The back is a very large portion of the skin organ system, which means it’s also a very large area of pores and oil secretions. Back acne shares the same pathology as normal acne and is ultimately acne that develops on the back. It is marked physically by back pores that overproduce sebum and become clogged with oil, dead skin cells, and dirt. This leads to inflammation that ultimately leads to the swelling, redness and physical characteristics of back acne.
Before we get into all the various triggers of back acne and acne in general, let's talk about the physiology of acne to get a better idea of what we are dealing with.
What Causes Acne?
All types of skin conditions share similar pathologies. Dry skin, dandruff, and eczema, all tend to be associated with estrogen. However, even acne, which is said to be caused by androgens, is primarily caused by excess estrogen.
Acne is ultimately the result of stress, specifically adrenal stress or hyperadrenalism. Estrogen is responsible for the overactivity of the adrenals in acne. How is causes estrogen is by stimulating the adrenals to produce cortisol and DHEA, which get metabolized rapidly into DHT.
While DHT is normally a helpful, potent androgen that supports good health; in excess, DHT can contribute to the development of acne. DHT can stimulate over-activity of the sebaceous glands, which causes your skin to produce more sebum (skin oil) that can house bacteria that lead to the inflammation of the skin pores and therefore, acne.
Why Acne on the Back?
Back acne again is nothing more than acne that develops on the back. Meaning, if you have back acne, it is likely you have a lot of estrogen in your system, stimulating your adrenal glands, causing overproduction of oil.
It appears that people with acne on their face almost always have it on their backs as well. However, people can develop it on their backs and not so much on their face. This is likely because, while the pathology is the same, the back pores are greater and much larger, increasing the likelihood of excess sebum production and making the back more vulnerable to acne.
Curing Acne of All Sorts
Now that we have a better understanding of what causes acne and back acne, we can take proactive steps to eliminate it. Here are few natural remedies that can help address the root causes:
Vitamin A: Vitamin A is essential for good skin, is responsible for the production of thyroid hormone and other hormones that support good skin. However, it is also a regulator of sebum, so ingesting vitamin A can help reduce the oiliness that causes acne. Vitamin A also lowers estrogen, a major key playing in acne.
Calcium: Additionally, one attributing factor to acne is disported calcium metabolism; meaning the calcium is depositing into the soft tissue (skin), not the bones. This interferes with normal skin functions; like skin shedding, sebum production, regeneration, etc. Most people think that they should not consume calcium if they have calcium metabolism issues. However, one of the best ways to ensure proper calcium metabolism is to consume it. It is when phosphate is chronically higher than calcium that our calcium metabolism is disturbed, by increasing prolactin and parathyroid.
Avoid PUFA: Unsaturated fats, particularly the polyunsaturated fats are known to attribute to disrupted calcium metabolism and abnormal cell differentiation in the skin. Not to mention, PUFAs are estrogenic and cause inflammation. It would be best for your skin to remove them and stick to the healthy saturated fats. 1
Adaptogen Herbs: As we learned, estrogen stimulates the adrenals to secrete stress hormones and androgens that attribute to acne. Lowering the overly-stimulated adrenals with HPA-regulating adaptogen herbs is one simple way to achieve this. Herbs like Ashwagandha, Ginkgo Biloba, and Eleuthero are all wonderful adaptogens to lower stress hormones.
Wear organic, looser fitting clothing: Back acne, in particular, can be triggered when heat and sweat are trapped against the back. For women especially, tight, spandex-like clothing can not only irritate the skin but can "trap" the heat and sweat, attributing to acne. If you frequently wear tight-fitting clothing, backpacks, etc, you might want to try looser fitting and organic clothing.
- Get sunlight on your skin: The sun is the best source of vitamin d3, which not only opposes estrogen but can lower prolactin, which is elevated in acne. Aim for 15 minutes of direct sunlight on acne-prone parts of your skin; especially large surface areas like the back.