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Ask a Dermatologist Free: Back Acne

Dear Doctor

I have bad acne and acne scars on my back. I have taken Doxycyline and every cream on the market.


Dear Patient

I recommend that you first control the back acne before you start dealing with the scars.

At Home Treatment for Back Acne 

Non-prescription products that you can use at home to treat back acne, which is also known as body acne or bacne include:

1. Treatment Cleansers

Cleansers that contain medications used to treat acne are very effective for controlling back acne. Examples include Topix 10% Body Wash which contains 10% benzoyl peroxide and Neutrogena Body Clear Wash which contains salicylic acid.

2. Treatment Moisturizers

Moisturizers which contain medications are other effective products that you can use to treat back acne at home. Since it may not be possible to effectively reach all the parts of the back, use moisturising sprays. Examples include Neutrogena Body Clear Body Spray which contains 0.5% salicylic acid and Glytone Back Acne Spray which contains 2% salicylic acid.

3. Chemical Peels

Mild chemical peels with glycolic acid, salicylic acid and other acids are also used to treat back acne at home because they remove the dead cells on the skin’s surface (exfoliate), help unblock the pores and reduce acne breakouts.

Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) which is an effective exfoliator. 30% Glycolic Acid Peels can be bought over the counter and used at home monthly for several months.

Salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid (BHA) which is a very effective exfoliator for acne because it is oil soluble. This property enables it to penetrate deep into the skin pore. A person can begin with a 10% Salicylic Acid Peel  and gradually move onto to stronger ones like the 20% Salicylic Acid Gel Peel. Salicylic acid peels should not be used by persons who are allergic to aspirin.

Dermatologist Treatment for Back Acne 

Prescription medications that are used to treat body acne include:

1. Oral antibiotics

Antibiotics taken by mouth like the Doxycycline you have been using  are used to treat back acne. Please note that most acne medications need to be used for atleast 6 to 8 weeks before you can say that they are not working.

2. Oral retinoids

Retinoids taken by mouth like Isotretinoin are also used to treat severe back acne that does not respond to other treatment.

This vitamin A derivative reduces oil production and decreases the formation of acne lesions. Isotretinoin has multiple adverse effects some of which are very serious and include birth defects.

3. Lasers and Light Therapy

Lasers and light therapy are also used to treat bacne. One example of these devices is the Palomar (Cynosure) Acleara which combines a vacuum with pulses of filtered light to treat acne.

4. Combination Therapy

Often times the dermatologist will combine several techniques to clear back acne. For example they can combine peels with pulsed light therapy.

In conclusion, you can begin using the treatment body washes and treatment moisturizing sprays as you continue with the Doxycycline. Give it this acne treatment regimen at least two months before you declare that is not working. However, you do not have to persist for 2 months if you develop adverse side effects to the prescription medications or the over-the-counter products.

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