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Bacne, Shmacne

By Amalah

Dear High Priestess of Beauty & Skincare Amalah,
After recently discovering you and soaking up your advice like a sponge, I have recently switched from using the Proactive skincare system to using Philosophy Purity Made Simple for cleansing, thus drastically reducing the number of skincare products I am using. My face is perfectly happy. The skin in my decolletage region, however, is not (yes, I know – EW!).
My chest is suddenly covered in little red bumps. Back in the pre-Proactiv days, this was a problem, but I was able to successfully deal with it. Neutrogena’s All Clear Body line used to include a lotion that took care of the chest bumpys in a flash and kept them at bay. For reasons I cannot fathom, the Neutrogena people no longer make the moisturizer, only the All Clear Body Wash and All Clear Body Scrub. In the past few days I have started using the Body Wash on my chest in the shower, and today bought a Neutrogena anti-acne moisturizer to try on my chest… But now I must whine because these products aren’t making the chest bumpys go away as quickly as the old moisturizer did!
I really don’t want to go back to the Proactiv stuff (since it has the tendency to bleach stuff), especially since the skin on my face is so happy right now. What do you recommend? And is there anything that will give me speedy-quick results? I’m supposed to wear a dress with a low-cut neckline Saturday evening! And no, I haven’t waited until the last minute to come forth with my pleas for advice – this problem only presented itself Monday night!
Most graciously yours,

One first-ish little sidenote for everyone who has ever loved and lost a discontinued beauty product: eBay. Stuff reappears there an awful lot, whenever people get their hands on the remaining stock or a beauty supply store goes under.
As for body-acne alternatives: I really encourage you to stick with the Body Clear Body Wash. It’s a salicylic acid product, and certainly isn’t going to pack the same punch as a benzoyl peroxide treatment like Proactiv, but it won’t be as harsh or staining. (And when you’re dealing with skin that touches your clothes, I’d say benzoyl peroxide should definitely be your last resort.) Give it another week or so, and if you’re still having body acne problems, well…uh…continue reading. Otherwise, stop reading now! Turn back!
(I know I’m already way too late for the low-cut neckline dress deadline…but you gotta cut me some slack there. I answer two to three questions a week but get about five to 10 new questions EVERY DAY. So allow me to repeat my old Smackdown caveat once again: if your hair is on fire, please seek advice from a more timely source.)
The red bumpies you suffer from could be cystic acne, which is commonly found on the body (back, check, butt, etc.). You might want to see a dermatologist about a prescription treatment like Accutane, honestly. Especially since it’s something you’ve suffered from for a long time. Otherwise, you will need to find a benzoyl peroxide or alpha hydrox (glycolic acid) product.
Check out the treatment plan for back acne at
, which includes both a alpha hydroxy treatment AND benzoyl peroxide. That’s crazy harsh, but if you are moisturizing afterwards your skin can probably take it. Again, I’d give the Neutrogena stuff a little more time, and even then work up to the plan gradually — maybe just the benzoyl will be enough. If not, add the glycolic.
Good benzoyl peroxide products include: , , Clearasil.
clearday.jpgGlycolic acid is one of the active ingredients in the Philosophy On a Clear Day Blemish Serum (reviewed here), along with salicylic acid. Which is probably why it works so unbelievably well (but only if you moisturize really well afterwards). Still love it, and after an especially sweaty trip to Texas, I can testify firsthand to its effectiveness on shoulder acne. (EW.)
Oh, and if you DO step up to either of these treatments, STOP using the Neutrogena wash. You’ll need to use something very gentle first: like the Philosophy Purity Made Simple or maybe just Cetaphil. Then moisturize. Moisturize! Acne treatments make your skin icky and flaky, so…yes. Moisturize. Would be the word. That I want. Uh-huh.
(Can anyone recommend a good beauty product thesaurus, or something?)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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  • amauritis

    March 30, 2007 at 10:11 am

    What I would like to know is, did Kelly ditch Proactiv because the Philosophy worked better, or because it was easier to just use one product? I know people seem to love the Philosophy line, but does that cleanser work as well on problem skin as Proactiv?
    If anyone has tried both and picked a favourite, I’d love to know your thoughts!

  • Cordelia

    March 30, 2007 at 10:11 am

    What if your backne (or wherever else-ne) seems to be the result of especially dry skin? Will these products still work, or will they make it worse?

  • Rachel

    March 30, 2007 at 11:21 am

    Hi! I have used Proactive and I now use Purity. In between those two products I tried many many acne/problem skin washes.
    The most amazing one was Philosophy’s On A Clear Day Super Wash For Oily Skin. It was unbelievable. Seriously. Before I tried it I had been using a benzoyl peroxide wash and Differin gel (both prescription, costing me way too much money).
    I decided to try the Philosophy wash since the lovely amalah thinks so highly of their products. The On A Clear Day wash works better than anything I have ever tried (on gross body breakouts too). I loved it since I only needed the wash and a moisturizer and I didn’t have to use a super-drying acne gel. My skin was (is!! is!) so clear I couldn’t believe it.
    Oh, and the Purity wash is working for my “problem” skin too. I still get the occasional pimple but that Blemish Serum works wonders.

