Blackheads are a stubborn form of acne that commonly show up on your face, but can also appear in other places on your body. Although most people only notice blackheads that occur in the T-zone on their face, other parts of the body are just as susceptible. In fact, one of the most common places where blackheads occur is on the back. During the day, sweat and oil build up on your back and can lead to acne in the form of blackheads. Luckily, there are things you can do to combat the problem.
What Causes Blackheads on Your Back?
Before you can learn how to remove blackheads, it is important to understand what causes them in the first place. Blackheads occur when the hair follicles on your face, chest, back, or other parts of your body become clogged. Blackheads get their name because of the dark appearance of their surface, which can range in size from a tiny dot to something much larger. They can be caused by a number of factors, such as:
- Excess Sebum Production
One of the most common causes of blackheads is excess sebum production. A person's skin naturally produces oils that help to keep the skin moisturized and the body healthy. However, when too much sebum is produced, it becomes trapped in the pores and makes it more likely that you will develop blackheads. While excess sebum most often appears in the T-zone on the face, it can occur on any part of the body.
“When too much sebum is produced, it becomes trapped in the pores and makes it more likely that you will develop blackheads.”
- Dirt and Oil Buildup
Throughout the day, dirt and oil can build up on your back, which is another leading cause of blackheads. Think about all the items you apply to your body throughout the day. Shampoo and conditioner, body wash, lotions, skin serums, and sunscreen can leave tiny traces of product on your back that eventually clog your pores and create blackheads.
- Excessive Sweating
If you spend a lot of time exercising or working in a labor-heavy environment, the time you spend sweating in the heat can cause pores to go into overdrive, especially when your clothes are trapping the oil and dirt in the pores on your back. That doesn't mean sweating is all bad, though. In fact, evidence shows that sweating when working out may actually help to purge toxins from the pores. However, the problem occurs when you stay in those sweaty clothes and allow the buildup to clog your pores.
- Hormones and Medications
Changes in hormone production can also cause blackheads. Teenagers going through puberty go through a lot of changes in hormone production, which is why they are more susceptible to blackheads. However, blackheads can last well into adulthood and may show up especially during monthly menstruation or when people take birth control pills. Some medications, such as androgens, corticosteroids, or lithium are also part of what causes blackheads on the back.
How To Remove Blackheads on Your Back
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Use Salicylic Acid
The best thing you can do for backheads on your back is to start using a body wash or cleanser that contains salicylic acid. The most common ingredient in over-the-counter blackhead medications, salicylic acid is a beta hydroxy acid that gets deep into your pores. When it reaches the dirt and oil that's clogging the pores and creating blackheads, it breaks down the toxins and any dead skin cells.
Keep in mind that salicylic acid is not an overnight treatment miracle. For the product to work correctly, you should use it every time you shower. Avoid body washes that use benzoyl peroxide. These products are for inflammatory acne, which is not what blackheads are. Using it on blackheads may cause your skin to produce even more oil and exacerbate the problem.
When [salicylic acid] reaches the dirt and oil that's clogging the pores and creating blackheads, it breaks down the toxins and any dead skin cells.
Exfoliation is another way to help remove blackheads on your back and can be done weekly. Use a gentle scrub to remove the outer layer of skin cells on your back. Exfoliation helps to remove the dead skin that contributes to blackheads, but it's important not to overdo it. Too much exfoliation can leave you feeling raw, looking red, and with even more oil production as your body works to correct the damage. Experts recommend spherical exfoliants that smooth the skin and don't cause tearing or other damage.
Ways To Prevent Blackheads on Your Back
After you remove the blackheads you already have, you'll want to learn how to prevent blackheads on the back from coming back.
1. Wash Regularly
Every day, wash your face, back, and everywhere else that you notice blackheads with the salicylic acid-based face and body washes you purchased. When using shampoo, conditioner, and styling products, ensure you are rinsing thoroughly and keeping styled hair off your back as much as possible. Don't forget to exfoliate every week as well.
2. Try Charcoal Soap
Sometimes, blackheads are persistent. In some cases, salicylic acid alone won't be enough to prevent blackheads on the back. In this case, consider a product that provides a deeper cleanse. Try charcoal bar soap to draw out the excess dirt and oil that creates the blackheads in the first place.
3. Change the Clothing You Wear
Consider the clothing you're wearing as well. Tight T-shirts, heavy sweaters, sports bras, and other restricting clothing can keep sweat, heat, and oil trapped on your body for hours at a time, leading to blackheads and general discomfort.
When you can, wear loose-fitting clothing that allows your skin to "breathe" throughout the day. If you work in an industry that makes loose-fitting clothing hazardous, look for moisture-wicking fabrics that can help to keep the sweat off your body and even cool you down in the process.
4. Take Care of Your Skin
Shower as soon as you can after doing anything physical that causes excessive sweat, including working, going to the gym, or even just running around in the backyard with the kids. The sooner you get excess dirt and oil off of your back, the less likely you are to develop blackheads.
5. Avoid Picking
Never pick or squeeze at your pores, which can cause you to break out with even more acne or even cause scarring.
When To See a Doctor About Blackheads
At-home treatments can help most people who have blackheads on their backs, but sometimes medical intervention is required. If you experience any of the following, it might be time to talk to a dermatologist:
- You experience scarring from blackheads
- Your blackheads are especially large, painful, or persistent
- You want to have your blackheads removed
Sometimes, the amount of salicylic acid in over-the-counter treatments isn't enough. A dermatologist can prescribe stronger treatment medications that contain salicylic acid, other AHAs or BHAs, vitamin A, and retinoids, all of which can help you to develop healthier skin cells.
Photopneumatic therapy is also an option. Photopneumatic therapy uses an intense pulsed light with a vacuum to remove excess dead skin and oil buildup from the clogged hair follicles. Other times, a dermatologist may need to drain and extract the blackhead. This requires special tools to do. Dermatologists typically use this method as a last result as it will temporarily improve skin but may cause minor scarring.
Blackheads don't need to ruin your back or leave you feeling self-conscious about your skin. When you know what is causing them, have a plan of action to treat them, and understand how to prevent them in the future, you can feel better about living in your skin.