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Your back skin is harder to reach, but you shouldn’t neglect it. (Photo: Getty)
In spite of my navel-grazing long hair and penchant for backless tops during the summer, I didn’t get my first back pimple until last week. This may be TMI, but in frustration, I popped it — and it left a massive scar on my back. I’ve ignored skin care for my back even though I have an eight-step morning and night routine for my face (seriously). I’ll scrub my back in the shower, but I usually forget to moisturize. Strangely enough, even though I spend much more time taking care of my face, it’s my back that had remained blemish-free up until this point. This past weekend, I got my first back facial at Eve Salon in Manhattan. It included a few painful extractions, which my aesthetician Stalina did using a tiny sterilized needle. Wanting to avoid future back breakouts, I got some skin care tips from Stalina, dermatologist Sejal Shah, MD, and Daryl Gioffre, chiropractor and health coach.
Wash and exfoliate your back daily
“I understand why it’s not easy to reach or see and it’s kind of hard to play Twister in the shower,” says Shah. “But just like the skin on your face, your back skin is susceptible to acne and folliculitis, so it’s important to take care of this area, too.” Stalina recommends using a Clarisonic with your body wash (possibly containing alpha-hydroxy and/or beta-hydroxy acids) once or twice a week, but if you find it hard to reach back there, consider an exfoliating long towel like the Earth Therapeutics Purifying Hydro Towel ($10), which contains charcoal to unclog pores. Shah adds that you should be careful about overdrying and irritating the back skin. “Although a body scrub can also be used to exfoliate the back, you have to be a little more careful with those, as they may contain oils that can contribute to acne,” she warns.
Watch your hair
The oils on your hair and the products that you put into your hair can clog your pores, too. If you have long hair and a fondness for low-back tops, everyday products like your conditioner can cause bacne. Shah advises flipping your head down and rinsing forward to avoid leaving residue on your back. This actually happened to me — Stalina told me that most of the blemishes on my back were due to oil coagulating around hairs.
Moisturize and use sunscreen
Now that summer’s officially over, your back may be recuperating from sun damage. Of course, prevention with protective clothing and sunscreen is most important, but if it’s too late, Shah recommends an antioxidant serum and a retinol, or an in-office chemical peel and laser treatments if it’s serious. You should also moisturize your back on a daily basis, like with any other part of your skin that can get dry or damaged.
Your back is not excluded from your diet
“Any skin condition is a sign that your digestive system is too acidic,” Gioffre explains. While he touts a fairly committed alkaline-based diet to his patients, you don’t have to go all out to improve your back skin heath. He recommends eating dark leafy greens, taking your minerals, drinking alkalized water, and sweating everything out (a sauna or exercise works). These sound like basic tenets to healthy living, but we all need a reminder as the summer of fun concludes.