Expert Tips on Getting the Sleekest, Smoothest Back

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This article first appeared in the Fall 2020 issue of New Beauty. Click here to subscribe

Although it’s a part of our bodies we rarely see, when faced with a backless dress, a new bathing suit or having to disrobe in front of another set of eyes, our backs can end up at the forefront of our minds with a myriad of concerns like ‘bacne,’ bra fat, love handles and more. Whether you want smoother skin, a sleeker silhouette, or tightened and toned lats, we’ve got your back.

Option 01: Muscle Building

It’s all about the weights, says celebrity fitness trainer K.J. Zayon. “When I’m programming back workouts, I usually encourage a heavier weight choice because it is a bigger muscle group. Most of the training I do is not explosive, so I will play with slow movement to achieve ‘time under tension,’ followed by holds and pulses to really get those muscles responding effectively and eventually getting them into ‘muscle failure’ where they shake,” she explains.

To get her celebrity clients red-carpet ready, Zayon combines dumbbell lat pulls, suspension equipment rows, reverse flys, Supermans and wide-hinged rows into her routines. “I usually recommend incorporating two days of some back-strengthening exercises, depending on the client’s goals and needs.” The key to achieving a sculpted look? Consistency. “Go slower and get connected to your muscles and what is happening when you’re doing these exercises,” adds Zayon. “Commit fully, and the results and strength will come.”

Option 02: Back Facials

Celebrity aesthetician Joanna Czech says back treatments are so common, she even has a purifying one on the menu designed to break down hardened sebum, remove dead skin cells and clear out congestion. “The exact treatment depends on the condition of the skin,” she says. “We generally cleanse and then steam, and we might use a chemical peel. I like Environ peels because they’re not too harsh and don’t require downtime.” She follows this with extractions, high-frequency currents to eliminate acne-causing bacteria, and a purifying mask followed by LED light therapy. “Light therapy helps infuse products into the skin and also stimulates elastin and collagen production, which helps reduce the look of imperfections,” explains Czech.

Option 03: “Bacne”

Suffering from a bumpy back? It’s a common affliction, especially if you work out a lot, says Oklahoma City dermatologist Kimberly Jerdan, MD. “With an increase in sweating, bacteria can accumulate in the sebaceous glands and become inflamed,” she explains. “I typically recommend a benzoyl peroxide wash, usually in the 10-percent range, to help kill the propionibacterium acnes bacteria and its oxidizing properties.”

Option 04: Sunspots + Discoloration

For hyperpigmentation, it all starts with protection. “The back is often overlooked in the goal of aesthetic improvement,” says Chicago plastic surgeon Peter Geldner, MD. “Always use sun protection with UV blockers. Moisturizers can help too, but the best way to start treating discoloration is by preventing it from happening or getting worse.”

To reduce the look of existing spots, Dr. Jerdan says a product with azelaic acid works best. “Azelaic acid, which you can find in many overthe-counter products, inhibits tyrosinase activity, which can calm the pigment issues. To double up on treatment, you can also use a retinoid at night to act as a prophylactic for both bacne and hyperpigmentation, or as a proactive approach to make sure both stay off of your back.”

If at-home treatments aren’t working, Dr. Jerdan says it’s best to see a board-certified dermatologist who will have more solutions for active acne, hyperpigmentation and scarring, such as oral or topical antibiotics, prescription retinoids, and laser skin-resurfacing treatments.

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