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Amy is a Board Certified Family Health Nurse Practitioner (FNP) with over 15 years of experience working in Hospital Medicine, Urgent Care and Primary Care practices. Amy graduated Thomas Jefferson University with high distinction earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2008, a Master of Science in Nursing in 2010 and a Post Master's Certificate in Adult Gerontology Acute Care (AGAC) in 2014. She was recognized by the Elite American Nurses Association in 2013 for her dedication, achievements and leadership in the field Nursing. She served as a clinical preceptor for a number of Nurse Practitioner students and enjoys teaching the bright minds of future NPs.
As the weather warms up and the amount of daylight increases each day, you are more likely to wear clothing that shows off your back. However, for those who suffer from back acne the warmer months may bring concern over showing a back with acne scarring. Not only that, but it takes acne scars months to fade, and will only disappear entirely with treatment.
The primary goal of treating acne scars is removing old skin cells on the surface and promoting new cell growth that is not damaged. This can be done at home by using products with key ingredients, while dermatologists offer many different treatments that encourage new cell growth. Treating acne scars may require patience as the body fixes its damaged skin, but the best time to start is right now.
Table of Contents
- Is Back Acne Normal?
- Do Scars From Back Acne Go Away?
- How Long Does It Take for Back Acne Scars to Fade?
- How to Get Rid of Back Acne Scars?
- Treatment and Medication for Back Acne Scars
- When to See a Doctor?
- Key Takeaways
Is Back Acne Normal?
Acne is a common condition that occurs when a pore of the skin becomes clogged, either by dead skin cells or oil. Unfortunately, inflammation can occur if the pore becomes clogged, or bacteria may become trapped within the pore, leading to an infection that appears as acne.
Most people associate acne with the face primarily because that is a location where it is quite common. This is because the face has a large number of sebaceous glands, which produce sebum (oil). The larger density of sebaceous glands makes the face one of the more oily locations on our body, increasing the likelihood of the pores clogging.
However, there is another spot with a large number of sebaceous glands, and this is the back. While back acne is not discussed as often as facial acne, it is still pretty common and entirely normal. Acne on the back develops for the same reasons as acne on the face; pores become clogged by sebum or dead skin cells, causing inflammation or infection.
Do Scars From Back Acne Go Away?
Scarring is an unfortunate side effect of acne, leaving a mark that lasts long after the acne has healed. An acne scar occurs when a breakout affects the deep layers of the skin, damaging not only the skin but also the tissue located underneath. As the body attempts to heal this damage, a scar may form.
An acne scar consists of collagen, a substance found in the skin that helps provide support. However, when healing acne, the body may produce too little or too much collagen, forming a scar.
There are two types of scars you may see following an acne breakout, depressed acne scars and raised acne scars. The former results when the body produces too little collagen, and the latter when it produces too much collagen.
Some people may be more susceptible to acne scarring, no matter how many preventive measures they take, but there are ways to treat back acne scars and minimize their appearance. While scars from back acne fade over the course of a few months, the only way to make them go away completely is with treatment.
How Long Does It Take for Back Acne Scars to Fade?
The amount of time it takes for back acne scars to fade can vary by person but often fits within the range of 3 to 6 months. However, for the scars to disappear completely, treatment is required. This is because back acne scarring causes permanent damage to the skin that cannot heal completely on its own.
How to Get Rid of Back Acne Scars?
There are various actions and treatments that can be completed at home to prevent back acne (and the chance of scarring) and reduce the appearance of scars.
Use the Right Cleanser
When treating acne on the face, you want to use the correct cleanser, and the back is no different. The key is choosing a cleanser with the proper pH level. The skin sits at a pH of around 5.5, and you want to use a cleanser similar to this so that it is not too harsh on the skin.
You also want to focus on a mild cleanser that will cleanse the skin of the skin-infecting components without stripping the skin of all oil. If bodywashes are not working, go ahead and try using your face wash for your back.
The way you use your cleanser is also important; try and leave it on your back for at least 5 minutes, as this will give it ample time to effectively clean the back.
Use the Right Ingredients
When treating acne scars, you want to look for specific ingredients, including:
- salicylic acid
- alpha-hydroxy acids (e.g., glycolic acid, lactic acid, and citric acid)
- azelaic acid
These ingredients help to encourage new cell growth and turnaround, creating skin that is smooth and scar-free. You may find some of them in cleansers, whereas others are part of a chemical peel or topical product. Whatever product you use, be sure to follow the instructions as these ingredients can be damaging if left on the skin too long or used incorrectly.
