Embarrassing beauty problems

Caroline Cassidy

Some beauty problems are more embarrassing than others. If you're struggling to get rid of back acne, in-grown hairs or stretch marks, here's some advice to help...

Woman shaving her legs in the bath
Woman shaving her legs in the bath

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Back acne
Acne on the back - also known as 'bacne' - may appear as pimples and blackheads or painful pustules and cysts, which form deep under the skin's surface.

Like facial acne, it is most common in puberty when the sebaceous glands that produce sebum start working. If too much sebum is produced, the hair follicles and pores can become clogged and attract bacteria.

The main causes of bacne are stress, oily or fatty foods and excessive sweating. While tight clothing and heavy backpacks can irritate the problem, there is no evidence to suggest they cause the condition.

To prevent bacne, exfoliate the back every week with a sugar scrub - which is more gentle on the skin that salt versions. To treat a mild outbreak, wash the area with an anti-bacterial cleanser formulated for the face, such as Cetaphil.

Don't use regular soap, and make sure to let the skin dry completely before putting on your clothes. Speak to your pharmacist, who may suggest that you apply a 10 percent benzoyl peroxide cream or gel. See a dermatologist if the acne is severe or is causing cysts.

Bikini-line in-growing hairs
Shaving or waxing can cause the pubic hair to curl back on itself and grow into the skin. As these hairs grow, they push up against the skin causing inflammation and infection. Too-close a shave is often to blame, although waxing and plucking can also irritate the hair follicle and trap hair under the skin.

Before you start shaving, prepare the skin with shaving gel or foam. Shave only in the natural direction of hair growth using a single-blade razor, rather than a double-blade razor, and don't pull the skin to get a closer cut.

If ingrown hairs occur, don't scrub the area, as this will only make matters worse. Instead, press a hot flannel against the skin and gently pull the end of the hair out with clean tweezers. Just pull out the lose end, rather than removing the whole hair, as this could leave the follicle open to infection.

Redness or yellow pustules on the surface of the skin are a sign of infection. Try dabbing the area with a mild antiseptic, such as tea tree oil. If you regularly suffer from ingrown hair, you might want to consider laser treatment, which damages the hair follicles and prevents hair growth.

Stretch marks
Stretch marks can be found on both men and women and are most commonly experienced in puberty (as the body changes rapidly), when gaining or losing weight and in pregnancy.

If you're pregnant, the best thing you can do is soften the skin with baby oil to make it more elastic. If you're planning to lose or gain weight, make sure you do it slowly (i.e. no more than 1lb a week) to give your skin time to adapt.

Collagen creams may promise to cure the problem but will be of limited benefited, as collagen put onto the surface of the body cannot penetrate into the deeper layers of the skin. Many dermatologists recommend using cocoa butter cream to soften scars.

Stretch marks will fade over time, and go from bright red to silvery white. Lasers can be used to tone down the brightness of recent red marks, but has little effect on older marks. If you want to lessen the appearance of older marks microdermabrasion may help.

Have you got a good tip for one of the problems mentioned? Leave a comment below...