It may not be the sexiest thing to talk about, but bacne is one of those annoying facts of life we all have to deal with at some point or another, especially if you enjoy being a living, breathing human being with working sweat glands. But even still, back acne is straight-up frustrating, and it can sometimes feel like it’s plaguing your life, which sucks, considering puberty was a decade ago. So to stop the cycle of anger, we spoke with dermatologist Jody Levine to find out exactly how to treat body acne, without destroying your skin (or sanity).
DOUBLE YOUR SHOWER POWER
“With bacne, the first thing I focus on is the wash that you use in the shower,” says Levine. “Usually, I don’t recommend benzoyl peroxide to my patients, since it tends to be very irritating and far too harsh and drying on the face, but I actually love it for the body.” Her reasoning: The skin on your body is tougher than the skin on your face, making it a safer candidate for heavy-duty ingredients, like benzoyl peroxide, which kills the acne-causing bacteria in your pores. “For body acne, pick up a 10-percent benzoyl peroxide wash, put it all over your dry skin, leave it on for a couple of minutes, then wash it off in the shower,” says Levine. Our favorites: Topix Benzyol Peroxide 10% Wash or PanOxyl Foaming Wash with 10% Benzyol Peroxide, which should be used no more than every other day (or just once a week, if you notice irritation).
EMBRACE YOUR ACIDS
“Dead skin clogs your pores, and when you mix dead skin with oil and bacteria, you’ve got a recipe for acne,” says Levine. And lest you think the answer to smoother skin is scrubbing the hell out of your skin, think again: Harsh exfoliators will only irritate your bacne, leading to more breakouts. But that’s why Levine likes glycolic and salicylic acid—two skin-smoothing and acne-fighting ingredients that are surprisingly gentle on skin. “If you use glycolic and salicylic acid on your back each day, along with the use the benzoyl peroxide body wash once a week, you can usually take care of most bacne,” says Levine. “If it’s out of control, I move to oral antibiotics if necessary, but usually the acids and peroxide generally take care of it.” At home, try mixing a glycolic acid solution, like Bona Fide Skin Care Glycolic Daily Exfoliator with a salicylic acid lotion, like Philosophy Clear Days Ahead Salicylic Acid Moisturizer and applying it in thin layers to your back before bed each night.
If you’re dealing with bacne, you likely have a few frustrating acne scars to show for it. And the only thing that can make acne bigger, darker, and long-lasting is sun exposure, which causes the pigment to deepen in your skin. “If you’re outside, or even near a window, with acne scars, the sun will make it stay,” says Levine. “So you really have to wear sunscreen on your bac if you want to fully treat bacne—not just for protecting yourself from the harmful rays of the sun, but to prevent permanent, long-term scarring, too.” And don’t freak about sunscreen being a pore-clogger, our favorite, Dr. Dennis Gross Dark Spot Sun Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 50 Sunscreen, feels light and silky on skin, and won’t break you out.