A Crash Course in Treating Bacne

We focus a lot on our faces and necks in the beauty community, but…we have a lot more skin to take care of.

No judgment from me if your body is neglected though because I’m pretty sure I’ll never have a full-body Glass-Cloud-Butter Skin Glow™.

man playing acoustic guitar
You know that John Mayer song “Your Body is a Wonderland”? There’s a little-known B-side track about me called “Your Body is a Wasteland.”

One thing I do focus on for my body is managing breakouts.

I get a LOT of questions about clearing up body breakouts, particularly back acne, or “bacne.” While my back may never be model-perfect, I’ve more or less figured out how to keep it and my other problem areas as clear as possible.

Today I shall impart this wisdom unto you, dear reader.

What Causes Bacne?

Knowing what causes the problem is the first step towards fixing it.

As with face acne, there are factors like hormones, genetics, stress and diet that can contribute to breakouts. However, there are a few things that can cause bacne that you might not have considered since they don’t apply to face breakouts.

  1. Hair products

    Conditioners are the number one culprit of back breakouts, especially if you have long or thick hair. Conditioning and styling products are often full of ingredients that are great for your hair but super pore clogging if they sit on your skin.

  2. Tight clothing

    Friction from bra straps, tight waistbands or fitted shirts can be irritating enough to cause breakouts on your back, butt or thighs. I’m not saying I’ll ever stop wearing leggings, but…I am saying that it’s not a big mystery to me when I suddenly have bumps on my lower back, either. Sacrifices must sometimes be made, friends.

  3. Sweating

    For most of us, sweating is inevitable. One day I’ll be rich enough to Botox all of the sweat glands in my body and I’ll just permanently live in AC or wallow in expensive mud to cool off. Until then, I must suffer. Anyways, sweat sitting against your skin is a recipe for rashes and bacne, especially if you’re also wearing tight clothes. That’s why fitness experts always say to peel off your gym clothes ASAP after a workout!

Other things like dirty hair, infrequently changing your sheets and not washing your back well can also obviously cause problems, but those things are usually covered when you’re dealing with face acne.

How Can I Get Rid of Bacne?

In a lot of cases, you can use the same strategies for your body that you would for your face. Application is a little trickier in some spots, but overall, skin is skin.

posing skeleton
“Hey girl, guess who’s got two thumbs and no bacne? THIS GUY!”

However, I will say that body skin is often thicker and more resilient than the delicate neck-up skin, so you can sometimes pull out the big guns with less risk.

Step 1 – Change how you condition

You don’t really even have to change that much, but keeping conditioning products far away from your skin is a HUGE help towards clearing up bacne.

There are two things you can do. You can even do both, if you’re so inclined.

The first trick is to thoroughly wash your back after rinsing your conditioner out. Yes, do this even if you’ve already washed your back one time. Trust me.

The second solution is to flip your hair upside-down and rinse the conditioner out that way. It keeps the conditioner off of your scalp AND your skin, which some people may prefer. If you do any variation of the curly girl hair method, this is also a good way to go right into scrunching product into your hair.

Step 2 – Exfoliate! Keep exfoliating!

Here’s my HOT TAKE on body exfoliation: Even if you have sensitive skin, I still think you should do some kind of physical scrubbing. Nothing wild or crazy, but even just using a soft dry brushing technique can really help.

*Obviously YMMV with this, and you know your skin better than I do.* Ignore my opinion if your skin just can’t handle scrubbing.

Otherwise, I suggest scrubbing down your body at least once a week. My skin cells like to stubbornly hang around forever, so I actually exfoliate 2-3x per week. I like to use generic apricot scrub (YES I SAID IT, I can hear you judgmentally clutching your pearls!) and a long-handled brush or loofah.

Step 3 – Throw acid on yourself

Sounds dramatic, right?

You’ll have to experiment with different types and strengths of acids to figure out which work best for your skin, but I find that a regular schedule of slapping acid onto as much body skin as I can reach is super helpful for clearing out my pores, sloughing off dead skin and fading PIH from old breakouts.

