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Cystic Back Acne: Tips for Treatment and Prevention

Anna Denson
Written by
Anna Denson
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The sun is shining, the breeze is warm, and it’s (finally!) coming up on pool season. Enter my pre-swim checklist:

Have I shaved all the things that need shaving? Am I self-assured enough to dare a bikini? Should I pick the swimsuit covered in sharks or the one that makes me look like a 1950s pinup?

...Which one will cover up the acne on my back?

*record scratch*

STOP. Is the embarrassing scourge of bacne casting a shadow over your summer excitement? Girl, same.

Back acne is actually super common, affecting 60% of acne sufferers. Our sebaceous glands, which produce skin oil, are most concentrated around our face, shoulders, chest, and back. That’s why most breakouts are localized to these areas.

Our backs also have thicker skin than other areas of our bodies, which can increase the occurrence of blocked pores.

Most incidents of back acne are mild or moderate cases, which are villainous enough. But some people suffer with a super-villain: cystic acne.

Cystic back acne — or, shall we say, cystic bacne — is caused by the same factors that contribute to breakouts on your face. You know the perps: excess sebum, dead skin cells, and P. acnes bacteria.

Only, these breakouts are much worse than a surface-level acne flare-up. Cystic acne occurs deep in the bottom layers of our skin, creating a closed, pus-filled cyst that doesn’t reach the surface. These cysts can not only be painful, but they can linger for weeks!

Cystic bacne is no joke, and it can take a real toll on your self-confidence. But you don’t have to let bacne dictate your summer wardrobe. There are steps you can take to fight back!

Use these tips to minimize cystic breakouts on your back and reclaim your mojo. Then go enjoy the summer in whatever swimsuit you like! You’re gonna be stunning!

 

Cleanse Daily

Those of us with acne are often hyper-aware of our facial cleansing routine, but don’t forget about the rest of your skin! If you’re fighting breakouts on your back, you need to make sure that you’re keeping the area clean.

Not any old cleansing routine will do, though. I know it’s tempting to attack bacne twelve times a day with a soapy washcloth and some elbow grease. Been there, done that. But over-cleansing is actually a step backward.

You should aim to avoid abrasive scrubs, cloths, or loofahs, which can irritate acne and damage the upper layers of your skin. So much for that fancy back brush!

Also, avoid harsh cleansers, especially anything loaded with chemicals or astringents. These can dry out your skin and worsen breakouts.

Instead, seek out a product that exfoliates gently and nourishes your troubled skin. We recommend our Rejuvenating Essence Body Polish, which smooths away dead cells and deposits nutrients to fight acne-causing bacteria.

And it does all this without chafing or clogging up your sensitive complexion! Just natural ingredients to naturally heal your skin!

 

Averr Aglow Rejuvenating Essence Body Polish

 

Avoid Too Much Sun

Getting a little sunshine can be good for us, especially when we’ve been slowly spiraling into Vitamin D deficiency through the winter months. But using sunlight as an acne treatment? Not recommended.

It’s true that sunlight can temporarily improve the appearance of your skin, primarily by drying up oily patches and disguising blemishes under your new tan. Some bacteria are also light-sensitive and will die off with prolonged sun exposure.

But dermatologists agree that the consequences of absorbing too much UV radiation outweigh the benefits, contributing to everything from wrinkles to cancer.

UV rays are damaging to your skin, acne included. Too much UV exposure can end up darkening your imperfections, prolonging breakouts, and even increase your likelihood of scarring! Nope, nope, nope.

To make matters worse, this short reprieve of dry skin can actually come back to bite you a few days later. Your body will compensate for all that lost moisturization by releasing more sebum onto your sun-toasted skin. Those increased sebum levels may then result in a brand-new batch of breakouts.

So instead of trying to bake away your blemishes by the pool, limit your sun exposure, especially on acne-prone areas such as your back. And don’t forget to use sunscreen, preferably a water-based option that won’t clog your pores!

 

Check Your Hair Products

This may seem like a head-scratcher at first. After all, we’re talking about skin problems on our backs, not our scalps.

But when you’re enjoying a long hot shower, where does all that shampoo and conditioner go as you’re rinsing it out? Unless you’re some kind of weird contortionist, it’s going straight down your back.

This can spell trouble for your skin, as many hair products contain oil to make your mane sleek and glossy. The oily residue from these products can stop up pores on your back and shoulders, contributing to breakouts — including the deep cysts you’re trying so desperately to get rid of.

Your shampoo may also be hiding synthetic fragrances and chemicals that can add to the problem, irritating and drying out your sensitive skin.

Try to find oil-free hair products and ones without all the added chemicals. Also, be sure to rinse thoroughly, so that residue isn’t building up and drying on the skin of your back!

Pro tip: Wash and rinse your hair BEFORE you wash your body, so that any lingering hair products get cleansed away.

 

Don’t Pick Your Blemishes

You know this one already. You know it.

