How to Get Rid of Back Acne, According to Dermatologists
Also known as "bacne," back acne can strike anyone at any time. It's very similar to the acne you get on your face—think cysts, pimples, whiteheads, and even blackheads—but instead appears scattered across your back. Sure, you may not have to confront it every single day like you would a breakout on your face, but it still remains one of the more frustrating skin issues considering how difficult it is to treat.
"Acne can appear anywhere there are sweat and oil glands. It occurs when sweat, oil, bacteria, dead skin cells, and dirt gets trapped within a hair follicle and clog those pores. Because our back has sweat glands, acne can also occur there," says Howard Sobel, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Sobel Skin. "Some people are certainly more prone to getting acne, whether it's genetics, diet, or lifestyle."
Even more annoying? Back acne and facial acne are often connected. "Many people who suffer from facial acne also experience breakouts on their chest and back," notes Rebecca Marcus, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist based in Dallas. However, it is possible for some people to experience back acne only and not get it on their face.
Back Acne Causes
The first step in treating back acne is figuring out the cause. From there, you can make the right changes and use the best products to help clear up your skin.
At the end of the day, back acne is caused by some of the same things that cause facial acne, including excess sebum production and dead skin cells leading to clogged pores. Hormonal changes and the bacteria cutibacterium acnes can also cause pimples to pop up across our backs.
However, there are a few common culprits that can exacerbate the issue or cause bacne on people who otherwise have clear skin. Here are the biggest offenders so you can pinpoint what's causing your bacne and find out how to treat back acne once and for all.
How to Get Rid of Back Acne
If your bacne is caused by one of the external factors listed above, then your best course of action is to remove the culprit. Once the stimulus is removed, it can take about four to six weeks for your skin to clear up.
But of course, sometimes it just winds down to unlucky genetics. As Dr. Marcus mentioned, people who are acne-prone are more likely to get bacne compared to others. It often simply boils down to how we're made. "Genetics is definitely a factor in acne and determines how a person will respond to external stimuli that may trigger acne," she explains.
But that doesn't mean you're doomed to live with back acne forever. To treat back acne, incorporate an acne-specific body wash to your shower routine. Dr. Marcus' favorites include Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Body Wash with Glycerin ($7; target.com) and PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash with 10% Benzoyl Peroxide ($10; amazon.com).
Gentle chemical peels can also be helpful in clearing clogged pores and removing dead skin cells. Because it can be hard to reach the affected back areas on your own, it's best to have someone else apply the product.
"When back acne persists despite having incorporated the practices above—or especially if acne is deep and cystic with the potential for scarring—it's helpful to get a board certified dermatologist involved," Dr. Marcus notes. "Prescription treatments such as topical or oral antibiotics, topical retinoids, or even isotretinoin may be necessary to completely clear back acne."