Bye, bye, bye: How to get rid of back acne for good

It's estimated back acne affects more than half of acne sufferers.

Written by
Gemma Kaczerepa
Medically reviewed by
min read
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While facial acne usually gets most of the attention, we all know pimples can crop up practically anywhere on the body — including the chest, arms, temples, breasts and the back.

Back acne — also known as ‘bacne’ — is a particularly frequent type of body acne, which can appear in numerous places on the back but often around the upper back and shoulders. Yep, it’s pretty darn frustrating, however, it’s also very common — it’s estimated back acne affects more than half of acne sufferers [1].

Dealing with a bout of back acne, or been experiencing it long-term and just plain sick of it? It’s time to say bye-bye to bacne. For. Good.

What is back acne?

You might’ve already guessed from the name, but back acne is acne that appears anywhere on the back. It might be on your upper back and shoulders, at the base of your neck, around where your bra strap or backpack sits, or further down towards your middle or lower back.

Back acne can affect almost anyone but is most often experienced by boys and men, starting around puberty. It also appears in varying degrees. It could crop up as just a few spots around your shoulders, or it may appear as deeper pimples that cover almost the entire back.

What are the different types of acne that can occur on the back?

There’s no single type of acne that crops up on the back; instead, back acne can surface as any — or a mix — of the following:

  • Whiteheads: Small white bumps.
  • Blackheads: Tiny black dots, which are actually oxidised sebum and not dirt — contrary to popular belief!
  • Papules: Little bumps across the skin that don't have defined centres.
  • Nodules and cysts: Deeper forms of acne whereby bumps are larger and often painful.

You might also experience acne scarring if pimples don’t heal properly. While acne scarring can be a little challenging to get rid of, the good news is you can still work to fade it, even if it’s on your back. Here are our tips on how to treat acne scarring.

Is it normal to have back acne?

Back acne is easily one of the most common types of acne. While facial pimples are typically experienced by almost anyone with acne, it’s estimated that back acne impacts over half of acne sufferers.

And, while it can be really, really frustrating dealing with back acne, you might find some comfort in knowing that it’s pretty prevalent.

What causes acne on the back?

Why does back acne happen? As with your face, your back has numerous glands that secrete an oily substance known as sebum. This substance helps protect and moisturise your skin. 

The problem, though, is that sometimes your body produces just a little too much of the stuff. When sebum (along with dirt, dead skin cells, sweat and bacteria) gets stuck in your pores [2] and accumulates, it can lead to acne. 

Back acne in particular is caused by a bunch of different things, including:

  • Sweating: When sweat gets trapped in the pores on your back, it can easily clog them. This is often the case among people who play sports or work out a lot.
  • Friction: If clothing or other items like backpacks rub against the skin — particularly sweaty skin — it can make acne worse.
  • Genetics: Family history plays a big part in whether or not back acne develops.
  • Hormones: Hormonal changes often lead to acne on various parts of the body, particularly in times of significant change such as puberty, being on your period and pregnancy.
  • Stress: Stress does a lot of things to the body, including causing acne. This is because it raises your cortisol levels, leading to increased sebum production.

How to get rid of back pimples

OK, now that we’ve covered the what, why and how of back acne, it’s time to cut to the good stuff: how to get rid of the acne.

Eliminating acne from your back may not be as straightforward as targeting your face — simply because it can be really darn hard to see what you’re doing back there — but it’s definitely not impossible.

There are several different ways to address back acne, ranging from at-home solutions to medical treatments. And, the best part is, you won’t be required to bend your body into all sorts of funky shapes trying to reach a pesky pimple in the centre of your back.

Use an exfoliating cleanser

Unfortunately, your usual shower gel might not cut it in the fight against back acne. Instead, a cleanser with acne-busting ingredients like salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide is a better choice, particularly if you’re only experiencing mild back acne.

