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The 411 on Dark Acne Spots on Back

dark marks on the back

Breakouts are one of the most common skincare complaints out there. Almost everybody will struggle with them sometimes, but if you have breakout-prone skin, you know the frustration better than anyone. Unfortunately for all of us, breakouts aren't limited to your face — you can also experience breakouts on other areas of your body.

What's worse is that the problem doesn't always end with banishing your blackheads and whiteheads! Depending on your skin type and how you take care of your skin when it's breaking out, it's possible for blemishes to leave behind scars. There is a wide range of ways blemish scars can appear on your skin, but one of the most annoying is the dark spots that linger like shadows, reminding you of breakouts past — which you'd probably rather forget.

Let's talk about how and why blemishes can create dark spots on your back and the best ways to address this problem so you can take that low-back dress out from wherever it's hiding.

Why Do You Get Back Breakouts?

The breakouts you get on your body are basically exactly like the breakouts you get on your face. There are, however, certain things that are more likely to be triggering your backne.

For instance, >folliculitis is a really common cause of back blemishes. It's basically an infection of your hair follicle such that the follicle forms pustules. In other words: pimples.

You're likely to get folliculitis on parts of your body that experience a lot of friction. So if you wear skin-tight clothes, that constant rubbing against sensitive skin can clog pores and lead to back breakouts. Heavy backpacks can also be a real instigator on this front due to the friction.

Sweat can also exacerbate your breakouts and lead to back breakouts. This goes double if you wear tight clothes to work out — the combination of friction alongside the bacteria and other impurities that can sit on your skin after sweating is a recipe for disaster. This may be even more prevalent if you keep your workout clothes on for too long after your gym sesh.

The usual suspects can also cause back breakouts. Blemishes can be genetic — if oily or breakout-prone skin in general runs in your family, you may be more likely than most to struggle with back breakouts.

>Hormones can also trigger breakouts, including body blemishes. It's why breakouts first tend to become a problem during your teen years! But it's not just puberty that can cause your hormones to shift. Medications such as birth control can lead to more breakouts than usual, as can natural fluctuations in your hormones throughout the menstrual cycle. If you tend to notice breakouts around the same time each month, it might just be due to the phases of your menstrual cycle.

It's also often said that stress causes breakouts, but this is actually to do with your hormones. Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol is meant to release sugar from your system to use for energy that can help you power through stressful times, but a side effect of cortisol is oily skin.

So, while stress doesn't directly cause blemishes, the reactions your body has to >stress can lead to breakouts.

What Are Dark Blemish Spots?

Now that you understand why back breakouts happens, let's talk about the real issue here: the dark spots that stay behind even after you've conquered your last zit. While there are a number of >different types of blemish scars that you can end up with depending on your skin type, breakout type and how you take care of your skin, dark spots may be the most frustrating.

Although dark spots are technically blemish scars, they're more specifically a type of >post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation happens when your skin heals by forming new cells, and those cells contain a little too much melanin.

Melanin is the pigment that gives your skin its color, so if you have some cells with more pigment than others, you end up with dark spots on your skin. In general, hyperpigmentation is can be a bummer, but it usually isn't harmful. However, if your dark spots have come on suddenly or appear to be growing or changing in shape, it's worth visiting your dermatologist to ensure there's nothing to worry about.

Blemishes due to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation form at the site of inflammation. But wait, you're thinking — you had a breakout, not inflammation. So what gives?

Well, technically, a blemish is a type of inflammation. So even after you get rid of back breakouts, you can end up with back scars like dark spots, and unfortunately, this skin condition is a little harder to get rid of.

How Do You Get Rid of Back Breakouts?

Although we're really here to talk about the dark spots that follow your back breakouts, the first step to getting your skin back on track is addressing your breakouts so you're not stuck in a constant cycle of treating a neverending stream of dark spots.

There are some simple preventative steps you can take to help reduce the likelihood that your breakout will come back for round two or three.

First and foremost, always take a shower after working out. Don't relax in your dirty workout clothes — get clean as soon as possible so that your sweat doesn't have time to linger, and you don't let any unwanted bacteria into your skin's delicate microbiome. It's also important to ensure that your body wash works as hard as possible to clear your skin.

Another thing you can do to lessen instances of breakouts on your back is to wear more loose-fitting clothing, both when you're working out and at other times if you're fighting off a breakout. This is so that your back breakout isn't constantly plagued and exacerbated by friction.

Making some changes to your diet can also have a positive impact on your skin, too. While that myth that you only have breakouts because you eat poorly isn't worth entertaining, >some research does show that choosing low-glycemic foods like fresh fruits and vegetables can help improve things like back breakouts and give you clearer skin overall. It's also good for general wellness!

