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Acne is a common skin disorder evolving from hyperkeratosis (dead skin cell build-up) in the skin’s pilosebaceous units, made up of hair follicles, hair, sebaceous glands, and arrector pili muscle. These “units” are found everywhere on the body except on the palms, soles, top of the feet, and lower lip, so body acne is common, especially on the chest, shoulders, and back.
What causes body acne?
Acne is an ongoing, chronic condition that runs in families and often includes excessive sebum production and the growth of p. acnes bacteria, normally present in the skin. Family history and androgenic hormones are responsible for the vast majority of cases. At the same time, hormone changes, stress, diet, contact with chemicals and cosmetics, pressure and friction, and smoking are known causative and/or aggravating factors. Smoking cigarettes, blunts, and E-cigarettes are factors because tobacco and nicotine increase inflammation, slow down the healing process, cause severe pore-clogging and blackheads, and will eventually destroy the skin in other ways.
Body acne triggers are associated with clothing.
Choose laundry products “free of perfume and dyes” and avoid fabric softeners, especially waxy softener sheets and scented liquid softeners. Launder all new clothing and bedding at least twice to remove the toxic chemicals used during the manufacturing process to cut down on mold, wrinkling, and insect infestations when stored and shipped in containers, especially from overseas. Most imported clothing is sprayed with toxic fungicides, pesticides, and formaldehyde, which can cause body acne, skin infections, and rashes.
Pore-clogging ingredients and fragrances aggravate body acne.
Clients should avoid comedogenic hair and body products, sunscreens that contain tropic oils, and fragrances. Clothing and workout wear should be cotton or a cotton blend and laundered in fragrance-free detergent with no fabric softener.
Pressure, friction, and occlusion can cause breakouts.
Acne mechanica can be caused by restrictive clothing, tight bra straps and bands, heavy shoulder bags and backpacks, occlusive workout wear, putting too much pressure on one side of the buttocks while sitting, over-scrubbing and rubbing with a towel. Wear loose clothing made from natural fibers and laundered in fragrance-free detergent, ditch the fabric softener, and shower immediately after workouts.
Foods and supplements that can incite inflammation.
These include iodized sodium, hormones and/or inflammatory substances found in dairy, seaweed, peanut products, fast food, processed foods, salty snacks, soups, sports drinks, and supplements that contain biotin, maca root, spirulina, seaweed, kelp, algae, chlorella, iodine, testosterone boosters, and protein drinks that contain whey and sea plants.
Sugar and simple carbs intake is a major concern if one is diabetic, pre-diabetic, insulin-resistant, and/or has a condition like polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Out-of-control sugar can mean out-of-control acne.
Stress is a major acne trigger.
The ‘wear and tear’ of daily living and the changes that take place one’s life can cause stress. Every effort should be made to reduce that stress. Lack of sleep causes severe physical stress and makes it difficult to control acne. Examples are night shift jobs, broken sleep, social media, and cell phone notifications, sleeping with infants or small children, late night time management, insomnia, hormonal changes in mid-life, long plane trips and crossing time zones. Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep.
Picking and scrubbing worsen body acne and causes scarring.
Picking pushes pimples deeper into the follicle, slows the healing process, introduces airborne bacteria, invites secondary infection, and causes hyperpigmentation and scarring. The larger red or brown blemishes from picking take forever to heal and fade and often cause permanent scarring. Compulsive picking can even damage the basal layer and cause a permanent loss of skin pigment. Long hot showers and over-scrubbing can make existing acne more inflamed, cause severe irritation and rebound oiliness, and make it difficult to tolerate homecare products.
Using the sun to dry out acne and tanning to camouflage discoloration is a big mistake.
Sun exposure damages the follicles over time and causes increased clogging, skin cancer, and severe skin discoloration. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, the dark spots caused by acne, can be addressed gradually with peels and topical skin brighteners.
Solar lentignes, also called “sun spots” or “age spots” are the brown spots caused by prolonged sun exposure. They don’t respond well to skin brighteners and require laser treatments that selectively target brown pigmented lesions on the surface and in the dermal layer. They must be repeated as new spots surface and are not appropriate for darker skin tones.
Body acne can be successfully treated with topical skin care products and lifestyle changes.
Benzoyl peroxide (BPO) is possibly the most effective acne medication available and differs from other topical acne medications. It has the ability to penetrate deep into the pores, release oxygen and the kill p.acnes bacteria. BPO also causes a desirable “peeling effect” deep in the follicle to inhibit the formation of new comedones and dislodges existing ones.
Benzoyl peroxide medication is applied to the affected area at bedtime after gentle cleansing and allowed to dry. Bedding and clothing must be white and laundered in fragrance-free products with no fabric softeners. It must be showered off in the morning and should never be worn in sunlight or if one expects to perspire. The skin will rapidly acclimate to BPO and dryness subsides if used consistently.
In the absence of irritation, a topical alpha or beta hydroxy acid gel can be introduced and applied during the day. Mandelic acid is a good (but expensive) choice because it exfoliates with minimal irritation, has antibiotic properties, and can help brighten dark spots. Because the chest and back can produce a lot of oil, salicylic acid is another viable choice because it helps emulsify sebum, de-clog the pores, and inhibit bacteria. Since the sun can darken acne blemishes, avoid unnecessary sun exposure. Apply a non-comedogenic sunscreen when outdoors and reapply often.
Acne washes don’t work well as a stand-alone acne treatment.
This is because they’re on the skin for such a short time. But, they do help pre-exfoliate the skin so leave-on acne products can penetrate better. Body cleansers contain benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, mandelic acid, glycolic acid, and sulfur. Take shorter showers in warm water, cleanse gently without scrubbing, and blot the skin dry. Do not stand close to heat sources.
Treatments for body acne include skin peels and back facials.
Professional treatments boost homecare efforts and help produce faster results. They exfoliate dead skin cells, help fade dark spots left by residual acne, and make extraction of pimples and blackheads easier to perform. Glycolic, lactic and mandelic acid peels are safe and effective when chosen carefully according to sensitivity, home care used, peel percentage and pH. Back facials using enzymes with steam help exfoliate surface cells, soften impactions and leave the skin smooth and hydrated. Enzyme peels provide an alternative for those unable to tolerate AHA or BHA peels. Performed correctly, light chemical peels and enzymes are generally safe for sensitive skin, darker skin tones, and dry skin. Brushing techniques and microdermabrasion create friction and can aggravate active acne.
Conclusion: Acne is easily treated by knowledgeable skin care professionals. Our acne products are much safer and more effective than prescription meds and come with fewer side effects. Knowledge, communication, and consistency are crucial to controlling acne because it’s very treatable, but not curable.
Caution: If you slack on home care and abandon lifestyle changes once your acne clears, new micro-comedones will begin to form deep in the follicles. In about three months, full-blown acne will begin to surface. Schedule your follow-up visits every month or two. This will help us monitor your homecare product compliance, discuss the lifestyle issues that affect your acne, assess any need for professional treatments, and provide product refills…a win-win situation for everyone.
©2019 Kathryn Khadija Leverette, clinicallyclear.com and katleverette.com.
The material on this website is provided for educational purposes and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.