3 Effective Ways to Prevent Back Acne

Back acne can arise from multiple factors such as sweat and tight clothing. It can start during adolescence and continue throughout the adult years.

Woman scratching her back with her left hand

Do you often reminisce about your good ol’ adolescent years? Back then, life would have been more carefree. The vigour of youth also allowed us to do things that some adults may struggle with today – yes, we’re talking about people who live sedentary lifestyles. Alas, it also brought about a common skin condition – back acne. 

The appearance of pimples on the back, shoulders or the torso down to the waist can occur even well into adulthood. These may develop in clusters and be painful. Hence, it’s necessary to learn the reasons behind the causes of back acne and ways to prevent it. 

Chicken pieces frying in hot oil
The consumption of fried foods is associated with an exogenous pathogenic Cold and Heat accumulation in the Spleen and Stomach meridians, prompting the appearance of back acne.

5 Primary Causes of Back Acne 

Back acne stems from clogged skin pores. A few substances or matter that get trapped in the pores daily are sweat, dirt, dead skin cells, and a type of oil called sebum. Sebum, in particular, is essential for protecting the hair and skin. However, excessive oil production will induce plugged pores and acne. 

Scattered emotions 

The body of someone who has anxiety or stress produces more cortisol – a type of hormone that primarily regulates how they respond to stress – than that of a relaxed person. When cortisol levels rise, so does the amount of sebum in the skin’s pores.

A scheme of gland disorders 

Cushing’s syndrome is more predominant in women and adolescent females but more frequent among pre-adolescent males. A rare endocrine disorder, the disease appears with many clinical symptoms or physical abnormalities. One of these is steroid acne, which describes red, single-form papules – raised bumps on the skin surface – or small, pus-filled blisters on the face, neck, upper trunk, and extremities.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is another endocrine disorder that centres on a surplus of androgens – a group of reproductive hormones that primarily influence the growth and development of the male reproductive system – in a woman’s body. It can manifest as inflammatory or non-inflammatory lesions on the chest and back.

Indulgence in overly rich foods 

An overconsumption of fatty, spicy, or flavourful foods can provoke an appearance of back acne. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the condition’s development due to food consumption is associated with the Spleen and Stomach. The two organs absorb, transform and transport food, which is why when food is too cold, heaty or greasy, it affects the Spleen and Stomach in the cold, Heat and Dampness pathogens respectively. When Damp-Heat amasses internally in the Spleen and Stomach, it’ll reflect externally as skin acne on the back.

Caught in a trap of friction 

Shirts or pieces of clothing that rub against sweaty skin can trigger or worsen back acne. Backpacks and some types of sporting equipment can also have the same effect. It occurs when sweat gets trapped between a person’s skin and clothing, clogging the pores.

People with hyperhidrosis – abnormal sweating that doesn’t necessarily relate to exercise or heat – are more likely to have back acne than people with normal sweating.

Hormones gone haywire 

Acne can affect both men and women. Women have a higher risk, especially if they’re pregnant or going through menopause.

In addition, a woman could experience hormonal changes during her period, if she has irregular periods, or after she stops practicing birth control. A man will see a change in hormone levels if they undergo testosterone treatment.

Woman in sports attire running outdoors with a smile on her face
Clothing made from breathable fabrics can allow proper airflow in the back area.

3 Easy Steps to Avoid Back Acne  

The signs of back acne include: 

  • Blackheads 
  • Whiteheads 
  • Cysts – deep bumps usually filled with pus under the skin’s surface 
  • Nodules – hard lumps under the skin surface 
  • Blind pimples – red skin bumps without a head 

If you notice a recurrence or significant number of pimples on the back, it’s advisable to seek treatment with a healthcare provider.

dry weather
Signs of back acne include blackheads, whiteheads, and cysts.

Keeping cool during dry weather 

A hot and humid environment – typical characteristics of a heatwave in Malaysia – coupled with the wearing of non-breathable, tight-fit clothing, can increase the possibility of back acne. Hence, it’s better to wear clothing made from breathable or sweat-wicking materials. It’ll ensure optimal airflow behind the back, thus alleviating or averting acne onset.

Your back will also thank you if you use a gentle, unperfumed soap on it when showering. Ensure you dry your back properly before putting clothes on.

Zen in mind, zen in body 

Emotional regulation plays a central role in relieving stress and breaking through psychological barriers –anxiety, anguish, depression, melancholy – that impair the endocrine system.

A few techniques or therapy types that can be considered are: 

  • Mindfulness 
  • Cold showers 
  • Listening to calm, gentle music 
  • Acceptance and commitment therapy 
  • Cognitive or dialectical behavioural therapy 

Chomp your way to zero back acne 

Eat bland, and not sweet and oily foods. “Increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables like cucumber, celery, hawthorn berry (shan zha, 山楂), bitter gourd, lotus root, and winter melon can eliminate Heat and cool blood. White-coloured foods, such as radish, snow fungus (yin’er, 银耳), lily bulb (bai he, 百合), and snow pears (xue li, 雪梨) help clear Lung Heat. Drinking an ideal quantity of water helps maintain smooth excretion and stave off toxin accumulation,” explains Eu Yan Sang Physician Luke Yau Wai.

Likewise, you may also consider the use of herbal remedies such as Bu Qi Jian Zhong pills (补气健中丸)and Kang Du Qing Fei pills (抗毒清肺丸), Pear Nourishing Herbal Soup, and Si Shen (四神汤) Appetising Herbal Soup.

Naturally, clean skin will enable a person to be free of back acne. To prevent this annoying and painful condition, you may consider using herbal foods or formulas. However, each have differing effects and are suitable for different acne conditions.

The cause of your back acne should be identified before consumption of herbal remedies. Speaking to a TCM practitioner will help clarify if these are suitable for your specific acne condition.  

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. Back Acne. [online] [Accessed 30 May 2022]
  2. National Library of Medicine. 2017. Dermatologic manifestations of endocrine disorders. [online] [Accessed 30 May 2022] 
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Hormonal Acne. [online] [Accessed 30 May 2022] 
  4. PsychCentral. Do You Know How to Manage Your Emotions and Why It Matters? [online] [Accessed 30 May 2022] 

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