- You may be tempted to rush to a dermatologist but naturopathy is another option if you want to avoid the side effects of medication
- Maintaining a good skincare routine and taking supplements such as fish oil can do wonders for better skin
Most of us know what to do with the average annoying pimple on our face. What’s less talked about is body acne (aka bacne), especially when the hateful red spots sprout all over your back.
Young Post spoke to naturopath Dr Benita Perch, managing director at Integrated Medicine Institute, to learn about the causes and ways to combat bacne with natural remedies.
Perch explains that while body acne is not too different from facial pimples and acne in terms of causes, the former is sometimes more difficult to treat because our bodies are clothed most of the day, and sweat and bacteria can get trapped between our skin and the fabric.
“You get a clogged pore or an irritated pore and you have a build-up of either sebum or bacteria, or dead cells, and that’s why we get acne. Facial acne is more like pus or cystic acne. On the body, you are more likely to get ... little, red irritating bumps,” that potentially could lead to a serious bacterial skin infection, says Perch.
She points out that while anyone can get pimples, no matter their skin type, teenagers are definitely more prone to back (or other body part) acne due to hormonal changes during puberty. Moreover, if you scratch and pick at it, you are more likely to spread the bacteria to the surrounding hair follicles and pores, further aggravating the condition.
Body acne is similar to pimples and if you scratch at it, you are more likely to spread the bacteria to surrounding follicles.
When dealing with more serious acne breakouts, most people’s first resort is to see a dermatologist, but Perch advises against this.
“Always try everything you can first before using medication because the strong cream and antibiotics can have side-effects such as dryness of the treated area or contact dermatitis [red, dry, itchy skin], and medication such as Accutane can affect the liver in the long term.”
Perch says the more conventional dermatological route can be tried when nothing else works. From a naturopathic perspective, anything that comes out from the skin, including pimples, is a sign that the body is detoxing. This means there are numerous reasons bacne could occur, especially in cosmopolitan, humid cities such as Hong Kong.
“In naturopathy, we treat body acne from lots of angles. Obviously we look at diet as a big reason, and lots of teenagers have dairy intolerance. When you take dairy out from their diet, the skin really clears up,” she says.
“The other [problem food] is food that increases inflammation in the body, such as sugar and fried food.
“Toxicity is another area we look at, especially in a city like Hong Kong – you’ve got air and food toxins, and toxins from mould exposure, especially in spring.”
Hormones, of course, are another major cause of bacne, Perch adds. This is why dermatologists often prescribe birth control pills or similar medication to lower the circulation of androgens, which in turn decreases the production of sebum to get the skin condition under control. But they aren’t the only option.
“While this helps to balance the estrogen production level in the body, you can definitely do that more naturally with herbs, supplements and diet to achieve the same results,” she says.
For a start, Perch recommends taking fish oil to bring down inflammation, together with B12 vitamins that include folic acid. Lifestyle changes are vital, too, and that includes the sort of fabrics you wear – choose more breathable fabric such as cotton and linen. She also suggests showering right after exercise, and using diluted tea tree oil on problem areas before a workout.
“While exercise can create the perfect conditions for acne-causing bacteria and yeast to thrive on your skin, it [also helps to] deliver oxygen and nutrients to the skin which keeps the skin healthy, and promotes the growth of new skin cells.”
Maintaining a good skincare routine and exfoliating regularly is crucial as well. Perch recommends using a cleanser that contains natural ingredients, and applying a blend of rose water and apple cider vinegar on areas with more severe acne before going to bed.
Even with these steps, some people need a little extra help when it comes to clearing up body acne. If you are still not getting results after trying these home remedies, a dermatologist can prescribe medication or medicated creams.
“The bottom line is knowing the different ways body acne can be treated. Some people say: ‘I just have to take all these strong meds for my skin to control the situation.’ But if you have control over your lifestyle and diet, it can have a massive impact on your skin,” Perch says.
“Obviously, having clear, healthy skin has an emotional impact as well, especially for teenagers. It is so important that they feel happy and confident at that time in their lives.”