Although many people associate acne with the face, the reality is that breakouts can happen nearly anywhere on the body. Sufferers of back acne, also known as bacne, know well the struggle of dealing with these unsightly and unrelenting blemishes. Unfortunately, back acne scars can often be more stubborn and difficult to deal with than facial acne.
What Causes Back Acne?
Back acne is caused by the same issues that trigger facial acne. The most common factors include overactive oil glands, skin producing an excess amount of sebum, and too many dead skin cells. In addition, factors such as a proliferation of acne-causing bacteria can exacerbate the situation further. Genetics also play a factor in the development of back acne. Fortunately, back acne is treated in the same way as you would with facial acne.
What Causes Back Acne Scars?
One of the most frustrating issues with back acne is the scars that it leaves in its wake. These scars are either caused by loss of tissue or by an excess of tissue. Because acne scars are difficult to treat, it is often recommended to go to a dermatologist for help. Due to their similarities, some people often confuse post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) for true acne scars.
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
PIH is used to describe skin discoloration due to an inflammatory injury or wound. This condition develops when a skin irritation such as a cut or a pimple becomes inflamed. As the body attempts to repair itself, the skin produces an excess amount of melanin. It is this protein that darkens and discolors the skin, leading to the condition of PIH. This condition will be worse in people who experience severe back acne breakouts. Fortunately, PIH can lessen over time as the pigmentation begins to return to normal.
Ice Pick Scars
Ice pick scars are also extremely common in people suffering from back acne. These scars form after an infection from an inflamed blemish rises to the top of the skin. As the skin tissue is destroyed, a long scar is left in its place. The scar gets its name because it looks as if the skin is pierced with an ice pick.
How to Get Rid of Back Acne Scars
Because the root causes are the same, you can treat back acne the same way that you treat facial acne. Following a strict regimen of cleansing and other preventative measures can help sufferers to reduce the risk of back acne from occurring. If over-the-counter products are not doing the trick, you may have to turn to a professional for a more intensive treatment option.
1. Regularly Cleanse Your Back
The first step in any acne treatment protocol is an effective cleansing routine. As the first defense against acne breakouts, proper cleansing can help to prevent clogged pores before they have a chance to develop into breakouts. Similar to how you would clean your face to remove oil, dirt, and environmental impurities, a proper cleansing routine will work to combat the excess buildup of sebum on the skin of the back.
2. Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA)
Alpha hydroxy acids can be used to exfoliate the outer layers of the skin. Over time, exfoliation can help reveal a brighter and more even skin tone as it polishes away dead skin cells. There are a variety of AHA’s that may be used in an exfoliant. The most common acids include the popular glycolic acid, malic acid, lactic acid, citric acid, mandelic acid, and tartaric acid. Each of these acids serve a different function. Ultimately, the type of acid depends on your skincare goals.
3. Chemical Peels for Back Acne Scars
Chemical peels are great for acne scars and can help reverse damage. Some types of acne scars respond better to chemical peels than others. For example, although ice pick scars are usually too deep to disappear completely, macular scarring is responsive to this type of treatment. There are a number of hydroxy acids that can prove helpful in treating back acne scarring problems.
- Glycolic Acid: As the gold standard of the family of alpha hydroxy acids, glycolic acid is derived from natural sources such as fruit and milk sugars. Most of these acne scarring treatment regimens involve at least five sessions using a mixture of 70 percent glycolic acid every other week.
- Jessner’s Solution: Named after its inventor, Dr. Max Jessner, this solution is a mixture of salicylic acid, resorcinol, and lactic acid in 95 percent ethanol. Working as a superficial peeling agent, this solution is generally well tolerated by the majority of people, making it a good choice in the treatment of back acne scarring.
- Pyruvic Acid: This alpha-ketoacid works by stimulating new collagen replacement and elastic fiber production to effectively peel away dead skin and scar tissue. Most treatments using this acid contain 40-70 percent of the active agent and are effective in helping with moderate cases of acne scars.
- Salicylic Acid: As one of the most popular peeling agents on the market, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid. When applied to the skin, salicylic acid dissolves the sebum that is responsible for clogging pores and leading to acne.
- Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA): This acid delves deeper into the skin than some of its other counterparts. The deeper penetration and longer lasting effects of TCA produce more dramatic results than other kinds of chemical peels, however, the side effects can be more severe if not administered properly.
Laser Treatment for Back Acne Scars
As one of the newest treatment options in the fight to combat back acne scarring, laser treatments harness the power of emerging technologies to reduce the size and scope of hyperactive sebaceous glands to stop back acne right in its tracks. Laser treatment works on all types of acne, regardless of its location on the body. According to Dr. Jean Chapman, the average cost of a single laser treatment ranges between 75 and 400 dollars. Most people need between four and eight treatments, depending on the severity of the scarring. The majority of patients experience noticeable results after about two sessions.
Dermarollers for Back Acne Scars
Also known as microneedling, this treatment is used to treat atrophic facial scars. As one of the more challenging scars to treat, atrophic scars can be devastating to sufferers of the condition. Dermarollers involve the use of a mini wheel dotted with hundreds of tiny stainless steel needles. The wheel is rolled over the skin to penetrate the surface and reduce the appearance of acne scars, fine lines, and other imperfections. A local anesthetic cream is applied to the skin prior to the treatment. The pinpoint injuries caused by the dermarollers heal in just a few days.
Do Back Acne Scar Removal Creams Work?
Yes, back acne scar removal creams do work. However, it will depend on the type of scar. Acne scar creams are more effective at treating post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Specifically, they work to lessen the appearance of the imperfections. Something to keep in mind is that because the back is a larger area, you will need more product. Because of this, treating back acne scars can be more expensive than facial related acne scars. If your acne scars are ice pick, consider consulting with a skincare professional for treatment options.
Best Back Acne Scar Creams
As one of the most traditional forms of treating acne, the use of topical creams have been around for generations. Creams that contain alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids are most effective in treating active acne as well as the residual scarring that is often left behind. Once your acne has finally cleared up, it is possible to have developed acne scars. Because of this, many people seek creams and other products to help treat or diminish the appearance of back acne scars.
1. Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid
BHA’s are better suited to treat active acne because of the oil penetrating properties. The active ingredient works to unclog pores and help even out skin tone. Most BHA formulas are gentle enough to be used twice per day. This specific product contains 2% Salicylic Acid (BHA) and is formulated for those who are dealing with current acne. To use this product, simply apply a few drops to a cleansing cloth and use after showering. Do not wash off.
2. Alpha Hydrox 12% AHA
In contrast, AHA’s are more effective at minimizing the scarring left behind by acne versus treating active flare-ups. This renewing lotion can work to reduce the appearance of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, while also helping to make the skin appear younger and smoother. This product by Alpha Hydrox contains 12% glycolic acid (AHA) and is better for those dealing with back acne scars. To use this product, simply apply a to your back after showering. Do not wash off.
Take Before and After Pictures
Many skin care experts recommend taking pictures before you start the process of getting rid of the back acne, as well as snapping photos throughout the journey. This will help you to discern if the treatment is working. Sharing these photos with a dermatologist will provide them with concrete evidence as to what treatments have been most effective in dealing with your specific case back acne and residual scarring.
When to See a Dermatologist
If at-home remedies and treatments are not working, it may be time to seek help from a trained dermatologist. A professional skin doctor can help you to ascertain why previous treatments are not working and what you can do to help clear up the breakouts and inflammations.
If your back acne scars are beginning to affect your self-confidence, a dermatologist can prescribe treatments that will alleviate the breakouts while also making you feel better about your appearance. Additionally, if you are feeling hopeless because previous treatments have not worked, seeking treatment from the experts can help to steer you on the right course.
How to Get Rid of Back Acne Scars: Summary
- Treatment depends on the type of back acne.
- Ice pick back acne scars require lasers or dermarollers
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation related back acne scars can be helped with use of alpha hydroxy acids
- Salicylic acid is better at helping active acne to help prevent scars
- Alpha hydroxy acid is preferred if dealing with the aftermath scars from acne
- Take before and after pictures to determine if your back acne scars are getting better or worse
- See a dermatologist if you’ve exhausted all other options