Why Is My Back Breaking Out All of a Sudden?

Nobody likes bacne. It’s annoying. It’s hard to treat. And it usually turns up out of the blue.

The good news is that making a few small changes to your daily routine is often enough to stop bacne in its tracks. These changes involve:

  • Personal care products (like shampoos and conditioners)
  • Laundry products (detergents and dryer sheets)
  • Shower temperatures
  • Workouts
  • And more

See if you identify with any of the bacne-causing blunders in the list below.

1. Your Shower Routine Is Out Of Whack

A lot of people take a bottom-up approach to showering. That is, they wash their body, then they wash their hair.

It turns out that this kind of shower routine doesn’t work for people with acne-prone skin. You see, hair care products—like shampoos and conditioners—often contain irritating ingredients. In this case, washing your body before you wash your hair doesn’t make you squeaky clean. It just covers you in a pore-clogging, skin-drying film.

If you think your shower routine is causing your back to break out, consider taking a top-down approach—wash your hair first and then take care of everything else. And remember to rinse your back thoroughly at the end of your shower—don’t let your conditioner get the best of you.

Additionally, you can opt for less irritating products. Everyone’s skin is different, so I can’t give any recommendations for the perfect shampoo and/or conditioner. But what I can say is that ingredients such as panthenol and sulfates seem to be common culprits for bacne sufferers.

2. Your Laundry Products Contain Irritating Ingredients

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Most supermarket laundry detergents contain ingredients that wreak havoc on skin. Here are some common ingredients to look out for:

  • Fragrances
  • Dyes
  • Surfactants
  • Stearic acid

Okay, what makes these ingredients acne-causing?

Fragrances and dyes might make your laundry detergent smell good and look good, respectively. But both these ingredients are sensitizing. That means, they can cause an allergic reaction.

Surfactants are cleaning agents. While they’re harsh on stains, they’re (sometimes) even harsher on skin. One study found that your clothes retain an average of 2.5% of laundry detergent residue after washing. Other studies have found that surfactants (particularly SLS) increase transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Since TEWL is associated with acne, those of you with sensitive skin may experience breakouts that stem from your detergent.

Finally, stearic acid, commonly found in dryer sheets, is a comedogenic (aka pore-clogging) ingredient. It’s usually added to dryer sheets in order to reduce static cling. All the same, it leaves a waxy residue on your clothing. This residue can transfer onto your skin and clog your pores. And it can also make you more flammable—but that’s another story.

In sum: Use fragrance-free and dye-free laundry detergents (usually labeled “Free and Clear”), rinse your load with a water-only cycle if you have sensitive skin, and ditch your dryer sheets.

Of course, not everybody is sensitive to their laundry. There are a lot of other things that can cause bacne

3. Your Backpack Is Too Heavy

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Does your bacne flare-up when you’re in school?

If it does, your backpack might be causing a specific type of acne called acne mechanica. This type of acne occurs when the pressure from your backpack pushes oil, sweat, and dirt into your pores. Theoretically, the more your backpack rubs against your skin, the more your skin will breakout.

To reduce your backpack’s effect on your bacne, try lightening your load—take out the non-essential books, binders, and folders that are weighing you down. Or, if your school permits it, try carrying a tote bag instead. That way, you won’t have to deal with any excess pressure on your back.

4. You’re Taking Really Hot Showers

Sure, taking scolding-hot showers feels oh-so-good. Especially when you take them on cold winter mornings.

But, if you’re skin turns bright red in the shower, it might be time to turn down the heat. The thing is, hot water is irritating—it can dry out your skin. Dry skin can lead to things like transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Which are associated with breakouts.

Personally, hot showers are my No. 1 skin sin. I’ll often stand in the shower, with my back towards the showerhead, and just let all that good, hot water beat down on me. But, after doing this day-in and day-out, I start noticing pimples in the middle of my back and on my shoulders. Ugh.

Pro tip: Don’t be like me. Take lukewarm showers.

5. You’re Not Washing Your Sheets, Shirts, and Towels Regularly

When you go to sleep, you’re passing sweat, dirt, and sebum onto your sheets. Just imagine how much grime is accumulated after just one week. Now imagine your back rubbing against all that grime. You know what that means. Yep, clogged pores and breakouts.

If you don’t want to commit to washing your sheets regularly—hey, there’s an inner slob in all of us—the least you can do is change into a clean shirt at night.

The same goes for towels—they’re hotbeds for bacteria. So, changing your towels daily (or, in the very least, two times a week) might go a long way in reducing your bacne.

6. Your Post-Workout Routine Needs An Update

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Working out is good for you. But sometimes getting sweaty can cause acne (often times, fungal acne). So it’s important to step into the shower right after you get home from the gym.

And try not to double-up on your workout wear. Clean shirts and sports bras only!

Wrapping it up

It’s hard to treat something that you can’t reach. That’s why using preventative measures (and making sure your routine is on-point) is often the best way to handle sudden back breakouts.

It goes without saying, but this isn’t the end-all-be-all to bacne. If these routine swaps don’t work for you, you might have to look at your diet and your hormones. Or, better yet, see a dermatologist for a formal diagnosis and treatment plan.

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