Ask Grace: How Can I Clear My Bacne?

Dear Grace, 

I can’t seem to get rid of my bacne. It varies throughout the year but is definitely worse in summer – not ideal when it’s the season I’m most likely to wear strappy dresses. I get a mixture of blackheads, whiteheads, and red lumps, which can sometimes be painful. What can I do to help clear my bacne? Which products should I be buying and using, and is there any I should be avoiding? 

Yasmin, 20 

Dealing with regular acne on your face is hard enough, but when it shows up on your back it can be even more painful and stubborn. Bacne (and buttne!) is actually super common – it’s just not something we notice that often because our bodies are usually covered, and chances are if you have bacne you’re not feeling super confident about exposing it. You’re absolutely right that it gets worse in the summer – we’ll get to just why that is below – but first, it’s important to get clued up on exactly what causes acne and bacne in particular. 

So, how does acne form? Blemishes appear when sweat, dead skin cells, and excess sebum build up in the pores, causing congestion. This buildup can also serve as a food source and breeding ground for bacteria, which is trapped in pores by excess sebum and triggers the inflammation that causes even more painful and inflamed spots (cysts, papules, and pustules) to appear. 

Essentially, the same underlying causes that trigger facial acne are responsible for back acne as well – and as acne is often genetic, some people may be more prone to it than others. The skin on our backs is very thick and this area is prone to being moist and sweaty, so the pores can very easily become clogged – and obviously sweat and moisture is something we’re way more likely to deal with in the summer. Likewise, poor diet and hormones can also contribute to increased breakouts of bacne as they affect sebum production and mean that pores have a harder time self-clearing. 

Which leads us to the big question, what triggers bacne specifically? Well, if you think about the things that touch, and therefore potentially irritate or build up on your back, you can probably figure out the most likely culprits. Some of the most common causes of bacne are oily hair, bag and bra straps, sweat, bedding, tight clothing, and hair or body product residue. We’ll get to the best products to use below, but being extra aware of the triggers and adapting your routine to cut them out will make a huge difference. These are my top tips: 

– If you’re naturally acne-prone, shower and moisturise with non-comedogenic products (formulated with ingredients which won’t clog pores). 

– When washing and conditioning your hair, make sure to rinse product residue thoroughly from your back.  

– Choose water-based body moisturisers over oil-based ones (they’re less likely to clog pores).  

– Avoid tight-fitting clothing (especially sports clothes and underwear), which can irritate pores and worsen existing blemishes. 

– Wash your bed sheets weekly, use clean towels, and sleep in clean clothes every night.  

– Shower daily and immediately after working out, taking extra time to wash your back with an appropriate cleanser (see below). 

– Exfoliate your back regularly, using a gentle scrub or (preferably) a chemical exfoliant with AHAs and BHAs to help to clear buildup from pores. 

Turns out that body washes for acne-prone skin exist. Specifically designed to treat bacne, this low pH cleanser is formulated with salicylic acid which helps to break down dead skin cells and remove excess sebum, treating existing breakouts and working hard to prevent future ones. 

A powerful blend of ingredients specifically chosen to treat body acne (including camphor, niacinamide, and allantoin), swiping a pad soaked in this lotion across your back will help to reduce inflammation and soothe irritation so that bacne both looks and feels reduced.  

Because no one should feel like they can’t wear the clothes they want (especially during summer!), these spot stickers might help to give you a little more confidence in wearing strappy dresses. Plus, as well as concealing spots, they’ll also help to prevent irritation and keep bacteria out. 

From chafing to ‘chicken skin’ arms, summer brings a whole new medley of beauty concerns into play. If you have a question for our resident beauty editor Grace Day, tweet us at @beautybay using the hashtag #AskGrace for a chance to be featured.