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How To Apply Skin Care Products to Your Back

Only Use Bare Hands or a Soft Applicator to Apply Products to Your Back

By: Dan Kern, Acne.org Founder & CSO
Last updated: October 13, 2020

The Essential Information

Applying products to your back to treat or prevent back acne can be a challenge because:

  • It's a hard to reach area.
  • When you use a tool to apply a product to your back it can lead to physical irritation of the skin, and it is well known that physical irritation of the skin can lead to more acne.
     

Tips to Reduce Irritation:

  • Always use bare hands when you can.
  • If you need to reach places where your hands cannot reach, use only a soft applicator tool when applying skin care products to your back. And even with a soft applicator, remember to stay gentle.

The Science

The human body is badly designed when it comes to applying products to the middle of your own back. But thankfully, even without a friend to help you out, there are tools that still make this seemingly impossible feat easily doable.

However, when you have acne, it's important to stay gentle with these tools. When performed in a rough manner, the application of skin care products to your back can physically irritate the skin, and physical irritation of the skin can lead to more acne. Physical irritation leading to acne is such a well-known phenomenon that it has its own medical term: acne mechanica.1

The Right Way to Apply Products to Your Back

Best Option: Bare Hands

For easily accessible areas of the back like the top of your back around your shoulders, always use your bare hands to apply skin care products. Be sure to stay extra-gentle, and try not to linger in one area too long. The gentler the product can be applied, the better. Don't overly stress yourself out about this, but stay mindful to not irritate your skin.

Use Your Bare Hands Whenever You Can

Second Best Option: A Product Like the body buddy

For areas of the back that are harder to reach, like the middle of your back, I recommend a product like the body buddy, pictured in the illustration below. The body buddy is made from super soft vinyl, and has an extra-large application area so you can quickly apply as much product as you need without irritation.

To use a body buddy correctly, dispense the product to the soft vinyl of the body buddy. Then grasp the handles and gently pull the body buddy over the back. Take your time to evenly distribute the product over your back and remain ultra-gentle. Even though the body buddy is extremely soft and gentle to the skin, still make sure you are staying as gentle as you can and not overly rubbing the skin.

If You Can't Reach with Your Bare Hands, Use a Tool like the body buddy

Use Other Products with Caution

It is possible to use other back-applicator products as well, but it can take some extra effort and extra care. The following illustration shows some commonly used products that may cause more physical irritation because they must be applied using repetitive back-and-forth motions. If you're using a product like these, make sure to remain ultra-gentle and try not to go over any area too many times. Think to yourself as you use them, "I am using a featherlight touch…barely touching my skin with this."

Use These Products with Caution

References:

  1. Mills, O. & Kligman, A. Acne mechanica. Archives of Dermatology 111, 481-483 (1975). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/123732

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