  • springmore

    March 30, 2007 at 12:16 pm

    I used to suffer from bacne about a year ago. Because I got married last July and was dead-set on having a beautiful, clear back and chest for my wedding (I went strapless), I went to the dermatologist. He put me on 100 mg/day of Doxycycline, and it’s been working ever since. Doxy is an antibiotic that prevents bacteria from growing on your skin, thus preventing acne (since acne is the result of bacteria and oil colliding).
    I would absolutely recommend trying an oral antibiotic before asking your dermatologist about Accutane. (Christ, Accutane should ALWAYS be your VERY last resort–if an option at all.) It sounds as if your bacne is mild if it can be treated topically, so Doxy just may work for you. And taking one pill every morning is SO MUCH easier than running around searching for the next topical (and kinder on your clothes/towels, and so much cheaper, too).
    Good luck!

  • Kelly J

    March 30, 2007 at 1:28 pm

    Update – Bacne be gone! (And in time for Saturday’s low-cut neckline dress-wearing deadline too.) After submitting my question, I found myself in Target and decided to buy a tube of Neutrogena Oil-Free Anti-Acne Moisturizer. It’s probably the same stuff they used to sell as the All Clear Body Lotion, except now I get to buy it in a twee 1.7oz tube instead of the honking big bottle it used to come in. Anyway, Wednessday through Saturday I faithfully washed with the All Clear and followed up with the moisturizer morning and evening, and by Saturday night, my decolletage area was blissfully free of red bumpies! Since then, I’ve continued with the All Clear, and I’m hanging on to the Anti-Acne moisturizer in the event that I need to put the smackdown on any flareups that might occur (because the combined powers of the two products seriously kick bacne ass).
    And, for what it’s worth, I live in Texas. What is it with Texas and bacne??

  • Kelly J

    March 30, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    Amauritis –
    When I started using Proactiv several years ago, it quickly kicked my skin into shape. Recently, though, although my skin was mainly clear, I decided I just wasn’t thoroughly happy with the job it was doing, and frankly, I was tired of there being so many different things to smear on my face. I kind of held my breath when I made the switch to Purity Made Simple, because I just wasn’t sure it would do the job. Since then, though, my skin has been remarkably clear, without me really doing anything else to it other than moisturizing. I intend to invest in a bottle of the On A Clear Day Blemish Serum to have on hand, but my wallet hasn’t wanted to cough up the money for that yet.
    The one Proactiv product I may keep using, though, is their Daily Oil Control product that I put on underneath everything else in the morning, because that really gets the job done. Unless Amalah can suggest something better, of course!

  • Spring Weaver

    March 30, 2007 at 4:35 pm

    Kelly–that one’s easy! The heat, the humidity, the whatever. It all equals sweat and oil and bacteria and all that lovely stuff. But I’m sure you already knew that.
    I never had bacne until I moved to Dallas.

  • Kelly J

    March 30, 2007 at 4:47 pm

    It’s Dallas, that’s what it is! (I’m not the biggest fan of Dallas ever, and look at my time here as a temporary exile…)

  • V

    March 30, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Don’t kill me here, but why would someone need to moisturize an acne-prone area? Wouldn’t a gentle wash or gentler astringent be the only thing you’d need, and to keep the area free of anything else altogether?

  • Jezer

    March 30, 2007 at 11:13 pm

    As a teenager, I used every OTC and prescription medication for acne out there. Including Accutane. Don’t even think about trying Accutane unless you’ve got a zillion red cyst-like pimples that will not go away ever, and only if you’re ready to deal with side effects like fatigue, bone spurs, ultra-dry skin, and the extreme birth defects in any child that you may conceive during the course of the medication. Just sayin’.
    After my teen acne subsided (and yes, Accutane did help), I had several good years until I began to have a few adult acne eruptions. For that, I have only two words: Glycolic Acid. My blemishes laugh in the face of benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid. Neutrogena’s Pore Refining is my daily weapon of choice. It has never let me down, and I live in one of the most humid areas in Texas. Regular glycolic peels also do wonders.

  • Spring Weaver

    March 31, 2007 at 1:33 pm

    All these Texans! There’s no way it’s just a coincidence. Poor us and our heat and pollution and bacne.
    And thank god for Advice Smackdown.

  • Talix

    April 2, 2007 at 2:55 pm

    Ack! I bought some of the …Clear Day Blemish Serum last week and tried it out…I’m still dealing with the violent irritation that resulted. Dry, flaky, red, itchy yuck undoubtably not made better by the fact that I’m constantly blowing my nose, but sheesh! I never thought of my skin as “sensitive” but now two Sephora products (the Serum and a sample of Cosmedicine’s Opti-mologist Eye Cream with Light Diffusers) have completely torn it up!

  • Laila

    October 24, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    I had everything from face acne to bacne(back acne) to chest acne and even on my legs and arms. I dealt with years of cystic acne…tried and tested doc meds & many, many professional products with only minimal results. I say go all natural. I now take herbs on a regular basis and have been acne free since my late 20’s. Good luck folks and be open to other avenues.

  • Anonymous

    April 14, 2009 at 6:29 pm

    I’m 20 and going for a marine bio degree in….Texas lol
    My facial acne is pretty much under control now, but I get terrible acne on my back and chest. I’ve always had terrible acne prone skin, but the college stress isn’t helping any either. And because of my major, I’m usually in a swimsuit. I’ve started wearing t-shirts over my swimsuits because it’s so embarrassing! But the T-shirts bog me down in the water and the cotton fabrics make me SO cold when I get out of the water. So I’ll try some of the products y’all mentioned and hope it works!