I like red box Stridex because it’s a cheap and effective BHA. I also really love The Ordinary’s 30% AHA/2% BHA peel. It’s blood red and terrifyingly awesome. It’s also dirt cheap so I don’t feel guilty about slathering my back, butt and thighs in it once a week. I also recommend the orange Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash; it’s low-pH and has salicylic acid! I can use it almost daily without my body skin feeling irritated or too stripped.

Tips For Body Breakouts

  • Spray bottles are your best friend. Unless you’re a contortionist, just grab yourself some spray bottles from your local drugstore or beauty supply. Anything liquid can be decanted in and sprayed across the hard-to-reach areas on your back.
  • Get a lotion applicator. I used to laugh at those long-handled lotion applicator brushes in the soap aisle. Now I love them. They’re not meant to absorb thicker products like creams and lotions, so they’re great for spreading product evenly.
  • Layer like it’s your face. I’m not saying to use your $80 Sulwhasoo serum on your whole body. I am saying that body skin can get dehydrated and have crappy moisture barrier problems too, which leaves the skin wide open to any ol’ acne-causing bacterium that rolls by. So invest in a cheap hydrating toner and spray a nice layer underneath your moisturizer.
  • Pay attention to your period. For me, the state of my back ebbs and flows with the hormonal tides. This is why my back may never be totally clear and radiant. I’ve accepted this and just do the best I can. That said, pay attention to your own cycle and see if your breakouts coincide with your period. If so, you can try to head off the worst of it with extra care the week or so before.

TL;DR

Bacne sucks, and it seems hard to treat because you can’t reach or see your back that well.

The good news is that these are easy obstacles to overcome, and the OTHER good news is that none of the fixes I outlined are expensive, time-consuming or super inconvenient.

So, to recap:

  • Bacne can be caused by all the usual suspects but ALSO by tight fabrics, sweaty clothes or hair products.
  • Simple fixes like extra exfoliation and changing how you condition/style your hair can make a big difference.
  • You can decant acne-fighting skincare into spray bottles, and creams can be spread on with a long-handled lotion brush.
  • Don’t skimp out on hydrating your body skin. Just because it’s thicker than facial skin doesn’t mean it’s immune to moisture barrier issues or water loss.
  • Your breakouts might be partially hormonal. If so, c’est la vie. Head it off as best you can and take a deep, calming breath. Nobody thinks your skin looks as bad as you do. Promise. <3

Do you deal with body breakouts or bacne? Let’s talk about it! Do you have questions or suggestions? Leave a comment and let me know!

Beauty Gifts: DIY Body Scrub

Affiliate links are marked with an asterisk*

I’m all about NOT doing DIY skincare out of your kitchen for a lot of reasons, but I can definitely make an exception for one or two simple things.

The holidays are upon us (ready or not), so I figured that I’d share one of my favorite quickie recipes for making a cheap yet pretty gift that basically anyone will appreciate: a fragrant body scrub.

diy beauty

I like this scrub because the recipe is super simple, and it’s really easy to customize. You can make a gentler version for lips, a minty version for feet, or a nourishing version for all-over glow. You can also make a big batch, divide it up into smaller portions, and add different oil blends and extracts to make several custom gifts all at once (this is what I usually do).

I like to use these hinged-lid jars* for gifting because of the great seal they provide, but I’ve also used these canning jars*, and they work well too! I use different colors of curling ribbon to make each one festive, and I either tie on a gift tag or make a sheet of pretty labels to mark the jars before I gift them.

Salt or Sugar Body Scrub

As with all scrubby things, you should always be gentle when you’re scouring off dead skin. Physical scrubs like salt and sugar aren’t for everybody, so if your skin is particularly sensitive or grouchy, skip this in favor of a washcloth or body brush.

