Back Acne: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment Options
Acne occurs in any area of the skin with hair follicles, meaning that all hair-bearing areas of the skin are susceptible to acne breakouts. Aside from the most common area of the face, one of the areas that often develops pimples is the back. This form of acne affects more than half of all acne sufferers and can be not only an aesthetic concern, but also extremely uncomfortable and painful.
Acne on the back develops just like facial acne: the combination of excess oil, dirt, other debris, and bacteria become trapped in the pores creating lesions and blemishes. For this reason, back acne can run a similar gamut of types, such as whiteheads, blackheads, and cysts.
Though acne can worsen from certain lifestyle activities or poor hygiene, the cause of acne has many factors. Some of the most prevalent factors that play into acne breakouts include genetics, hormones, environmental allergens and stress.
Back acne differs from facial acne in two significant ways:
- Skin on the body is more prone to clogging as it has larger pores and is thicker than facial skin.
- Oil-producing glands on the back tend to be more active than those located on the face, which most often leads to larger, more inflamed acne known as cystic acne.
Back acne Prevention
While there is no foolproof way to prevent back acne development, there are some simple and effective ways to limit breakouts. These are measures that you can take as a daily routine to minimize acne breakouts on your back.
- Opt for lighter clothing made from breathable fabric, such as cotton.
- Bathe or shower immediately after sweating to remove excess oils and debris before they can clog pores. If you are unable to shower immediately following a workout, carry cleansing wipes with you to use on the areas that you most often have acne breakouts.
- Avoid overusing topical steroids, unless prescribed by your dermatologist. Corticosteroids are known to cause acne and other skin changes and should not be used in excess.
- Avoid oil-based skincare products in favor of using body washes and lotions formulated for acne prone skin. All products that you are using on your skin should be designated as ‘non-comedogenic’, meaning they do not clog pores or cause acne breakouts. This should be printed on your products, likely near the ingredients list.
- Use an over-the-counter Benzoyl Peroxide wash to cleanse your skin in the shower. This helps with inflammation and to cut down on bacterial overgrowth. Be sure to note, however, that all products with benzoyl peroxide have the potential to bleach fabrics if they are not washed off thoroughly.
Treating Back Acne
It is important to understand that even with the best hygiene, skin care regimen and attention to prevention techniques, your skin can still have acne breakouts. To avoid prolonged discomfort from breakouts and potential scarring of the skin, if your acne does not respond to the prevention recommendations listed above, be sure to schedule with your dermatology provider.
Treating back acne, just like facial acne, can be challenging. Because everyone’s skin is different and responds differently to medications, there is not one treatment that works for everyone. With that in mind, your dermatologist will assess both your skin and acne breakouts to develop a personalized treatment regimen for you to follow. Some of the most common and effective regimens include:
- Topical Prescription Medications: Even if you have not had success with over-the-counter creams and washes, there are many prescription strength topical medications that are very effective in keeping back acne controlled. When treating back acne, topical medications are typically used in combination with other acne treatments due to difficulty of application, skin thickness and high oil gland activity.
- Oral Antibiotics: This can be a great option for inflammatory acne, especially in athletes and highly active individuals. Antibiotics are helpful in decreasing inflammation and the over-abundance of bacteria associated with back acne.
- Accutane: This prescription strength acne medicine is one of the most popular and effective ways to treat moderate to severe acne. Unlike traditional acne medications, Accutane has potential long-term benefits that continue after your course of treatment. This is one of the most important medications dermatologists prescribe to prevent acne scarring.
- CoolTouch Laser: CoolTouch® acne laser treatments safely and effectively treat acne, acne scars, and back acne with no downtime and minimal discomfort. The laser emits gentle pulses of energy that penetrate deep enough in the skin to shrink oil glands and decrease their capacity to produce acne without affecting the oils necessary for healthy skin. Learn More
- Blue-U light therapy. Blu-U is a unique treatment that involves the use of a high intensity, fluorescent blue light to the face. The fluorescent light technology kills the Propionibacterium (P. acnes), a bacteria that can worsen acne by causing additional inflammation and potentially allow acne to progress and spread.