My Experience With Back Acne, And How My Blemishes Got In The Way Of My Life

Like most humans, I hit puberty in middle school. But I didn’t grow an extra foot tall, and I never really grew into my chest area. Instead, I watched all my girlfriends cultivate boobs and butts, and my guy friends stretch out a few inches as their voices grew deep. All I got was bacne.

Middle school is a horrifying time for anyone, but my experience can be summarized in a few sentences. When I wasn’t going to soccer practice or drooling over the Jonas Brothers with my friends, I was picking at the pimples and zits on my back. By the time I turned 15, the breakouts had gotten so bad that I started scarring my skin and creating scabs where there were minuscule mountains of oil and puss on my shoulders and all over my back. I would squeeze them and pick at them until they popped, at which point it was way too late to go back and scarring was guaranteed to happen. My picking quickly became a bad habit, and thus was the start of my bacne, which unfortunately continued well into my college career.

I would consider my acne to be somewhere between the moderate to severe category. My skin is oily and my pores love to clog up, causing large zits to form occasionally, and smaller ones to pop up on a daily basis. When I get home after a long day, I’m not surprised when I spot a new white head on my forehead or chin; it happens, and at this point it’s kind of comforting to know my skin isn’t completely jaded after my terrible habit of picking at it. (Although I’m not as bad about my face as I am my back.) My mentality is that if I pick at the skin on my face, others might notice. But my back? No one looks there, so why can’t I mess with the huge, painful glob of puss on my shoulder bone? I know, it’s terrible, but that was always my thought process.

When I was younger I never had acne, so I didn't think that it would become a struggle in my adult life. But like most acne stories, bacne struck me during puberty and has stuck around ever since. At first I thought I wasn’t showering enough (every other day), especially since I was always active and sweating on a daily basis. So I started showering every day, but it didn’t help. Then I thought maybe it was the shampoo or conditioner I was using that would get on my back and that I would neglect to wash off in the shower. But I stopped using conditioner for a bit, and even had another round of scrubbing to wash away any residue, and, alas, there were no positive results. Plus, what I experienced in puberty was quite similar to what my sister went through, but she got out of it unscathed by bacne. It was easy for me to devise a coupe of theories for why it may have happened, and blame it on something besides myself, but that never really helped how I ultimately felt.

Since that dreaded period of puberty, I’ve consistently run into problems because of my bacne. I don’t wear revealing tops because you can spot what I call a big zit, Mount Vesuvius, and the other scars left behind from their precursors. Plus, I have to be very careful about how I shower and cleanse my back, avoiding oily creams and moisturizers to prevent even more breakouts. While I realize it’s quite a minuscule issue compared to other conflicts that I’ve seen my friends deal with at that age, it was a huge blow to my confidence. I always pride myself in being open and willing to try anything, but I began holding back on playing sports with friends and going to the beach or pool because I was ashamed of my skin and how it looked. While I know some of it was self-induced, it was still embarrassing to be around my friends who showed off their perfect, flawless skin in bikini tops and strappy tanks.


As of late, bacne is not as much of a concern for me. I’ve grown more confident and self-assured, and realized that my bacne shouldn’t put me down or make me compare myself to others. While my skin might not be impeccable like Kate Moss’ or Cara Delevigne’s, it’s mine and I accept it for what it is. Sure, I might not be completely comfortable wearing a strapless dress or a revealing backless shirt. But I don’t think that’s putting me behind the crowd, style or fashion wise. And while I recognize that I have a bad habit of picking at my skin, it has become something that I am aware of and in turn have been able to control so that I don’t damage my skin any further. Instead of mindlessly reaching to pick and scratch my back, I keep my hands in front of me and I ponder how much I'm going to regret what I'm about to do. Plus, the thought of blood and puss seeping into the pretty shirt I'm wearing also grosses me out enough for me to keep my hands busy doing other things.

My current theory about my bacne is if I ignore it, it’s better off. I’ve tried different treatments and washes, but that only has me focusing on every little spot as opposed to letting them be and having them heal on their own. At the end of the day, my bacne is my bacne. There’s not much I can do besides take it for what it is. It may hinder me in some aspects, but I can live with it.

That being said, friends, if you’re reading this: Please don’t pick out strapless bridesmaids gowns. I’m begging you.

Images: Getty, Giphy