Acne, even during the times when it’s not on the face for the whole world to see, is just as troublesome. Body or truncal acne, a condition where acne affects the chest and back, is often a sign of hormonal imbalances within the body and is more than just a superficial discomfort. Like facial acne, it can dent the confidence of the many people who suffer from it. But unlike its counterpart, which calls for immediate action, unfortunately, body acne is ignored till the time it becomes painful or widespread. In some people, body acne could be an external symptom of suppressed anxiety and chronic trauma as well. The right treatment begins with the right diagnosis.
Identifying body acne
“Before you start with any DIY remedy or topical medication, visit a trusted dermatologist,” states Mumbai-based dermatologist and cutaneous surgeon Dr Satish Bhatia. “Whiteheads, red papules or pus/blood-filled lesions on the chest, back and buttocks are often misdiagnosed as miliaria, a fungal infection that mimics symptoms of body acne but is caused due to sweat retention.” Deep truncal acne could also cause keloids, which can be best described as overgrown scar tissues which result in a discoloured raised lump on the skin.
The best treatments for body acne
The causes of acne could be environmentally-driven, due to exposure to pollution, gases and sunlight. Hormonal imbalances, dietary deficiencies, polycystic ovaries and fibroids can also be other deep-rooted reasons behind persistent breakouts on the body. To effectively cure the condition, the root cause should be addressed. This is why a series of blood tests are prescribed when one is diagnosed with body acne.
Known for his expertise in acne management, Dr Bhatia explains, “Monitoring of insulin resistance is critical, as many acne patients have a tendency towards being diabetic. Even thyroid levels are checked to see if that’s the cause of disruption in the skin. Depending upon the severity and type of body acne, we can start on oral antibiotics (doxycycline and Limecycline) or oral retinoids. It takes three to six weeks for the effects to be visible. Typically, we can apply glycolic acid 6 per cent and azelaic acid 10 per cent creams, gels or body spray. Alternatively, we can use chemical peels like salicylic acid, phenol or TCA peels at the dermatologist office.” Use of salicylic and glycolic acid soaps is also recommended to keep the skin cleansed and prevent further acne. Exfoliation typically helps remove the dead cells, but in the case of deep-seated acne (which is red or pus-filled), it worsens the conditions and may lead to scarring and pigmentation.
The Ayurvedic approach to body acne
Ayurveda too, much like the modern sciences, believes that acne is a result of improper blood circulation that impacts its purification. “When toxins are not released out of the body, pores get clogged, resulting in acne,” explains Gita Ramesh, joint managing director, Kairali Ayurvedic Group. “Body treatments such as abhyangam, followed by cleansing with an Ayurvedic herbal powder like Kairali’s ‘Kairbal’, help in external detoxification. For home care, we recommend swapping regular soaps with natural ubtan—made at home with chickpea powder mixed with rosewater. In Ayurveda, internally cleansing is equally important, if not more essential, than topical remedies. Start your day with amla juice—that’s a natural blood purifier.” Another remedy is to grind fresh neem leaves with turmeric, and have a teaspoon of this mixture daily to keep the system clean. Taking a bath with neem water regularly has shown wonderful results as well. Neem decoctions are anti-acne elixirs, as the leaves have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic and anti-microbial properties.
How diet can get rid of acne
While topical medication and cosmetic treatments would help address the symptoms, you can speed up the recovery process by making dietary changes. To begin with, remove skim milk and processed cheese from your diet. “Skimmed milk is clinically proven to aggravate acne and should be immediately stopped,” asserts Dr Bhatia. “Zinc deficiency can lead to acne. In such cases, the skin condition improves dramatically if put on zinc supplements. Consumption of zinc-rich food such as broccoli, peas and green leafy vegetables also helps. Probiotics, in form of yoghurt or oral medication, have been found very effective in clearing up acne,” he adds. Vitamin C is an acne elixir, as it rejuvenates the skin giving it a healthy and brighter appearance, and good healthy fats, such as omega 3 fatty acids, help you on your way to smoother skin too. Dr Bhatia advises his patients to eat fish and avocados to clear acne from the inside out.
Shruti Agrawal, a Mumbai-based genetic health counsellor, recommends adding lots of liquids and water-dense vegetables to your diet. “Coconut water, buttermilk, fresh lemon water and sugarcane juices should be consumed more frequently. In fruits and vegetables, opt for cucumber, watermelons, muskmelons, lychees, bottle gourd, ridge gourd and green leafy vegetables.”
Topical applications will help, as will cosmetic treatments and DIY remedies, but a holistic approach will ensure that you are on the fastest route to recovery and that your body acne never stages a comeback.