My skin is stubborn, so I actually have to scrub pretty regularly to prevent breakouts and itchiness. I like to use kosher salt, a carrier oil like jojoba or almond and a few drops of essential oil. This list of carrier oils from Garden of Wisdom is a great resource if you need help choosing!

A quick note about salt and sugar:

Sugar granules are generally considered gentler than salt. They’re smaller, smoother and dissolve more easily than salt granules. They’re better for sensitive skin. Salt is coarser and doesn’t dissolve as readily, so it’s more abrasive and better for stubborn spots or thick skin.

The Recipe

I’ll be honest…I’m an “eyeball and wing it” kind of cook. I’ll give you some baseline measurements to start from, but feel free to add or subtract until you get a consistency you like.

I prefer for my scrubs to be more gritty, so I start with very little oil and slowly add until I get a clumpy, wet sand consistency. If you want the scrub to be more nourishing, you can either reduce the amount of salt by 1/3 OR just slowly add more oil until it’s more of a “sandy sludge” consistency.

What You’ll Need

  • 1 cup kosher salt OR granulated sugar (any kind)
  • 1/3 cup liquid carrier oil
  • 5-20 drops of essential oil (optional)
  • medium-sized glass bowl
  • small wooden or plastic spoon
  • clean glass jar with a tight lid

What to Do

Combine the salt or sugar with the carrier oil first. Use the spoon to mash the mixture around gently until it starts to all clump together. If you’re planning to make your scrub more liquidy, keep slowly adding oil until you get the right consistency.

If you want to use essential oils, start with just a few drops at a time and mix them in well. Remember that you can always add more, but you can’t take it out if you use too much. This is a rare case where more is not more.

Once you’re happy with the scent and texture, spoon it all into your glass jar and pack it in. If you’re making several kinds at once, slap a sticky note label on it right away so you don’t get them mixed up. Not that I’ve ever done that…

I typically limit the shelf life of my scrubs to a couple of months, just to be safe. It’s better to make small batches more frequently!

About Your Oils

Don’t skimp on the oils you buy. Both the carrier oil and the essential oil should be high quality. Food-grade oils often don’t have all of the goodness and refinement of cosmetic-grade, and those cheap diffuser oils you can buy in the candle section of Walmart are NOT meant to be put on your skin.

Also, be sure to pay attention to the shelf life and whether or not your leftovers should be refrigerated!

When using essential oils in beauty products, be sure to use therapeutic-grade only.

What Do You Think?

Have you made DIY scrubs like this before? Do you do anything differently? Leave me a comment and let’s talk about it!

My Top 5 Winter Skincare Essentials

As mentioned in my previous post about ceramides, winter is coming. Even now, the air is drier and the temperatures are plummeting.

I love it.

The only thing I don’t love is the hassle of tweaking my skincare routine to accommodate the shifting weather. Unlike some lucky folks, I basically have to play a trial-and-error guessing game when it comes to figuring out what my skin will want each winter. I don’t have a set “winter routine.”

Like all important things in life, I just wing it. YOLO, man.

That being said, there are five things that I know I’ll need when it starts getting cold.

skincare essentials infographic

  1. Low pH Cleanser

    I use a low pH cleanser every day of the year, but it’s even more important to me when the air is dry. My skin is prone to dehydration, so I do everything I can to shore up my moisture barrier and general skin health when the weather is intent on sucking my face bone-dry.

    The CosRx Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser* is a crazy popular and affordable option for most people. My skin didn’t love it, but I’m in the super minority on this one!

    Alternatively, I absolutely adore the Pacifica Kale Detox Deep Cleaning Face Wash. It’s around the same price as the CosRx, and it leaves my skin super soft and clean without feeling dry.

    I think it’s also worth noting that the good ol’ orange Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash is actually low pH too! This is a mega cheap and no-fuss option for those of you who are into that. I like using it as a body wash.

  2. Hydrating Toner

    A hydrating toner is a game-changing addition to anyone’s skincare routine, especially in the winter.

