You can't see it, but everyone else can ... When you're getting buffed and toned everywhere else, don't neglect your back. It's prone to breakouts. And since back skin is thicker and tougher than the skin on your face, zits can be deeper and more tenacious. So how do you care for your back and keep it sexy? Read on...
Use a Special Body Wash
Chicago dermatologist Carolyn Jacob recommends using a body wash with salicylic acid to help unplug pores. She recommends Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, ($5.84 at DrugStore.com. "But don't rub and scrub too much, or you can irritate your skin," says Jacob. She advises using a lotion applicator instead of a back brush. The Lotion Applicator and Massager ($9.99 at StacksandStacks.com, contains a dispenser so it's easy to apply products without dripping all over the tub.
Exfoliate Your Back
Regular exfoliation, at least a couple of times a week, is a must, says Andrew Scoular, owner and lead esthetician of San Francisco's Blue Turtle Spa. "If you don't, the pores block up, creating the perfect home for bacteria to raise large families." Gross, right? And the more bacteria, the more inflammation—which leads to pitting and dark spots, especially if your back is exposed to the sun. Scoular advises against a scrub or a brush because they can leave micro-tears which invite bacteria. Instead, he recommends a combination of salicylic and alphahydroxy acids, like Peter Thomas Roth AHA/BHA Acne Clearing Gel ($40 at Amazon.com).
Try an Acne Treatment Gel
At night, apply a benzoyl peroxide product to breakouts, such as ZAPZYT Maximum Strength 10% Benzoyl Peroxide Acne Treatment Gel ($5.29 at DrugStore.com). It can bleach fabrics, so wear a white T-shirt to bed, says Jacob. With persistent acne, you may get permanent scarring. If that's the case, see a board-certified dermatologist.
Get a "Bacial"
If you'd like someone else to do the work, consider a back facial (also known as a "bacial") at a spa. It typically starts with cleansing and steam to open the pores, followed by exfoliation (avoid scrubs—an enzyme or acid peel is best) and extractions. Afterward, the aesthetician will apply a mask (often, a mud-based one, to help draw out more oil and dirt). At the Blue Turtle Spa, where the Back Flip will run you $70 for 50 minutes, ingredients like white lily extract and Chinese licorice are smoothed on to calm redness and inflammation. Finally, to help heal any irritation, Scoular is a fan of hyaluronic acid. Try Reviva Labs Hyaluronic Acid Serum ($23 at GNC.com).
Everyday Tips to Prevent a Back Breakout
Even by following the advice above, there are other precautions you can take to ensure a back breakout is not in your future. Consider these tips:
- Use a gel-based sunscreen or one that's noncomedogenic, like Coppertone Oil Free QuickCover Lotion Spray SPF 30 ($9.99 at Walgreens).
- Avoid wearing tight clothing that rubs against your back, says Jacob. If you're working out, light cotton is better than sweaty synthetics that don't breathe.
- Shower after you work out, says Sharon McEntee, a Boston aesthetician. She also suggests washing your hair before you cleanse your back, so you can rinse away any pore-clogging residue from your shampoo or conditioner.
- Choose cleansers without synthetic fragrances, animal products, lanolin or mineral oil. Plus, consider a lightweight moisturizer, says Sharon Ronen, founder of Skin Haven Spa in Los Angeles, CA.