What it is, how it is caused, and how best to treat it!

Dr Mathobela, a leading specialist dermatologist and OXY’s resident skincare expert helps to shed some light on back acne and offers some recommendations and suggestions on what to avoid and how best to treat it.

Back acne, commonly referred to as ‘bacne’, forms part of what is known as truncal acne (i.e. acne affecting the back, chest and shoulders/ arms). The causes of back acne are similar to those of face acne and can include a genetic predisposition, hyperkeratosis of the follicular opening leading to comedo (white or blackheads) formation, over production of sebum often influenced by hormones, overgrowth of the bacteria P.acnes and inflammation.

Additional triggers, or aggravating factors, are once again also the same across both facial and back acne – stress and diets that are high in refined sugars, dairy intake (particularly milk) and fatty foods. Whey protein, found in some sports supplements, is also known to further exacerbate the condition. Other influences can include pressure, occlusion, friction from backpacks or sitting with your back against the chair rest for long periods of time, heat producing shoulder pads, clothing and some sporting equipment.

‘Bacne’ impacts approximately 50% of face acne sufferers. Acne lesions on the back are mainly inflammatory (papules, pustules and nodules and, at times, cysts) and are often more severe in male patients. Back acne can, at times, result in permanent or severe acne scars that may be atrophic, hypertrophic or even keloid scars.

To further assist in managing one’s ‘bacne’, Dr Mathobela shares a few additional recommendations:

  • Avoid harsh scrubs or soaps as these can irritate the skin, further aggravating acne.
  • Constantly change sheets, pillowcases and pyjamas to avoid the build up of dirt, oils and bacteria that can exacerbate the condition.
  • For the sporty types and fitness enthusiasts, shower or clean up after exercising as soon as possible and change into clean clothes. The use of loose fitting, light and airy clothing is further recommended.

Finally, it is recommended that anyone suffering from moderate to severe acne to please consult their dermatologist for further treatment advice. Not all pimples on one’s back are true acne vulgaris – some could be folliculitis (bacterial or fungal) or drug induced-acne amongst many other dermatological conditions.