There comes a moment during early summer when you start to bare parts of your body and realise that you’re going to have to be a bit bold after leaving things to their own devices over winter.
For most things, there is an instant product that makes things a bit better. That first airing of pasty, hairy winter legs can easily be solved with a razor and some fake tan, and arms that have a smattering of KP as a result of being neglected all winter can be covered with a moisturiser containing acid and, if need be, a little concealer mixed into moisturiser.
Body acne, however, is a bit harder to instantly fix. Usually occurring on the back or chest, it’s a tricky one to conceal come summer, leaving sufferers feeling less confident as a result, with a Neutrogena study showing that 93% of British women with acne claim that their confidence plummets when they have a break out.
The good news? As with acne that occurs on the face, once you’ve found the cause and right treatment, you can really reduce episodes of back acne - aka bacne - and hopefully don your Bardot top without feeling self-conscious. Here’s what you need to know:
Is body acne essentially the same as facial acne?
Basically: yes. The formation of a spot goes like this, according to Dr. Daniel Glass, Consultant Dermatologist at the Dermatology Clinic London: ‘there’ll be increased sebaceous gland activity coupled with more sebum/grease, which often occurs along with higher amounts of keratin in the follicular duct. Together, they provide an environment in which a bacteria called propioniform acnes can thrive, causing blockages and inflamed spots.’
But why does it occur on the back and chest?
This is a bit of a riddle, though dermatologists have noted that acne forms where there are plenty of sebaceous glands (hence never getting spots on your palms or the soles of your feet). Both and back and chest have a high density of sebaceous glands.
So what is causing it?
One answer doesn’t fit all; there are myriad factors that can contribute to the formation of spots. The most common lifestyle factors - and some ideas to fighting them are:
- Hormones. When your hormones are out of sync, sebaceous glands can overproduce oil. The key here is to tackle the root cause and balance hormones. Reducing sugar, acupuncture, and making sure you eat plenty of photoestrogens like spinach can help.
- Sweat. Sweat left on the skin can contribute to spots, so if you’re an avid exerciser, make sure you’re wearing 100% cotton to wick away sweat, and that you shower after exercising, preferably washing your back and chest with a wash containing AHAs to reduce blockages.
- Fabric Softener. The experts debate the reasons for fabric softener causing spots, but essentially they all agree that it can clog pores, irritate the skin and lead to more break outs.
- SPF. While you have to wear SPF to protect your skin, oil-containing and highly-fragranced formulas can contribute to acne - especially when you’re out in the heat and sweating. Dr. Goldfaden suggests trying ‘an oil-free body moisturiser - and a fragrance-free SPF’. The easiest fix? Try taking your oil-free face SPF down onto your chest and back when on holiday.
- Stress. Annoyingly, stress is both a by-product and cause of acne. Facialist Nichola Joss recommends trying to nip the skin-related stress in the bud by trying not to use negative language when talking about skin issues, while doctors will often suggest yoga, meditation or just a good old run are good measures to destress.
- The Wrong Products. This is where you can make an impact most quickly. Oily, fragranced products are likely to aggravate acne-prone skin, while Dr. Glass recommends skincare containing ‘retinoids, niacinamide and glycolic acid.’
- Your Hair. Fan of wearing your hair in a cascade down your bare back? Maybe reconsider: any products in your hair will be rubbing on your skin, potentially depositing chemicals and irritating skin.
I need a quick fix though - what can I do?
A body facial can work wonders - especially if you’re a picker and are spreading spots by squeezing at them inexpertly. Debbie Thomas, Nataliya Robinson, Pfeffer Sal, and Cowshed all offer brilliant ones.
Here is our tried-and-tested body acne product edit:
Murad Clarifying Body Spray, £29.50. Antibacterial and easy to spray onto your back thanks to the 360 degree nozzle, this is the top pick of dermatologists. Spray on after showering.
Jurlique Body Exfoliating Gel, £20.25. Antibacterial and antimicrobial, scrubbing with this in the shower will lift dead cells and help to reduce further breakouts.
Vichy Dermablend Corrective Body Foundation, £29.75. If you’re looking for proper, cancels-out-spot coverage, get this. Though it’s non-comedogenic, you’ll still need to cleanse the area after wear properly - try a creamy cleanser removed with a flannel steeped in warm water.
MAC Face & Body, £23.50. For a slightly lighter, more unifying wash of coverage, try this. It mimics skin really well so is ideal if you’re going out in daylight.
Indie Lee Blemish Lotion, £24.50. Dip a cotton bud in the pink sediment and swipe it over the blemishes to treat them to a blend of mineral clay and camphor. Jointly, they’ll help to absorb excess oil and calm existing spots.