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How to Get Rid of "Bacne" (Back Acne)

Angela Sheddan

Medically reviewed by Angela Sheddan, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 2/9/2022

Uncomfortable. Unsightly, Embarrassing. That’s bacne (aka back acne) in a nutshell.

While your face is probably the most common place for blemishes to pop up, the back is a close second. There are actually a few things that can cause acne on this part of your body — more on that soon! 

It’s a frustrating spot for acne, too. Unlike your face, it can be hard to reach, and therefore treat, the skin on your back.

That said, there are ways you can treat it — you just have to make a concerted effort. Here, we’re reviewing what back acne is, what causes it and how to deal with it. 

What Is Back Acne? 

The same thing that causes facial acne (formally known as acne vulgaris) is behind it forming on your back. 

The first culprit? Sebum. It is produced by your sebaceous glands to lubricate your skin and hair. They exist in your face, but also in your back. In fact, the mid-back is one of the areas of the body that has the most sebaceous glands. Sebum isn’t all bad though. It creates a barrier over your skin to protect it from bacteria and other harmful substances in the environment. However, if you produce too much sebum, it can lead to breakouts.

Dead skin cells can also cause acne. Your body naturally sheds dead skin cells every 40 to 56 days as part of its process to renew and replace skin (a process known as epidermal turnover). 

If excess sebum and dead skin cells combine, it can block your pores and hair follicles and lead to blemishes. 

What Causes Back Acne? 

Before you can learn how to banish blemishes on your back, you’ve got to know what’s making them pop up. Once again, similar things that cause regular acne, cause back acne. Common causes include: 

  • Hormone imbalances, such as what occurs during your period. They can lead to an excess of sebum being created. 

  • Overwashing your skin can also wipe away natural oils and cause sebum (an oily secretion) production to go into overdrive.

  • Things that put pressure on your skin or create friction can also be problematic. For your back, this could be too-tight clothing or even backpacks.

  • Medications can also lead to acne. These include ones prescribed to treat epilepsy, stress and depression

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How to Treat Back Acne

Back acne can have a big impact on your life. One study of 132 people found that it was significantly tied to sexual and bodily self-conciousness in both men and women. Who needs that? To prevent those negative feelings, you’ll need to know how to get rid of it. These tactics can help. 

Use a Topical Treatment

Topical treatments can effectively treat pimples. You put them on top of acne and they go to work, penetrating the skin to clear up those bumps and blemishes. Of course, reaching your back can be tricky. To do so, you can get a lotion applicator for your back.

Two common topicals: Salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide can both remove dead skin cells and eliminate acne-causing bacteria. Salicylic acid has another added benefit — it reduces swelling. Both can also be found over the counter, with no prescription needed. 

Tretinoin is a topical that does require a prescription. It helps your skin shed the dead skin cells that cause breakouts. Another prescription is clindamycin, which is actually an antibiotic that impedes bacteria from multiplying. 

Hers has a prescription acne cream that contains clindamycin, tretinoin and azelaic acid to diminish dead skin cells, lower inflammation and go after bacteria. 

Retinoids are another topical that can be used. They prevent dead skin cells from building up and increase skin cell regeneration.

Try Oral Medication

Topical treatments aren’t the only medications used in the quest to get rid of back acne. There are also two types of oral medication that are often used. The first is birth control pills

A few combined oral contraceptives are FDA approved to treat acne. They work by lowering levels of hormones responsible for acne (like testosterone) and reducing sebum production. 

The other prescription medication is isotretinoin. It lowers sebum production, which can help stop dead skin cells from clogging pores. 

Sometimes, oral antibiotics are even prescribed to prevent acne-causing bacteria from multiplying.

Taking Care of Your Skin

Your skincare routine also matters when it comes to fighting back acne. When it comes to washing your back, skip the bar soap and consider using a face wash back there. 

In fact, research that has found that reaching for a mild facial cleanser can reduce acne. Ideally, you want to look for a gentle, non-abrasive cleanser without alcohol, which can be drying. Also be on the lookout for something labeled “non-comedogenic,” which means it won’t clog pores. Hers offers a facial cleanser that fits these requirements. 

Daily sunscreen is also a must. Some people believe that the sun’s rays can clear acne, but the opposite is true: It can make it worse.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad-spectrum sunscreen (meaning it protects skin from UVA and UVB rays) with a minimum of SPF 30 on a daily basis. 

Finally, treat your back skin right (and help it stay clear!) by wearing loose clothing made of a breathable fabric. You should also wash workout clothes after each use — and change out of sweaty clothing ASAP after exercising. All of these things can make acne worse. 

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Getting Rid of Back Acne

Living with back acne can dampen your spirits and knock your self-confidence. Whether you have mild acne or severe acne back there, the good news is that there is a way to deal with it. 

From topical treatments (like salicylic acid and benzoyl peroxide)  to prescription acne medications of the oral variety and healthy skin habits, you can nip bacne in the bud and live your life with clearer skin — everywhere

If you have stubborn back acne or want an expert opinion on which treatment option to start with, you should speak with a healthcare professional. He or she will be trained in assisting patients with acne and will be able to take into account special considerations (like if you have sensitive skin or are dealing with cystic acne).

From there, they will be able to give recommendations on acne treatments and skin care products and provide tips on keeping your skin healthy. 

15 Sources

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

  1. Sebaceous Cysts. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/14165-sebaceous-cysts
  2. Acne (2012). Retrieved from https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/acne
  3. Koster, M.I. (2009, July). Making an epidermis. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 1170, 7-10. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2861991/
  4. Makrantonaki, E, Ganceviciene, Zouboulis, C (2011, Jan-March). An update on the role of the sebaceous gland in the pathogenesis of acne. Dermato Endocrinology. 3(1), 41-49. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3051853/
  5. Hassan, J., Grogan, S., Clark-Carter, D., et al., (2009). The individual health burden of acne: appearance-related distress in male and female adolescents and adults with back, chest and facial acne. J Health Psychol. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19858331/
  6. Back Acne: How to See Clearer Skin. American Academy of Dermatology. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/acne/DIY/back-acne
  7. Salicylic Acid Topical. Medline Plus. Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a607072.html
  8. Tretinoin Topical. (2019, March 15). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a682437.html
  9. Clindamycin Topical. (2016, October 15). Retrieved from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a609005.html
  10. Salvaggio, H., Zaenglein, A., (2010). Examining the use of oral contraceptives in the management of acne. International Journal of Women’s Health. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2971728/
  11. Isotretinoin. (2018, August 15). https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/meds/a681043.html
  12. Baldwin, H. (2020). Oral Antibiotic Treatment Options for Acne Vulgaris. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 13 (9), 26–32. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7577330/
  13. Isoda, K., Seki, T., Inoue, S., et al. (2015, February). Efficacy of the combined use of a facial cleanser and moisturizers for the care of mild acne patients with sensitive skin. J Dermatol, 42(2):181-8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25483138/
  14. Face Washing 101. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/skin-care-basics/care/face-washing-101
  15. Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology Association. Retrieved from https://www.aad.org/public/everyday-care/sun-protection/sunscreen-patients/sunscreen-faqs

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.