    I like to pat them on in multiple layers, a la the 7 Skin Method (you can read a quick rundown of this gloriously extra skincare step here!), but they’re also great to mist on your face liberally and often.

    If you like your toners thick ‘n’ juicy (I do!), then I highly recommend splurging on the Klairs Supple Preparation Facial Toner*. I was skeptical when I was sent a bottle to review, but I wound up loving the texture and results enough that I plan to purchase another bottle when I run out.

    If you want watery yet wildly effective, then you absolutely NEED the seaNtree Donkey Milk Waterising Toner*. I can’t say enough about how much I love this stuff. Not only is the bottle stupidly cute (like everything else from the brand), but the product itself is quickly becoming a ride-or-die staple for me. I get a glow and softness from this toner that I don’t get anywhere else.

    I’m a glutton for toners, so if you want more recommendations, drop a comment on this post and I’ll gladly talk your ear off about them!

  3. Moisturizing SPF

    I CAN ALREADY HEAR YOUR GROANS. STOP IT.

    I know you guys know by now that you always need sunscreen, but I’m specifically talking about adding a moisturizing one for winter. Even if you have oily skin, I’ve found that switching to a more lotion-y SPF can add a much-needed extra barrier between your hydrated face and the harsh outside.

    Obviously YMMV here, but I suggest at least grabbing some samples or travel sizes to test this winter!

    I personally love:

    • CosRx Aloe Soothing Sun Cream
    • Klairs Soft Airy UV Essence
    • Etude House Sunprise Natural Corrector (this one is a pink-tinted “tone up” product!)
  4. Facial Oil

    Oils are intimidating for a lot of people. I totally get that, and I’m still not an expert on how to make them work for me. I do a lot of experimenting, and not all of it is successful.

    That said, they do work, you just need the right one for your skin type!

    One in particular I can recommend as a good starting point for pretty much any skin type is the Goodal Lasting Waterest oil. It’s very lightweight and pretty foolproof as long as you’re not sensitive to any of the ingredients!

  5. Lip Balm

    So, when I say “lip balm,” I really mean “lip treatment.” I should also probably mention that I am a HOARDER of all types of lip treatments. I will basically try anything once.

    It’s especially important to have at least one or two very nourishing lip products in your arsenal when the weather is dry. Chapped lips are no fun.

    During the day, I just use plain old Carmex or whichever of my dozen lip balms I happen to grab first. At night, I slather all of my watery skincare steps over my lips and top it off with at least two of these products:

    • Blistex Lip Serum
    • Neosporin Overnight Lip Treatment
    • Vaseline Lip Therapy
    • Lanolips

    I also think it’s important to gently exfoliate your lips at least once a week to keep them from looking flaky.

Let’s Chat!

Are your winter must-haves the same as mine? Should I add something else to my list? Leave a comment below and let me know!

Ceramides: The Winter Soldier

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WINTER IS COMING.

Well, at least if you live in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter can wreak havoc on all skin types because of the freezing weather and bone-dry air.

That’s why today’s post is about ceramides. These guys are important for all skin types year-round, but they can be especially helpful for saving your sad, winter skin.

storm trooper in the snow
Don’t worry, ceramides are WAY better soldiers.

What Exactly Are Ceramides, Anyway?

I’m glad you asked! ^_^

In the simplest terms possible, ceramides are an important component of the barrier that protects your skin. You can think of them as one of the ingredients that make up the mortar of the brick wall that is your moisture barrier. When you don’t have enough ceramides, all kinds of things can get in and out.

Most skin disorders that have a diminished barrier function present a decrease in total ceramide content with some differences in the ceramide pattern. – Ceramides and Skin Function, AAD

A lack of ceramides means that your skin is more likely to lose water. You might see this referred to as TEWL, or “trans-epidermal water loss.” It just means important moisture is escaping through layers of your skin when it shouldn’t be. This is an especially frustrating problem for people (like me) who have dehydrated skin.

