I am prone to a spotty back. I wouldn't go so far as to say I get bacne, but my shoulders just seem to breakout frequently. It is frustrating and irritating (possibly more for my husband than me since he is always swatting my hands away when I try to have a surreptitious scratch between my shoulder blades). So what to do about a spotty back? I am not sure that I have a definitive answer, but here are a few of things that I have learned through trial and error.

For a long time, I used Murad's Clarifying Body Spray ($37). The best thing about it is that the spray action works even if you hold the bottle upside down, so you don't need to be a yoga fanatic to get to those hard to reach places. This product is basically taking the view that your zitty back is due to over-active sebaceous glands that need to be dried out. I used it with Murad's Acne Body Wash. The active in both is salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid that comes from willow bark. It works by reducing swelling and redness and unplugging blocked skin pores to allow pimples to shrink. It treats other skin conditions by softening and loosening dry, scaly, or thickened skin so that it falls off or can be removed easily.

There is no doubt that Clarifying Body Spray was, initially, a big help. Over time, however, I found it very drying and after several bottles began to think it might be making things worse. This may not have been completely fanciful; it contains triclosan, an antibacterial. Overuse can cause come bacteria to become resistant. Overall, I would recommend giving Clarifying Body Spray a try if you have oily skin - just don't overdo it.

My experience with Murad got me to thinking - counter-intuitively - that dry, rather than oily, skin might be responsible for my back breakouts. I found out that there is such a thing as dry skin acne caused by a loss of natural moisture content of the skin. The skin becomes dry, especially during the winter season, itches and peels off. These sloughed off skin cells can clog your pores, causing even more acne blemishes than you had in the first place. This was sounding familiar. It seemed that I needed a whole new strategy.

The key was to find a way to moisturize my back without getting the pores clogged up. Instead of my usual body lotion, I treat my shoulders, back of the neck and anywhere else I can reach with either pure squalane or aloe vera. Jojoba oil could be worth a shot, although I haven't actually tried it. Like squalane, its chemical structure closely mimics that of human skin oil (sebum). Because of this, it may actually convince the skin that it has plenty of sebum and to stop overproducing.

Great for keeping dead cells from clogging things up is the Clarisonic Brush. It can be used on dry skin or in the shower. I tend to use it in the shower with Japanese charcoal cleanser. Charcoal is great at removing impurities from clogged pores and then helping to tighten the pores again, thereby avoiding a vicious circle. This is a good routine for chest outbreaks as well. Last, but not least, don't turn your back on the power of LED light. A zap with the Baby Quasar once a week or so makes all the difference.

Ingredients in Murad Clarifying Spray

Active Ingredient: 0.5% Salicylic Acid.

Water (Aqua), Alcohol Dena, Butylene Glycol, Allantoin, Undecylenoyl Glycine, Sodium Salicylate, Lecithin, Tocophersolan, Retinol, Pentylene Glycol, Polysorbate 20, Panthenol, Triclosan, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Oleth-20, Menthol, Cymbopogon Schoenanthus Oil.

Ingredients in Murad Acne Body Wash

Active Ingredient: 1.0% Salicylic Acid.

Water (Aqua), Sodium C14-16 Olefin Sulfonate, Polyethylene, Cocamidopropyl Betaine, Glycerin, Acrylates Copolymer, PEG-200 Hydrogenated Glyceryl Palmate, Triclosan, Rice Amino Acids, Lysine Lauroyl Methionate, Zinc As Chitosan Ascorbate, Phoenix Dactylifera (Date) Seed, Dipotassium Glycyrrhizate, Polyquaternium-51, Glycolic Acid, Sodium Hydroxide, Hydrogen Peroxide, Menthol, PEG-7 Glyceryl Cocoate, Benzophenone-4, Benzoic Acid, DMDM Hydantoin, Iodopropynyl Butylcarbamate, Benzyl Salicylate , Hexyl Cinnamal, Butylphenyl Methylpropional , Fragrance (Parfum), Blue 1 (CI 42090), Ext. Violet 2 (CI 60730).