What Can You Do About Dark Blemish Spots on Your Back?

Once you've handled your breakouts and worked out a treatment that works for you, focus your attention on the dark spots — the last thing standing between you and perfect skin! 

We would recommend you stick with a gentle cleanser that works to clear away dirt, grime, and impurities without stripping your skin of much-needed moisture. Let's get one thing straight — there's a common misconception that stripping oil away from your skin can be beneficial for breakouts. However, when your skin becomes stripped and is in need of moisturization, it may end up overproducing sebum in order to compensate. This can lead to excess oil, clogged pores, and more breakouts.

So, keep it simple, and stick with gentle cleansers that work with your skin — not against it.

In addition to a gentle cleanser, consider adding an exfoliating skin treatment to help gently exfoliate your skin and minimize the appearance of post-back-breakout dark spots! Exfoliation helps remove dull surface cells to resurface your skin, thus working to improve the appearance of blemishes and visible signs of aging.

Spot treatment products can also come in handy if your dark spots or breakouts are in one concentrated area or are scattered here and there. Spot treatments help you target your specific problem areas rather than applying product to your entire back and hoping for the best. Spot treatments may work to clear away your breakouts while also helping to ward off the dark spots that often come as a result.

How Often Should I Cleanse and Exfoliate?

The right cleansing and exfoliating routine can clear out clogged pores and even help to smooth out rough texture. Generally, once or twice-weekly exfoliation is enough to get the job done — but everyone's skin is different. If you find that your skin gets angry with twice-weekly exfoliation, scale it back to just once a week. On the other hand, if once-weekly exfoliation isn't enough to give you your desired results, try twice or even three-times-weekly exfoliation instead.

When it comes to cleansing, once or twice-daily cleansing is generally adequate. Listen to your skin and be careful to avoid irritation and overwashing.

When it comes to building an all-over skincare routine, it's not only important that each product you use works — it's also important that all of your products work well together. Be careful not to use too many harsh or stripping ingredients in the same routine, as this puts you at risk for a compromised skin barrier and parched skin.

Follow your cleansing and exfoliating routine with a lightweight, non-comedogenic moisturizer to help your skin stay hydrated and nourished without contributing to clogged pores.

With any skincare product, make sure to read the instructions on the product label and follow them closely. Using too much product, or using your product too often, just might lead to some unwanted effects like skin irritation, clogged pores or redness.

What If You Want To Get Rid of Dark Spots Right Now?

We get it — skincare products are effective, but they're more of a long game, outside of spot treatments designed to get rid of individual blemishes. While we 100% recommend committing to a skincare routine that will address the dark spots on your back effectively and continuously over time, sometimes you want a quick fix.

Over-the-counter skincare products are great, but sometimes, visiting a board-certified dermatologist to get something a little stronger can help. For instance, your dermatologist might recommend prescription-strength acne treatments or chemical exfoliants for dark spots.

With any treatment for breakouts or dark spots, keep in mind that patience is key. In some cases, you might still have to wait a month or so to see any results — even if your product was prescription-strength. In addition to topical solutions, you can look into professional treatments such as chemical peels, microneedling and laser treatments. These methods work on your top layer of skin in different ways to address the issue at its source.

These processes can cost a little more than your average night cream, and their effectiveness will depend on the expertise of your provider and the strength of treatment you select.

For instance, chemical peels come in a range of strengths from “a slightly stronger exfoliation experience” to “your skin may peel for days, but you'll be glowing after the fact.” However, they can provide immediate relief if you're desperate to see a big difference quickly — or if you're just looking to clear a breakout before a big event.

Just make sure you do your research to ensure that whatever treatment you choose is the right one for you and your skin!

In Conclusion

Nobody likes a breakout, no matter where it happens! But back blemishes are more frustrating than other types because it can be especially uncomfortable. Think about how many times a day you lean your back against something! It's hard not to exacerbate the issue just by living your day-to-day life.

On top of that, back breakouts can leave behind frustrating dark spots when they heal. This post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can be more long-term than your average breakout, and it can really get in the way of your self-esteem, especially in the summer months when you want to show all your skin all the time.

If you want your all-over glow back, don't lose hope! A consistent skincare routine focused on evening out your skin tone and brightening dark spots can work wonders on these dark breakout spots on your back. There are also professional options out there that may give you results faster. Whatever route you choose, with a little bit of knowledge and some skincare products, your future will look bright!

By: Ivey Rogers Aesthetician Educator & Community
Engagement Manager

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