Acne is not just a pimple outbreak on the face. It can occur in other parts of the body like the neck, shoulders, back, chest, buttocks and upper arms. There are different types of acne:
- Pustules or pimples
Causes of Acne
While acne can affect people of all ages, some people are said to be more at risk. Teenagers, young adults, newborn babies and middle aged men and women. Body acne breakouts are often due to hormonal changes in the body that causes excessive production of sebum (an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands).
Other factors that could contribute to an outbreak of body acne are stress and diet. While no specific diet brings on acne, there are certain foods that can worsen an outbreak. This is specific to each individual and when you have acne, you must note which foods aggravate the situation and stop eating those till the acne heals. Chronic stress too can aggravate acne conditions and is the leading cause for adult acne. Stress affects body hormones and the adrenal glands produce excessive cortisol that changes hormone levels and cause more sebum to be produced by the sebaceous glands – this is the main cause of acne formation on the body. Stress also affects the immune system and this makes it difficult for acne blemishes to heal quickly.
Body Acne treatments
Since acne is a common skin problem, there are many remedies available. Not all treatments are meant for everyone.
OTC remedies: Simple outbreaks can be treated at home with OTC medications like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide creams. These treatments take at least 4-8 weeks before improvement can be seen. Salicylic acid breaks down keratin in acne and clears the affected hair follicles. Benzoyl peroxide enters clogged pores and introduces high levels of oxygen that kill bacteria, which cause acne.
Alpha-hydroxy acid dries blemishes and tea tree essential oils kill bacteria. All these ingredients are available as liquids, lotions, gels or creams. These produces heal current body acne and do not remove blemishes from older outbreaks.
Allopathy treatments: OTC medications will not work for more severe body acne symptoms. Hence allopathic treatments can be used. These are topical medications such as creams containing retinoid or greater concentration of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Treatment for body acne that is red and inflamed such as nodules and cysts require antibiotics, birth control, or hormonal medications that will be prescribed by the dermatologist. Topical antibiotics for body acne treatment are clindamycin or erythromycin that can kill P.acnes bacteria. Oral antibiotics maybe more effective for body acne as it covers a larger area and topical creams may not work. Oral antibitocis normally prescribed are doxycline, erythromycin or minocycline.
The strongest acne medication is isotretinoin to treat all 4 causes of body acne – sebum production, inflammation, bacteria and follicle blocking. Accutane is another medication that dermatologists may prescribe. All allopathic medicines must be taken for the entire duration prescribed.
There are certain herbs specifically meant for skin problems.
- Aloe Vera is best herb to soothe skin and treat a variety of skin conditions including acne. Aloe Vera is excellent carrier oil used in aromatherapy to treat acne. It is also available as creams and lotions.
- Burdock roots and seeds are used to treat acne and dry skin. Herbal physicians suggest burdock as an internal medication to tackle acne.
- Guggul supplements
- Vitex or chaste tree whose berries
- Tea tree oil
New Age treatments
- Light therapies such as laser treatment can kill the p.acnes bacteria.
- Chemical peels used only by dermatologists treat black heads and papules. This is meant for milder scars and peels away after trichloroacetic acid or glycolic acid are applied to the skin.
- Severe body acne scars are removed using dermabrasion that is a procedure where a spinning wire brush is rolled over the surface of the body. Crystals are blown on the skin using a hand-held device and this removes the affected cells from the surface of the skin.
- Acne removal can be done when cysts have to be cleared. Dermatologists will drain and extract the cysts, which are not cured by conventional medications. If the cyst needs to be cleared quickly, a medicine can be injected into the cyst.
- Severe body acne can be dealt with using collagen injections, which are injected into the acne ‘pit’. The skin area under the acne scar is plumped to create a smooth surface.
- Sometimes a technique called ‘punch grafting’ may also be used when severe scars are removed and skin from unaffected areas grafted into this area.
The following recipe is used to treat intensive blemishes caused by acne anywhere in the body.
- 12 drops of tea tree oil
- ½ tsp powdered Oregon grape root
- 800 units vitamin E (optional)
- Few drops of water
Mix all ingredients to form a paste for a mask. Apply this directly on the affected areas and allow the mask to dry for about 20 minutes. Wash off thoroughly. This mask is safe and can be used more than once a day. A vitamin E capsule can be cut to get this ingredient. Vitamin E is useful to prevent scarring.
While poor hygiene does not cause body acne, good hygiene can prevent body acne from appearing. Since dead skin cells and oil combine to clog pores and breed bacteria, a regular and good cleansing and exfoliating routine prevent clogging of pores and formation of acne. So, shower daily (especially after exercising), use a sponge to reach difficult areas like your back. Use a mild body wash and make sure you use a body scrub and exfoliate your skin on a weekly basis. Skin cleansers that contain salicylic or glycolic acid unclog pores while exfoliating.
Body acne treatment has similar goals to that meant for facial acne. It is to heal the acne, clear blemishes and leave very little damage to the skin. Often, one type of treatment will not help. Instead, patients will require a combination of treatments to achieve the best results.
As with all medications, body acne medications can cause side effects. Antibiotics could cause urinary, digestive tract or vaginal infections. Accutane causes birth defects if a pregnant woman takes this medication. OTC medications can result in drying, peeling, flaking and inflamed skin conditions. Hence, make sure you take all these medications only under medical supervision and follow all precautions.