It happened last Tuesday. I was draping my towel over me from the pool when my hand slid against my back and I felt my worst nightmare: bacne, aka back acne. It’s my worst nightmare because as I approach 30, I’ve been really marveling at my smooth, pimple-free skin — and knowing what my elders have told me and what I read online as a grooming editor, I’ve been looking for ways to preserve it as I enter this new decade.
Fortunately, aside from the couple of breakouts, I’ve not dealt with acne. Worried at what I discovered at the pool, I began to wonder how to get rid of it: Could face mapping work on my back? Would I need to buy a cream? Did I need to see a dermatologist? Was it a reaction to the skin? These were all my first thoughts. And after literally Googling, “SOS, I have bacne,” 94,500 results populated all describing one theme: bacne is normal and can be cured. Along the way, I also discovered what causes body acne and why it is so pronounced in the pandemic — or how many outlets frequently refer to as: these unprecedented times. Below is what I uncovered.
What is body acne?
Body acne can occur anywhere on the skin: the back, chest, shoulders, and butt are all fair game here. On the back and chest, many people get large whiteheads or cysts. If they are whiteheads, they are similar to pimples and go away quick. However, cysts are the ones to worry about, as they are deep under the skin and can be painful to remove — whether at home or in a doctor’s office.
What does the pandemic have to do with it?
Short answer: stress. The pandemic, along with the giant social and economic issues we all are going through, can be highly stressful. The body will always react to stress and body acne is one of the ways it expresses this. Essentially, when stressed, more androgen (a male sex hormone) production happens — creating more inflammation and oily skin. This excess oil can quickly clog your pores, resulting in acne.
If like me, you spend your work from home work day sitting at a desk, it could be causing you bacne. According to experts, sitting in a chair for a significant period of time can increase friction and occlusion (the blockage or closing of blood vessels) in certain places. On the other hand, if you are an active person, (say, getting your body ready for post-quarantine life) too much sweat can also cause acne. Thankfully, as long as you’re showering immediately after heated sessions, you should be good.
How do you treat body acne?
Similar to face mapping, you can acne map and see what hormonal components are out of balance and work your way up. It’s important to note that getting rid of the acne could take some time, so remember to be patient.
- Invest in an acne-fighting body wash with salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide. Why? Because they are chemical exfoliants that will remove dead skin cells and prevent clogged pores.
- Avoid oil-based shower gel and moisturizers, because getting more oil is the exact opposite of what you should be going for.
- Vet out panthenol in your haircare products. This one ingredient tends to leave residue that could trigger bacne or acne on the shoulders.
And always remember, it’s important to patch test new skincare products.
Photo via Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images