Chest and back acne
When most of us think of acne, we think about spots on the face. Nearly everybody with this condition has spots here, but it’s also fairly common to get them on the chest and back too. According to the NHS, half of people with acne get spots on their back (sometimes called “bacne”), and about 15% get them on their chest.
If you have spots in these areas, you might find that they’re more difficult to manage than the spots on your face. Wearing clothes or carrying bags can rub and irritate the skin, meaning spots here might burst and scar more easily. Spots on your back might also be harder to reach when you’re bathing and applying treatment.
If you’re affected by this kind of acne, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP. They should be able to prescribe treatment and – if necessary – refer you to a dermatologist.
Causes of chest acne and back acne
Acne is thought to be related to the sensitivity of your sebaceous glands. These are glands that produce sebum, an oily substance that keeps the skin lubricated.
In people with acne, the sebaceous glands produce too much sebum. This excess sebum plugs the hair follicles in the skin and mixes with dead skin cells. Bacteria on the skin that is otherwise harmless can infect these plugged follicles and cause painful, pus-filled spots.
If you have acne, you’ll probably live with spots most of the time simply because that’s how your skin works. However, you might notice that certain things trigger worse breakouts, or cause particularly severe spots like nodules or cysts.
Breakouts of chest or back acne might be triggered if the skin in those areas is rubbed or put under pressure. One example would be wearing a backpack, or a bag with a strap that goes across your chest.
You might also have more severe acne on your back and chest because you treat these areas differently to your face. Because your back and chest can be harder to see and reach, and because they aren’t usually on display, it’s easy to end up neglecting the skin here.
How to get rid of chest acne and back acne
The first thing to know is that there’s no cure for acne, but there are lots of different treatment options. Over time you should be able to reduce the severity of your symptoms.
Mild acne on the back and chest can usually be managed with pharmacy treatments like gels or creams that contain benzoyl peroxide. Moderate or severe acne will need attention from a doctor. Your GP should be able to prescribe stronger treatments like antibiotics and retinoids. For an explanation of what counts as mild, moderate and severe acne, read this article: Types of acne and its causes.
If your GP thinks that your acne is really severe they might refer you to a dermatologist who can provide specialist help. You can find out more about what treatments are available by consulting this guide from the NHS.
Lifestyle changes that can help with chest and back acne
If you have moderate or severe acne on your back or chest you should see a GP for prescription treatment. Aside from that, there are a few things you can do to help manage your symptoms at home:
- Consider buying a lotion applicator so it’s easier to apply topical treatments to your back
- Try to avoid wearing bags that put pressure on the affected areas
- Don’t squeeze or pick your spots
- Keep your skin clean but avoid scrubbing it as this can cause irritation
- Make a note of anything that seem to trigger your acne so you can avoid them
Visit our secure online Acne clinic
If you’re seeking prescription treatment for acne, LloydsPharmacy can help. Our in-house clinicians manage our secure online clinic and can supply a range of prescription treatments. Find out more by browsing available treatments here.