Both ingredients are very effective when trying to treat acne. Salicylic acid is beneficial because it exfoliates the skin, meaning it can help dissolve the dead skin cells that lead to clogged pores [3]. The result is improved skin texture and pores that appear smaller.

Benzoyl peroxide is another skincare superhero that’s antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and able to dissolve keratin, AKA the protein that plugs your pores and prevents them from draining.

Luckily, these kinds of ingredients are very easily purchased over the counter. You can usually find them in all kinds of OTC acne treatments, including body washes and cleansers. Our Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash is a great one that contains a bunch of powerful ingredients to combat acne and work to unclog pores. Plus, it can be used on all parts of the body.

Go for a medical body acne treatment

If you’ve got moderate or deeper, more severe forms of acne on your back, a medical body acne treatment may be the way to go. It can be topical or oral, but regardless of the type of treatment you choose, each is very effective at beating back acne.

You can chat to your doctor about your options if you’d like to take the medical route, particularly if you’ve got severe acne that needs a more aggressive plan of attack. They may refer you to a dermatologist for an assessment.

Alternatively, for mild to moderate back acne, Software’s custom acne treatment is a stellar option. Our solutions are developed by health practitioners and draw on several different medical-grade ingredients designed to fight acne, plus each treatment is tailored to meet your skin’s unique needs.

Can you prevent back acne from coming back?

Once you’ve nipped back acne in the bud, can you prevent its return? Yes! Here are a few easy lifestyle tweaks to minimise the chance of back pimples making a comeback [4].

Shower post-workout

Because back acne is often the result of trapped sweat — especially following a sporting match or heavy workout — showering straight afterwards can help wash that sweat away.

The sooner you shower the better because it gives acne-causing bacteria and sweat less time to accumulate in your pores. Bonus points if you use an acne-fighting wash (like ours!) while you’re at it.

Keep your hair off your back

If you’re used to wearing your hair out, even during workouts, you might want to consider pulling it back — particularly if you plan to get your sweat on. Dirt and oil from your hair can seep into your pores, so tying it in a ponytail or bun helps keep your back clear.

It’s also a good idea to steer your hair away from your back when you’re in the shower. Shampoo and conditioner can clog your pores and irritate acne-prone skin so try to avoid letting either sit directly on your skin for too long.

Give your back a good wash after you shampoo your hair, and consider putting up your hair while waiting for your conditioner to sink in.

Wear loose-fitting clothing

Tight clothing can cause friction against your skin, leading to irritation and further breakouts. On the other hand, loose-fitting clothes let your skin breathe.

Wearing loose clothes is especially crucial while you’re working out or doing any other kind of sweaty activity. Try to go for natural fibres if you can, as they help wick away moisture and won’t make you sweat excessively.

Change your sheets regularly 

It’s a total myth that acne is caused by unclean skin or poor hygiene [5]. That being said, regularly washing your sheets (and your clothes, workout gear and underwear while you’re at it) can make a big difference to your breakouts.

Sleeping in the same sheets for weeks on end or using the same workout gear or bra over and over creates a nice environment for bacteria to develop. Instead, switch out your sheets every week or so and throw your workout clothes in your laundry basket as soon as you’re done with them to avoid wearing them on repeat.

Avoid popping or picking breakouts

Not only can popping or picking at pimples lead to scarring, but it can also make existing acne worse. This is because your fingers carry bacteria that can cause pimples, plus the pressure from your fingers can push bacteria and oil deeper into your skin.

You need to be especially careful if you have more severe forms of back acne, like nodules or cysts — ideally, these should never be popped or picked at home.

To help you pop your pimples safely (because we know it's very tempting), make sure to check out our comprehensive pimple-popping guide.

Use non-comedogenic products

Certain products like sunscreen and body oils or moisturisers can clog pores, potentially leading to back breakouts.

Instead, opt for non-comedogenic products, which are designed to avoid pore build-up. A lot of the time you’ll see these products labelled as such, making it super easy to avoid ingredients that can lead to clogged pores.

Photo credit: Getty Images

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