These ingredients also increase skin sensitivity after their use, so be sure to avoid unprotected sun exposure following their usage to prevent damage to the skin.
As tempting as it may be to pick at acne on the back, doing so can cause additional damage, resulting in acne scars. To prevent the likelihood of developing back acne scars and help the skin heal, avoid picking.
Try a Prescription Medication or Clinical Treatment
For thick acne scars, the steps taken above may not be enough to help the scar disappear completely. In these cases, it is often worthwhile to visit a dermatologist, either in-person or virtually through an app like DrHouse. Your dermatologist can offer medication to prevent and treat back acne, or they may suggest a treatment to encourage new cell growth and minimize scar appearance.
Treatment and Medication for Back Acne Scars
Prescription-Strength Topical Products
These products may contain strong versions of benzoyl peroxide or retinoid that must be applied directly to the acne-prone area. Not only can these ingredients treat existing acne, but they also help minimize the appearance of acne scars. Other creams may contain antibiotics to prevent and fight the bacterial infection causing acne.
These medications reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin that contribute to acne breakouts. However, overusing antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance and affect the healthy bacteria residing in the gut, which can cause unpleasant side effects. To combat this, a dermatologist typically recommends taking antibiotics for as short an amount of time as possible.
For this treatment medication is taken to suppress testosterone production. Testosterone can stimulate sebum production, which can lead to acne breakouts. By suppressing testosterone production, there is a smaller likelihood of the body overproducing sebum. However, this treatment is often considered only for females who do not respond as expected to oral contraceptives (another way to manage acne) or those with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Light and Laser Therapy
A dermatologist can utilize light or laser therapy to treat acne scars, with many different options that target specific types of acne:
- red, blue, or infrared light therapy can treat pimples, but it is ineffective against blackheads, whiteheads, nodules, and cysts
- photodynamic therapy is beneficial for cases of severe acne
- photopneumatic therapy helps to unclog pores, making it effective for blackheads and whiteheads
- at-home light therapies utilize less intensive light than a dermatologist but are still effective against pimples.
Dermabrasion, Microdermabrasion, and Chemical Peels
A dermatologist more often uses these treatments to treat less noticeable scars. While the methods differ, they all work by removing the top layers of the skin, encouraging new skin cell production that is not damaged.
This treatment involves pressing microneedles into acne scars to help stimulate collagen production. This treatment works best for depressed acne scars since they result from too little collagen production.
When to See a Doctor?
Back acne scars are never a serious concern requiring immediate medical attention, but many people choose to see a doctor when they cannot gain any control over their acne or if their back acne scars affect their confidence.
Get Help From an Online Doctor
An online doctor is an excellent resource to gain information about your back acne scars. You can meet with a dermatologist through online doctor apps such as DrHouse in as little as 15 minutes.
Through the video conferencing format, the doctor you meet with can visually see the state of your back acne and scars and offer suggestions on how to treat them. The dermatologist you meet with can also write you a prescription if needed.
Acne occurs when the skin’s pores become clogged by dead skin cells or sebum, and when the acne affects the skin deep enough, it can cause permanent damage to the skin that manifests as an acne scar. Acne scars can take many months to fade and require treatment to disappear entirely.
Some treatments can be completed at home to lessen back acne, prevent scarring, and minimize the appearance of scars. However, for those with more noticeable scarring, a dermatologist is often needed to see true success. A dermatologist offers a range of medications and treatments to prevent and treat back scars, which are more potent than any at-home offerings.
Back acne is never a severe medical concern, but it can negatively affect your self-confidence, which is why many seek a dermatologist. Using DrHouse, you can virtually meet with a doctor and discuss treatment options for your back acne.
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- Szymańska, A., Budzisz, E., & Erkiert-Polguj, A. (2021). The Anti-Acne Effect of Near-Infrared Low-Level Laser Therapy. Clinical, Cosmetic And Investigational Dermatology, Volume 14, 1045-1051. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.2147/ccid.s323132
- Marson, J., & Baldwin, H. (2019). An Overview of Acne Therapy, Part 1. Dermatologic Clinics, 37(2), 183-193. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1016/j.det.2018.12.001
- Gozali, M. V., & Zhou, B. (2015). Effective treatments of atrophic acne scars. The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology, 8(5), 33–40. PMC4445894.
- Fabbrocini, G., Annunziata, M., D’Arco, V., De Vita, V., Lodi, G., & Mauriello, M. et al. (2010). Acne Scars: Pathogenesis, Classification and Treatment. Dermatology Research And Practice, 2010, 1-13. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1155/2010/893080
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