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I’m a dermatologist — here are 3 easy ways to get rid of unsightly back acne

NYC dermatologist Dr. Charles Puza is sharing three ways to get rid of back acne, also known as
NYC dermatologist Dr. Charles Puza is sharing three ways to get rid of back acne, also known as "bacne" -- eliminate bacteria, use a benzoyl peroxide wash, and change workout clothes often.

He’s got your back.

Dr. Charles Puza, a board-certified dermatologist who practices in NYC, is sharing three ways to get rid of dreaded back acne, also known as “bacne.”

Around 50 million Americans suffer from acne, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Athletes who wear sweaty gym clothes are especially susceptible to unsightly back blemishes, experts say.

Two of the most common types of acne are hormonal and fungal. Acne vulgaris, or hormonal acne, is blamed on fluctuations in estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, which cause glands in the skin to produce too much oil that clogs pores.

Pityrosporum folliculitis, or fungal acne, is often mistaken for hormonal acne.

“I find that often ‘back acne’ is actually pityrosporum folliculitis, an overgrowth of a yeast normally found on our skin,” Dr. Debbie Elder, a board-certified dermatologist based in Virginia, told GQ in 2020.

Puza, meanwhile, points to staphylococcus aureus — bacteria that live on the skin and in the nose — as the culprit.

NYC dermatologist Dr. Charles Puza is sharing three ways to get rid of back acne, also known as “bacne” — eliminate bacteria, use a benzoyl peroxide wash, and change workout clothes often. TikTok/@drcharlesmd1
NYC dermatologist Dr. Charles Puza is sharing three ways to get rid of back acne, also known as “bacne” — eliminate bacteria, use a benzoyl peroxide wash, and change workout clothes often. TikTok/@drcharlesmd1

Get rid of bacteria

“Step one is to kick out the bacteria that have colonized your nose, behind your ears, and your belly button,” Puza explained in his TikTok last week.

Mupirocin ointment can get rid of those,” Puza advised of the cream, which aims to kill bacteria and stop them from growing.

Around 50 million Americans suffer from acne, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Athletes who wear sweaty gym clothes are especially susceptible to unsightly back blemishes, experts say. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Around 50 million Americans suffer from acne, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Athletes who wear sweaty gym clothes are especially susceptible to unsightly back blemishes, experts say. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Use a benzoyl peroxide wash

“Then Monday, Wednesday, Friday, use either a benzoyl peroxide wash like this one from CeraVe (Acne Foaming Cream Cleanser) or Hibiclens (Chlorhexidine Gluconate Solution 4.0% w/v) on the body to decolonize that staph bacteria,” Puza continued.

Benzoyl peroxide is known for killing bacteria and removing dead skin to unclog pores.

GQ recommends snagging a benzoyl peroxide (5-10%) body wash but notes that it can stain towels and clothing.

Puza says staphylococcus aureus — bacteria that live on the skin and in the nose — is to blame. TikTok/@drcharlesmd1
Puza says staphylococcus aureus — bacteria that live on the skin and in the nose — is to blame. TikTok/@drcharlesmd1

Change your workout clothes often

“If you’re a sweaty person or you work out regularly, make sure you get out of those sweaty clothes as soon as possible and use a hypochlorous acid spray like these options from Amazon or Tower 28,” Puza added.

Hypochlorous acid spray is a disinfectant that eliminates bacteria.

Experts who spoke to GQ recommend using a long-handled sponge to clean your back while showering; undergoing a chemical peel; adding green leafy vegetables, fish, tomatoes, and other inflammation-fighting foods to your diet; wearing fabrics that wick away moisture while exercising; and switching to whey-free protein powder.

“Stop whey protein shakes and bars!,” Dr. Allison Arthur, a Mayo Clinic-trained dermatologist based in Florida, told the outlet.

“Whey protein supplements have been linked to back acne,” she explained. “For some patients, the acne clears up after the supplements are discontinued.”