How To Banish Your Bacne Once & For All

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Breakouts suck. There's nothing quite like waking up ready to take the world by storm, only to discover a honking zit on your cheek. Thankfully, you can power through a facial breakout with some spot treatment and a good concealer. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for bacne.
For the uninitiated, that would be back acne, although it can happen anywhere on your body — most notably your chest and shoulders as well. Even the most diligent of scrubbers among us suffer from it, and no matter how flexible your daily yoga class has made you, back breakouts are difficult to both see and treat.
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With summer right around the corner and back-baring clothing calling your name, we asked Annet King, Dermalogica's director of global education, for her best bacne-banishing tips. Because, let's face it: While we're totally comfortable showing off stubbly legs, we're not as cool with showing off those bacne breakouts.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Much like your face, your back is full of oil-producing sebaceous glands. While many sunscreens and moisturizers designed for your visage are formulated to be free of pore-clogging ingredients, the same can't be said for most body products. If you suffer from bacne, steer clear of using general body lotions and potions on your back, and use a targeted treatment line instead, such as a facial sunscreen on your back instead of a body one.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Ditch your fragranced body wash or your drying bar soap — King says those can exacerbate breakouts and delay healing — and opt for an antibacterial, fragrance-free cleanser. Exfoliating is also key, as you need to get rid of all that dead-skin buildup. However, King advises against using your typical loofah for cleansing or scrubbing the back, noting that the material can harbor bacteria within and create micro-lacerations on the skin’s surface, further encouraging bacteria to take up residence. A cleanser with exfoliating properties, such as Mario Badescu's AHA Botanical Body Wash, takes care of both issues. Be sure to wash your back after you wash your hair, as to rid your skin of any residue left behind from your shampoo and conditioner.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Once you’ve cleansed, exfoliated, rinsed, and dried your skin, King recommends spritzing your back with an alcohol-free oil-controlling toner, such as Dermalogica's Clear Start All-Over Toner. If you have any active breakouts, treat the affected area at night with a salicylic-acid-based gel. Avoid using anything with benzoyl peroxide, as it can bleach your clothing and your sheets.

Dermalogica Clear Start Breakout Clearing All Over Toner, $19, available at Ulta.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
After any time spent outdoors or a sweat session at the gym, be sure to change out of your dirty clothes as soon as possible. Letting perspiration and dirt rest on your skin creates a breeding ground for breakouts, and the synthetic fibers that make up most sports bras trap oil, dead cells, and any other debris on your skin. If changing just isn't possible, King recommends packing antibacterial wipes in your gym bag for post-workout cleanup and spot treatments.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
If skin cancer hasn’t scared you away from sunbathing or tanning beds, maybe a back breakout will. That age-old myth that sun exposure or tanning beds will dry out pimples and heal acne is just that — a myth. "Their effects are only temporary. UV exposure increases cell production, causing more breakouts," says King. The more cell production you have, the more dead skin buildup you have to deal with, which can cause clogged pores and congestion. Avoid the sun, and fake your tan to keep your skin blemish-free.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Take a look at your other hygiene habits. If you have long hair, be sure to keep it off your back while you dry it. Bacteria loves wet environments, and hair products are notorious for containing breakout-inducing ingredients. Wear cotton clothing as much as possible to let your skin breathe, and wash your sheets and pillows regularly. Avoid using fabric conditioners on bed linens, as King says they can also cause breakouts.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
If you're doing all of the above but your back acne persists or becomes painful, consult a dermatologist. Sometimes back acne can be a symptom of a more serious fungal infection (usually the culprit of hanging out in sweaty clothes — getting out of a sweaty bra immediately is a win-win). If so, your doctor can treat it accordingly. If you're in the clear of anything more serious, the occasional professional spa treatment is a good idea anyway: It can jump-start the healing process, and your aesthetician can clear up any impactions or existing breakouts you can't see or reach.
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