Facial acne happens to almost everyone, and is finally getting it's due as nothing to be ashamed of. But acne on your back — which is often more serious, and sometimes painful — hasn't exactly gotten it's time in the spotlight yet. And that's not great, since bacne could be an indicator of how things are going with other aspects of your health. Luckily, dermatologists know the
causes of back acne, and are here to help.
It helps to know that bacne is quite different than the acne that shows up on your face. "Acne is the consistent clogging of pores with dead skin, excess oil, and potentially dirt that gives bacteria the opportunity to grow," Dr. David Greuner of
NYC Surgical Associates tells Bustle. "The difference between acne on your back and acne on your face is that your back has larger pores, making it easier for them to be clogged. This is also the reason why pimples that develop on your back are sometimes larger in comparison to ones on your face. Using specific bacne products can help combat its potential aggressive behavior." So if you're feeling like what's showing up on your back is way trickier than what you've encountered on your face, it's not in your head.
Plus, the location doesn't help much either. "Because it’s on your back you may not notice it until it’s gotten angry and uncomfortable," dermatologist dermatologist
Dr. Suzanne Friedler tells Bustle. But even so, figuring out the cause of this bacne is important. It can help prevent further breakouts, of course, but it can also keep you more aware of how your health is doing, in general.
Here are seven unexpected things having bacne might say about your health, according to experts.
Skin Issues May Be In Your Genes
If you have bacne, it might be a sign that you're
genetically predisposed to skin problems. Beginning to figure this out can help you plan out skincare and lifestyle changes to keep your skin healthier.
"Sometimes, acne is not your fault since it is genetic, and people can be more prone to having certain activities cause breakouts," Dr. Greuner says. You'll have to work with your dermatologist to figure out whether your diet or skincare routine have any potential triggers, but at least you'll know that you're not doing anything "wrong" to cause this skin issue. Plus, the club of people who've been outspoken about dealing with acne recently has been pretty star-studded. If
Lili Reinhardt can stand up to acne-shamers, maybe you can too. So wear that backless top.
Tight Clothing Could Be Causing Skin Issues
Tight clothing can cause all sorts of health problems,
from UTIs to — you guessed it — bacne. "Tight clothing can also hurt your chances of achieving clear skin as it can irritate the surface and makes it difficult for the skin to breathe, therefore promoting clogging." Dr. Greuner says.
Taking inventory of what you've been wearing when you get breakouts can help you better understand your health. If you stop wearing tight tops for a week, and your bacne subsides, it is a good indicator that your bacne isn't a sign of a more serious underlying problem.
And if you absolutely don't want to give up on your favorite looks, remember that breathability is key. "[Fabrics that don't breathe] prevent evaporation of sweat and prevent air from getting to the area encouraging the bacteria to further grow," Dr. Susan Bard, MD of
Manhattan Dermatology Specialists tells Bustle. Once you've adjusted your wardrobe choices, you can more properly assess how your skin is doing in general.
You May Not Be Washing Your Sheets Enough
You spend a lot of your life in bed. So it's worth it to do what you can to make it a sanctuary, not a health hazard. Unfortunately though, bacne often starts between the sheets.
"Your bed sheets can be a base for bacteria, and can also have dirt and oil stick to them over time, so this makes washing your sheets that much more important,” Dr. Greuner says. If you find that cleaning your sheets, or getting a new set, has cleared up your back, you might also find that other health problems clear up, too. Everything from
eczema, to infections, to allergies can clear up when you make this change.
You Might Be Staying In Work Out Clothes Too Long
It's very tempting to go from barre class straight to brunch. But maybe schedule an extra thirty minutes for a shower and outfit change.
"Staying too long in sweaty clothes allows time for bacteria to multiply on the skin ... Make sure you get out of sweaty clothes quickly," Dr. Friedler says. Your
sweaty clothes could also be causing skin rashes, yeast infections, and a weakened immune system, so it really is of the utmost importance for your health to make this change.
It Could Be Your Hormones
Hormones, whether naturally occurring or supplemented by medication, are a
major culprit of acne all over. Your back, unfortunately, is not immune. So if you have stubborn back acne that doesn't change with sheets being washed or clothes being changed, you might need to see a doctor about hormone levels.
"If someone is on anabolic steroids or testosterone supplements, that can increase their skin's oil production and lead to severe breakouts on the back, chest, and on the face. Hormonal imbalances such as seen with
polycystic ovaries can also affect the skin in the same way," Dr. Friedler says. Hormone issues are incredibly common, so don't freak out just yet. Your dermatologist will likely be able to help find you a treatment that works.
Like a lot of health problems, your medicines (or supplements) could be interacting with your body to cause this issue. And bacne could be a sign that your body isn't loving what you're putting into it.
"Often times [bacne] can be triggered by certain medication or supplements (ie. muscle bulking protein powders)" Dr. Bard says. So, like always, when you go to the doctor, it's important to mention
all medications and supplements you take — not just the prescribed ones. A simple switch of brands or ingredients might even clear up your bacne.
It Could Be Friction's Fault
There's a thing called "acne mechanica" that could be causing your bacne woes, family doctor and former ER doctor Daliah Wachs, M.D., tells Bustle. And, no, it's not acne for robots.
"Acne mechanica [is] mechanical rubbing ... that can induce gland stimulation, leading to acne," Dr. Wachs says. This means that backpacks, sports gear, and other accessories, could be causing you all this trouble. If you think this is the culprit, it could be a sign that your body is asking you to switch up your workout routines, or minimize daily heavy-lifting. You can work with your dermatologist to find a change-up that works best for you.
In general, bacne is pretty preventable and treatable, and doesn't have to mean something serious is going on with your overall health. The first step is to try to treat it with some simple store-bought elixirs. "Using an antibacterial soap, benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid wash are all great for preventing or treating bacne,” Dr. Friedler says. If your bacne doesn't respond to typical treatments, or is particularly bothersome, it's time to see a dermatologist. That's when your bacne might be indicating something more. It's just another little way our bodies ask us for help.