatment
Now this is again a last resort treatment modality. Here the lesion is fired upon with a laser and the base is fired again with a concentrated laser, so that the bacteria present in the comedone get killed.
This is not a sure fire way of getting rid of the acne, and it may cause scarring and blemishes. But it is one of the important methods in knowing how to get rid of back acne.
10. Prevention is better than cure
The old adage works almost everywhere. Want to know how to get rid of back acne? Why not prevent it from ever appearing? Follow these few steps and maybe, you can prevent it from ever occurring.
Shower immediately after a workout and don’t wear tight clothing during your workout. Wear something slightly loose and made of cotton so that your skin can breathe and the sweat is not trapped.
Don’t scrub hard when you have skin affected with acne. Be gentle instead and it’ll work wonders.
Use products that are mild on your skin and are oil free. This helps take care of your skin and helps prevent acne.
Avoid rubbing your back with anything like a backpack, as the constant friction may cause the acne to recur.
Protect your skin from the skin by using appropriate sunscreen, as sometimes, sun exposure can cause acne to erupt on the skin.
And whatever you do, DO NOT POP THOSE PIMPLES! It can lead to scarring and blemishes and will look unsightly.
Now that you know how to get rid of back acne, use these above methods and get rid of the painful and unsightly lesions.
It’ll work wonders for your self-confidence and you can also admire your backside like those Instagram influencers do (now, people with more than thirty thousand followers are celebrities. What is the world coming to?!).
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