Monday, March 30, 2015

Help for Back Breakout

In a popular beauty book, the author recommends using dishwashing detergent followed by benzoyl peroxide for back breakouts. Now, I am only one person, but I have a fair amount of common sense. I can see how the author thinks if detergent gets the grease off her dishes surely it would be an acceptable product to use on human skin. Because as we all know, skin and porcelain and/or glass are virtually the same thing, right?

OK, I’ll stop being sarcastic and just tell it like it is. Using dishwashing detergent on your skin is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of! I did a TV show where I had degreasing detergent on the table of what not to use on problem skin. I once knew a client who put dishwashing detergent on her blemishes in an attempt to dry them out. She thought, perhaps as the above mentioned author does, that a degreasing agent would degrease her skin. But the results for my client were irritation coupled with severe peeling on and around the blemishes. I can’t imagine what would happen to the skin on your back if you applied dishwashing detergent even just one time, and then followed it with another known skin irritant: benzoyl peroxide.

This author goes on to recommend applying the dishwashing detergent not with your hands but with a bath brush. You have not only set up the potential for irritation using a product never intended for human skin, but to add insult to injury you are going to ensure severe irritation by using a brush to massage in the product! Is she crazy? No, just very ill-informed. She is not an aesthetician or even a person who has had any experience (from what her bio reads) with skin on a real, up close and personal level. As with anything, look at the source.

The kind of advice in that book is the kind of advice I recommend avoiding at all costs. Those suggestions might look good in a magazine or flash advertising, but to actually be recommending this for readers who have problem skin on their backs (or faces, or wherever) is preposterous. I can only hope that if you choose to read books like that one, you will also use your common sense. How much sense does it make to use dishwashing detergent (meant for dishes and glassware) on your delicate skin? If your answer is, “It kind of makes sense,” then I will just tell you straight up: don’t do it! Dishes are dishes, but human skin is a living organ that needs special care.

With that said, you're here to get help with back breakout. Because we are dealing with skin, its location is less relevant than you may think. As long as you are producing infected blemishes, you want to essentially treat them the same no matter where they appear on your body.

I get a lot of breakout on my back. It is practically impossible for me to reach this area. What can I do to help the problem, and why does my back break out in the first place?

When it comes to treating the skin on your back, it can be challenging. But there are ways you can get to that skin, even if you have to employ another person in the process. The answer to why you are breaking out there is the same as if you were having breakouts on your face. Internally something is out of balance, and in my opinion, diet is most likely at the root of the problem.

Watch your sugar intake. As I have written about in many articles, this (sugar) is a common ingredient that can and does cause a lot of problems with skin—namely breakouts. Water is one of the best things for your body. If you aren’t currently drinking enough (or any) water each day, start now to drink more water, which helps to rid toxins from your body. If you sweat a lot, are you able to rinse it off your back? Or does the sweat just sit there on your skin for long periods of time? This can be a source of irritation and potential breakout, especially if you are sweating during workouts. Rinse the sweat off your entire body before it has a chance to dry on the skin. 

If you can afford it, get a back facial at a salon or spa. Call first to be sure they offer this service and if you have the time, go by the establishment and see where you will be receiving the treatment before you even make an appointment. Why? Some facial chairs just don’t translate into good tables for back facials. You want a versatile chair that will ensure your comfort during the process. The salon may have you lie on a massage table, which is fine. Ask them to prop up your feet if that makes you feel more comfortable. They probably have a bolster to put under the tops of your ankles for this very purpose.

Ask a friend for help. If there is someone in your life you trust to do a good job, ask them to give you a back facial. You could get a back facial as often as you can find someone to give one to you. Just like any treatment for blemishes on your face, the more kind attention you give problem skin, the better it is for helping the healing process.
  • After taking a shower to get yourself cleaned off, lay a towel or two down on the floor and lie face down.
  • Have your helper use a mild scrub mixed with water on your back. If you have large red and pus-filled blemishes, a scrub is not a good idea. It is important to exfoliate back there, but you certainly don’t want to break open the spots and possibly spread the bacteria to other places on your skin.
  • Other than scrubs, a gel-peel (like a gommage) or another type of non-abrasive peel, like a papaya enzyme peel, would be preferable. If you don’t have access to an exfoliant or if it would be inappropriate to use one, just skip to the next step.
  • After the scrub (or other exfoliator) is removed, apply a clay mask.
  • Usually back breakouts are in the upper region, near the shoulders. If your entire back is broken out, you will probably go through a lot of mask, but it is very helpful to get it on the spots. If you don’t have enough mask to go over the entire area, be sure to dot clay liberally on all the blemishes individually—even if they cover your whole back. If possible, spread the clay over the entire area as mentioned above.
  • Ideally you want to keep the mask moist. This way you won’t dry out the outer skin. You can either spray the mask with toner or filtered water. Or, if you are so inclined, your assistant can take tissues and soak them in either toner or water and place them on your skin as a compress where the clay has been applied.
  • Leave the mask for 15 minutes or so.
  • Then you can either shower to remove the clay or your helper can remove it with a warm (not hot) washcloth. Just be sure not to rub hard or scrub with the washcloth.
  • After the mask is cleaned off, I suggest spraying one last application of toner on the area and massaging it in.
  • If you have any medications or special products you are using for the blemishes, apply those last. Geranium or lavender essential oil would be a good choice to help treat the individual spots. (Both of these and essential oils in general are written about extensively on this blog. See categories.)
I have one last recommendation: Don’t let your helper pick at your blemishes unless he or she knows how to extract properly. I have heard countless stories of partners who actually relish popping their mate’s spots. I suppose it is just a natural maternal instinct that we have. But if done incorrectly, this process can cause more harm than good. However, some places may need to be extracted.

Please understand, facials, whether for your back or your face, will not eliminate your skin problems completely. Your breakout originates from a systemic imbalance, and treating the symptom (breakout) topically will only go so far. Treating the problem from the outside can and will help it on many levels, but I want to be sure you are also taking steps to figure out the real cause of the problems. Without figuring out the cause of the imbalance along with action taken toward healthier lifestyle habits, no amount of facials, back or otherwise, will fix the problem at hand.

For more articles, see:

This is easier said than done