The good news is that ceramides are naturally found in your skin, so if you haven’t been slathering on ceramide-filled products, all is not lost.

The bad news is that aging, sun damage or generally not taking good care of your skin can all reduce how effective your skin’s natural ceramides are. There’s always a catch, isn’t there?

How Do I Know if I Need More Ceramides?

My personal rule is that you always need more. More is more. A healthy moisture barrier is roughly 50 percent ceramides.

But if you want actual, visible signs that you might need to up your ceramide game, look for the following:

  • Rough, sallow skin
  • Dryness
  • Persistent skin irritation
  • Lack of elasticity (e.g. – your skin isn’t bouncy. This is a telltale sign of dehydration.)
  • Persistent redness
  • Increased skin sensitivity

Of course, that list isn’t exhaustive, and simply adding ceramides may not fix all of those problems. Think of that list more as a jumping-off point and less of a Gospel Truth.

So How Do I Add More Ceramides to My Skin?

Good news! Ceramides are fairly easy to find in quality skincare products these days. They’re considered a “powerhouse” ingredient because they’re so effective for anti-aging, barrier support and generally making your skin look and feel better.

In many cases, product packaging and brand info will highlight the addition of ceramides in a product’s formula. However, if they don’t, you can look for the word “ceramide” in the ingredients list. They’re usually numbered (e.g. – “ceramide-3” or “ceramide-6”), but some products may have ceramides with letters after them, like ceramide NP.

If you’re looking for products that don’t have English packaging or ingredient lists, I usually look on CosDNA for translations.

Do You Have Any Product Recommendations?

But of course, dahling.

In a lot of cases, ceramide-heavy products tend to come in a cream form. These can be heavy, which usually isn’t ideal for normal or oily skin types. This is a definite YMMV thing, though, so don’t be afraid to slap on a good, thick cream and see what happens.

Products with donkey milk and goat milk are great sources of ceramides. I’m a big fan of the seaNtree donkey milk toner*, but the entire line is amazing. Their products work particularly well for my skin because they’re lightweight enough to not be greasy or pore-clogging, but they’re still packed with ceramides and other great supporting ingredients that keep me looking hydrated.

donkey carrying packs in the desert
Donkey says, “hallo friend, this is me and my milk working hard for the desert wasteland of your skin.”

I’m also a huge lover of the Kikumasamune Sake High Moist Lotion. “Lotion” = watery toner in Japanese product names, so this is basically a HUGE bottle of watery toner full of ceramides, cholesterol and fermented goodness.

Of course, there is also the entire CeraVe lineup. Ceramides are their specialty, so you can’t go wrong with any of their products if you want something affordable and easily accessible.

Let’s Recap!

I feel like I should point out one more time that ceramides are not the Holy Grail of solving skincare woes. They are super important, and they can do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to achieving The Glow™, but a truly great skincare routine needs several ingredients to share the workload.

  1. Ceramides make up HALF of your entire moisture barrier, so without them, you’re basically walking around with a wall full of crumbly mortar that isn’t keeping anything good in or anything bad out.
  2. Many ceramide products are intentionally formulated as heavy lotions or creams, but it’s totally possible to find light, watery products that are well-suited to daytime use or oily skin types.

Did I leave something out? Do you want to know more? Drop me a comment below and let’s chat!

Beauty 101 – Foundation Products For a Skincare Routine

**Quick disclaimer: None of the links in this post are affiliate. They’re just for your convenience.**

This post is going to assume that you, like me and so many others, have fallen down the Skincare Rabbit Hole of whence there is no return.

Welcome to the dark side, friend. We have snail slime.

photoshopped sparkler light swirls
Shhh…just let it happen. It’s more fun down here anyways.

Now that you’re here, it’s probably VERY tempting to go wild and buy an entire new 10-step routine based on rave reviews from other people.

Let me stop you right there.

IT’S A TRAP.

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