Don’t pick at your acne spots. Also, don’t prod them, squeeze them, scratch them, pop them, poke them, dig at them, peel them, or burst them.

Back! Acne! Included!

Some of you want to argue with me right now. “But Anna, sometimes draining my pimples really helps!”

Okay, if you are super careful and conscientious about it, there are some ways to safely DIY that pimple-popping. But let’s be honest. Are you going to be safe and sanitary, or are you just going to dig in with dirty fingernails?

 

Futurama skeptical Fry meme

 

Anyway, it’s hard to safely extract a blemish when you’re craning over your shoulder, struggling to center it in the mirror. You win again, bacne!

In real life, most of us aren’t prepared to soap up to the elbows and perform minor skin surgery in our bathrooms. So picking at our blemishes only spreads bacteria and promotes scarring.

And messing with cystic acne is even worse. Besides the fact that cystic acne is already more prone to leave scars, the depth of cystic breakouts makes them nearly impossible to drain at home.

Instead, all your useless poking and prodding can cause the cyst to burst beneath the skin, spreading gross pus and infection deep into your epidermis.

Ugggggh. Guys, I can’t even.

 

Acne-Proof Your Workout

Exercise is awesome for our health and happiness. If you are leading an active lifestyle, I salute you (from the comfort of my couch). Keep up the good work!

But without proper care, even a casual jog may contribute to the cystic breakouts on your back.

If you struggle with persistent bacne, make sure you follow these guidelines for your workout:

  • Wear loose sportswear: You’ve worked hard towards your fitness goals, so of course you want to show off your progress! But form-fitting tops can suffocate your skin, while trapped moisture encourages bacteria growth. Not to mention that too much friction can lead to a situation known as acne mechanica.
  • Shower after exercise: If you’ve worked up a sweat, you’re probably dying to rinse off. Good! Do it! And remember: the goal is to keep your back nice and fresh, but not over-cleansed. 
  • Wash clothes after every use: This may sound obvious. But there have definitely been times when I’ve taken a light walk or poorly attempted a yoga class and thought, “I didn’t do too much. I can get one more wear out of this.” Don’t fall into this trap! Take that bacteria-laden sports bra and toss it straight into the washer. Your back will thank you.

 

Let Your Skin Breathe

When you’re trying to heal cystic breakouts on your back, the last thing you want to do is irritate and inflame those tender blemishes.

Avoid anything that will smother or chafe your healing skin, such as backpacks or restrictive shapewear. This includes corsets, goth buddies. (Hey, no judgment. In college, I worked at a RenFaire, and wore a corset as part of my work costume.)

 

Author dressed as a pirate in 2007

 

Corsets are surprisingly more comfortable than you’d think (such good posture). But the constant pressure and lack of airflow aren’t good for sensitive skin, especially if you have sore cystic acne.

If possible, wear loose, breathable clothes and choose bags that won’t constantly rub up against your back!

 

Wash Bedding Regularly

When I was a kid, my mother used to wash our bedding once a week. Then I got big enough to start doing my own laundry, and that rate dropped steeply. After all, I’m very busy and important! Who cares if my sheets haven’t been washed in a month or two or six?

(Don’t freak out, that’s an exaggeration. Sort of.)

Seriously, though, our bedding can be a hotbed (sorry) of dirt and bacteria. That’s why it’s so vital to clean it regularly.

In the fight against acne, a lot of attention is given to washing pillowcases. Rightfully so! Even if you cleanse before bed each night (which you should), pillowcases can quickly collect oil, skin cells, bacteria, and makeup.

Why would you want to press your freshly washed face against that?

So yes, clean pillowcases are a must. But if you get body breakouts like cystic bacne, it’s also important to regularly wash your sheets.

Sheets collect the same nasty build-up as your pillow and can deposit that build-up right back onto your acne-prone skin, undoing all your efforts to clean and heal breakouts.

Break the cycle! Wash your sheets!

Pro tip: Try fragrance-free detergents and fabric softeners. Remember, artificial scents can contribute to skin irritation!

 

Be Kind to Yourself

As you try new products and lifestyle changes to heal your cystic breakouts, the most essential tip of all is to treat yourself kindly.

Sometimes you’ll slip up. That’s okay! You don’t have to be perfect!

Sometimes you’ll be frustrated. Of course you will! Cystic acne is a tough opponent, and won’t be easy to beat.

But no matter what, know that you are beautiful and worthy!

p.s. I was right — you look banging in that swimsuit. Xx

 

Yas queen handclaps

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Anna Denson
Written by
Anna Denson
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Anna is a Copywriter at Averr Aglow. A not-so-secret nerd, she loves books with swords and never gets tired of Alien or Jurassic Park. Also a total foodie, she has an unnecessarily large cookbook collection. When not busy writing, Anna travels the world and dotes on her two spoiled cats, Waffle and Fanta.