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Ask Kerry: Bacne

Hey Kerry,

I’ve been getting bad breakouts on my back and shoulders. It’s weird because I don’t have acne on my face. Any tips on how to treat back acne?

Back acne can be extremely frustrating—especially when you have no idea what’s causing it. Having acne on your body but not your face is very common. The skin on the back and shoulders has especially large, oily pores that are prone to clogs. But like most types of acne,body acne may be a signifier of an internal imbalance, so if you’re not seeing results with any of the tips I’ve rounded up below, you may want to try cutting processed sugar, alcohol, dairy and wheat from your diet to see if that helps clear things up. In my experience, these foods can cause inflammation in the form of body breakouts. Read on for other tips to clear up that bacne!

Get Out of Your Workout Clothes STAT

Workout clothes like leggings and compression tops look super cute during your sweat class,but aren’t great news for your skin. Tight, moisture-wicking materials generally aren’t breathable and can trap oil and dead skin next to your skin for hours and hours, creating the perfect storm for a body breakout. After your workout, be sure to get out of those tight clothes right away and take a shower if you can. If a shower’s not an option, pull on some flowy cotton clothing to help your skin breathe.

Wash Your Back Last

First things first: invest in a pH-balanced, salicylic acid cleanser specifically for body breakouts. And ditch the loofah; it could be harboring some icky bacteria. Instead, use your hands or a clean washcloth (a new, clean one every time you shower) to reach those tricky areas. But if you’re washing your back while you still have conditioner in your hair, you might be cancelling out the rinse. Conditioners and other hair products are loaded with ingredients that aren’t meant to sit on your skin—heavy silicones, oils, and softeners that can cause breakouts. You don’t have to sacrifice silky hair, just give your back a good wash after you rinse away all of your hair products.

Say it with me: EXFOLIATE!

Some people are blessed with bodies that never have flakes, bumps, or blemishes. Lucky them! Most of us need a little maintenance, which means giving our body almost as much attention as the skin on the face. The skin on your back is really thick and hardy compared to the face. It’s also really oily, and the pores are large. Those big pores are prone to clogs thanks to all the dead skin and sebum that’s hanging out in the area. To counteract that, we need to exfoliate regularly. The tough skin on your back can handle the strong stuff, but I still don’t recommend scrubbing. Instead, try a peel designed especially for body like my TCA Multi-Acid Body Peel. The acids in this peel gently dissolve surface debris while killing acne-causing bacteria. You can use it up to twice a week.

There’s a Retinol for That

While most of these simple tips will help eradicate your body breakouts, if you still see no relief,you can consider upgrading to a topical retinol treatment to help. An affordable over-the-counter option like Differin will help prevent dead skin cells from hanging around and clogging your pores. However, I recommend trying a body peel before deciding to add a retinol.

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