4 Unconventional Ways to Clean a Sticky, Waxy Back


If you are reading this post, you probably have a serious fight with back acne. I did. That’s why I wrote this post. Use these four methods to bring unruly back breakouts under control, as I did.

Skin is an organ and needs to breathe to be healthy. Yet all day, our backs are covered with clothing, that comforts us, but can also lock in bacteria and allow dead skin cells to pile up. So at the end of the day, at shower time, as you glide your hand over your back, you feel a yucky layer of thick and sticky wax.

That’s the result of sweat, bacteria and shed skin cells hibernating all day under your shirt. You may shower, but sometimes, it seems as if the waxy layer of debris still remains. And it does. This residue, when not removed properly just builds up and can give rise to deep, painful, red, and swollen zits.

So how do you clean this back wax off? Take an unconventional approach.

Method 1: Remove It with Alcohol

The American Academy of Dermatology hails that if you want healthy skin, “DON’T use oil-based or alcohol-based cleansers. These can irritate your skin.” I disagree with it comes to a filthy back.  Sometimes our sebaceous glands can spew out way too much sebum and make the back feel like an oil sleek.  Granted acne-prone skin can tend to be oily, skincare regimes should not aim to strip the skin of oils but to regulate sebum output.  One treatment plan for bringing a greasy back into balance involves using alcohol.

To use this method, fold over clean, white, 100% washcloth into roughly a 4 by 4-inch square. Soak the washcloth in 70-90% isopropyl alcohol, you can grab this any drugstore. Then wipe your entire back with the cloth. You can refold the cloth over to a clean side to continue your whole back.

The alcohol will provide a cooling sensation as you move it over your back. Plus, as the layer of wax is lifted from your skin, you will feel your pores breathing much better again. After keeping up this cleaning method for a week, you should notice a drop in “bacne” outbreaks.

Granted this method goes in the face of AAD recommendations, most astringents designed to cleanse skin have alcohol as the first ingredient.  Plus, my grandmother used alcohol to cleanse her back after working in the field all day.  I never saw a single blemish on her back, and her skin looked healthy to me. So I see it wise to cleanse with alcohol.

Method 2: Body Microdermabrasion

This method uses friction to remove filth from the skin.  Peel away those caked in layers of wax and bacteria with an Exfoliating Back Scrubber.  Back scrubbers come in a variety of forms, from a long stick with a shredded bamboo sponge on the end, to body brushes that help massage away dirt. Just remember not to be too abrasive when scrubbing the skin with these brushes. You want to brush away debris, not grind down your skin.

Method 3: Acne Body Wash

To supercharge the back exfoliation, lather up with an acne body wash. There are two bacne treatment options with body washes: removing excess bacteria or increasing skin cell turnover. While our skin does need a microbiome, which is a layer of microorganisms surfing in oil that helps shield the skin from immune attacks and physical abrasions, this barrier can have an overload of Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes). 

P. acnes can break down the fats in our sebum which provide food for other bacteria to eat.  Ultimately, these bacteria stick together in fatty food, clog pores and give rise to painful zits.  Active acne body wash ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and tea tree oil treat breakouts by helping to reduce the prevalence of acne triggering bacteria.

Options like TheraTree Tea Tree Oil Soap that contains tea tree essential oil and neem oil to remove impurities and are hostile to acne encouraging bacteria.  Oxy 10 contains benzoyl peroxide to help vacate the pimple population on your back. They also ofter a video of benzoyl peroxide in action here.

Body washes promoting cell renewal usually contain the active ingredient of salicylic acid.  Salicylic acid helps shed away built-up dead skin, allowing the pores to clear.

While benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid are great treatment options, also be aware of their side effects. They can cause dryness and skin sensitivity, so monitor your skin’s response to these agents.

Method 4: Skin Peels

Skin peels seem a normal option for facial acne but they can be used just as effectively on the back to control mild acne and even cystic acne. One major health concern with chemical peels on the back is the large treated surface area.  The key is to start with a mild peel and increase the level of the peel’s intensity as needed.

For example, start with 10% lactic acid peel.  Apply the peel according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Continue to use the peel as recommended, this could range between once a week to once every 4-6 weeks.

You can keep a grimy back under control and blemish-free using these methods:

  1. Cleanse your back with an alcohol-soaked washcloth
  2. Wash your back with an exfoliating bush
  3. Lather up your brush with an acne body wash
  4. Use a skin peel for deeply cleanse the back area

Adding these steps to your skincare regime should reveal your smoothest, bump-free back.

Photo by Romina Farias on Unsplash

American Academy of Dermatology. (March 13, 2018). How to Control Oily Skin: 10 Do’s and Don’ts from Dermatologists. Newswise Article No. 690995. Retrieved from: https://www.newswise.com/articles/view/690995/

Barrell, Amanda. (July 24, 2017). How to Get Rid of Acne on the Back. Medical News Today. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318548.php

Photo by Romina Farias on Unsplash 

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