Back Acne: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment Options

Written by Brianna Kay, MPAS, PA-C, Certified Physician Assistant on November 12, 2015 17 Comments

back acne tips

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.

Potential Causes

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.


Brianna Kay, MPAS, PA-C

Brianna Kay, MPAS, PA-C, Certified Physician Assistant, earned her Masters in Physician Assistant Studies from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Brianna specialized in dermatology following her Masters degree and has since been practicing medical and surgical dermatology since 2012. She is board certified by the National Commission of Certification of PAs and is licensed by the Texas State Board of Medical Examiners.

17 Responses to “Back Acne: Causes, Prevention, and Treatment Options”

  1. Avatar Shawn says:

    WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for fight acne

  2. Avatar Joe says:

    Great article and tips, thanks for sharing! I’ve always had issues with back acne so I’ll give some of these things a try

  3. Avatar rosa says:

    I’ve never heard of bacne lol

  4. Avatar Brooke says:

    I appreciate your tips about wearing breathable fabric and bathing quickly after sweating. I’ve never realized that fabric had anything to do with acne, but it makes sense since I get more of it in the winter. As for sweating, I have always wondered if I was making it worse for myself by delaying a shower, so it is good to have an answer finally. Thank you for all of the helpful information!

  5. Avatar hira says:

    Lemon juice has natural skin bleaching properties, and can help to effectively lighten your acne scars. Simply combine equal parts lemon juice and water and apply this liquid directly onto your scars, avoiding the surrounding skin. Wash off the lemon juice after 15 to 20 minutes or you could put the the lemon juice on overnight as a mask.

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Hira, thanks for reading our post and adding your tip. We really like your post on Bacne as well! Let us know if you would like to team up, we would love to contribute content to your blog if you think your audience would benefit from it!

  6. Avatar Brett says:

    Gross 🙁

  7. Avatar Shannah says:

    Really cool content. I was searching this, as I am suffering from back acne.

  8. Avatar Sutton says:

    Wow, I never knew there were so many treatments for back acne like oral antibiotics, cool laser therapy, and Accutane. My little brother is in high school and is struggling with acne on his back. I appreciate the information on how a dermatologist would treat this type of skin issue.

  9. Avatar Debi says:

    Isn’t Accutane known to have bad or dangerous side effects??

    • WD Staff WD Staff says:

      Hi Debi,

      Thanks for reading our post and submitting your question! Accutane is a powerful prescription medication and some side effects reported by users are issues like irritation, skin sensitivity, dryness, inflammation etc. It’s important to follow all directions provided by your dermatologist and consult with them in the event of any unwanted side effects. We have more information on Accutane in this post:

      As always, discussing any issues with your physician immediately is always recommended. Hope that helps!

      WD Staff

  10. Avatar Kenneth says:

    Acne on my back has been a big problem for a while now. It really annoys me and makes me very self conscious. With summer coming up I would love to find some remedies for this. I hadn’t heard that wearing lighter and more breathable clothing could make a difference.

  11. Avatar Manisha says:

    Very informative article. Most of the people struggle with a variety of skin problems such as pimple, whiteheads, blackheads, skin warts or other serious skin issues. These tips are very helpful for healthy skin routine. Thanks for sharing. Keep guiding us…

  12. Avatar David says:

    I had no idea that back acne can run a similar gamut of types as face acne, such as whitehead, blackheads, and cysts. In my opinion, this would be important to know because just like facial acne, it could be prevented and dealt with, especially if you were helped in the process by a professional. I have had back and face acne for years, which can be discomforting and painful, so I will have to look into professionals who can provide acne treatment.

  13. Avatar Dr. Klein says:

    I can attest that wearing lighter cotton clothing can make a big difference. We’ve had a number of patients who after switching to light cotton tees have see dramatic reductions in their back acne. Good tip!

  14. Avatar rachel says:

    I have always been insecure because of my ace and blemishes that can’t seem to disappear. I never knew that antibiotics can help with decreasing inflammation and overabundance bacteria that causes back acne. Although this is helpful, I think this concern should still be attended by a professional dermatologist.

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