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Looking at back acne in the mirror.

Do you have back acne?

Don't let back acne keep you from enjoying the beach or the pool this summer. These angry red bumps are extremely common-- affecting almost half of all acne sufferers.  Due to its location, this condition can be extremely embarrassing as well as painful and itchy.

What causes back acne?

“Back acne is triggered by the same conditions that cause facial acne,” says David Harvey, M.D., a dermatologist and Mohs surgeon at Piedmont. This includes:

  • Genetics. If your parents or family members were plagued by acne, you may have a greater risk of inheriting the triggers that cause the condition.

“Some people have a genetic predisposition to acne—producing certain compositions of oil that bacteria thrive in,” says Dr. Harvey

  • Hormones. Hormonal changes stemming from diabetes, puberty or pregnancy can cause an accumulation of bacteria and hormonal imbalances in the oil composition of the skin, resulting in acne.
  • Poor hygiene. Wearing tight clothes that cause friction, sweating and not wearing clean clothes can all contribute to the creation of acne.

How do you treat back acne?

“First, I make sure my patients practice good hygiene,” says Dr. Harvey. “If they workout, I tell them to take a shower right away instead of waiting until the next day, because bacteria will seep into the follicles. I also tell them to wear clean clothes so they won’t expose their skin to acne-inducing bacteria.””

If there are a lot of pustules on the back, Dr. Harvey will collect skin cultures to isolate the bacteria and prescribe an oral antibiotic and topical antibiotic soap to improve the condition. In severe cases when scarring is present, Dr. Harvey says he may prescribe Accutane.

The key to preventing back acne

Back acne is treatable and preventable, says Dr. Harvey.

“There is hope,” he says. “These people can go out in the sun and enjoy themselves.”

To prevent new or reoccurring cases of back acne, Dr. Harvey suggests:

  • Washing your clothes with bleach
  • Minimizing the use of fragranced or highly-perfumed detergents
  • Showering regularly and changing into clean clothes

“Back acne sufferers can be in their bathing suits and have confidence if they seek help and are conscientious about their hygiene,” says Dr. Harvey.

To find a dermatologist near you, check out our Find a Doctor search tool.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

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