Whether you've been dealing with back acne for a while, or have had a random breakout of body acne, back acne scars may be a concern for you. And, it's completely understandable if you feel insecure about it.
For many people, acne scarring can impact their self-confidence just as much as the pimples did when they were inflamed. With this in mind, we'll walk you through what to do to minimise the likelihood of back acne scars, as well as how to make them less visible.
Hot tip: it's best to deal with back acne earlier rather than later, but don't stress if you feel like you've left it a bit late. There are several treatment options for those who have scars after a bout of acne.
What is back acne?
Back acne, also commonly known as bacne, is the same as the acne that you might get on your face or chest. We get these breakouts because of excess sebum production (sebum is an oil that is naturally produced by your body) .
Although you can experience acne at any age (even babies are known to have acne), breakouts usually start during puberty because your body begins to increase the production of certain hormones during this time .
These hormones cause increased oil production in your skin and when the oil isn't cleared away efficiently, it can clump together with dead skin cells and clog pores.
These clogged pores are known as blackheads or whiteheads. The swollen, red pimples that you probably associate with acne are caused by whiteheads or blackheads becoming infected with the bacteria that normally lives on your skin.
Acne commonly appears on our back, face and chest because these are the areas where you have the most sebaceous glands and hair follicles and in turn, is where the skin can be the oiliest.
What causes acne on the back?
Back acne might feel a bit confusing if you're not someone who typically gets breakouts in that area. Aside from a general increase in oil production, there are a few specific reasons why you might be experiencing back acne .
Constant rubbing against the skin can cause body acne, for example, frequently wearing a backpack that rubs against your back. Tight clothing that causes a lot of friction could also cause pimples, especially sweaty clothes after a workout.
Oil-based skincare products are another factor that could be contributing to your back acne. For example, an oily sunscreen or body lotion may clog your pores and cause breakouts.
There are also other factors that increase the likelihood of acne overall, such as emotional stress, certain medications, sweating in hot weather, and exposure to grease or pollution.
Why can back acne cause scarring?
In a nutshell, acne on any part of the body can cause scarring as a result of chronic inflammation and compromised collagen production .
Inflamed acne can reduce collagen production, leading to atrophic scars that appear sunken. There are a few different types of atrophic acne scars, which include ice-pick scars, rolling scars and boxcar scars.
Conversely, inflammation can also have the opposite effect and create too much collagen, leading to hypertrophic scars or keloid scars that look like raised bumps .
Back acne, as well as facial acne or breakouts on other parts of the body, can also result in post-inflammatory pigmentation that looks like scarring.
When the skin is inflamed, it releases more melanin than usual (melanin is the pigment that gives our skin colour). This melanin can become trapped by white blood cells, leaving behind a dark mark.
Post-inflammatory pigmentation in fair skin may appear red or pink, while people with darker skin tones will have a dark brown mark .
Do acne scars on your back go away?
It can be incredibly frustrating to be left with scarring after your back acne heal. While acne scars don't go away on their own, their appearance generally improves over time and there is a range of over-the-counter products and in-office therapies that can help speed up this process.
No treatment can ever guarantee that you will be completely free of acne scars, but depending on the severity of your acne and the type of therapy you choose, your back acne scars may improve to the point where they're barely noticeable .
It is important to note that if you currently have back acne, treating it early can reduce the chance of acne scars .
One study found that there is a common misconception among patients that because acne is a natural part of puberty, it would go away on its own and does not need to be treated.
But, delaying medical attention in this way, and only seeking support when the acne has become severe and prolonged, leads to a higher risk of scarring .
How to get rid of back acne scars
If you have acne-prone skin or current back acne, your first line of defence against scars is to prevent breakouts and stop your bacne from getting worse . Perhaps you identified with some of the risk factors mentioned earlier? If so, do your best to make some changes.
For example, swap your backpack for a tote bag, use an oil-free sunscreen or shower immediately after a gym session and change out of your workout clothes. A body wash containing salicylic acid can also help to gently exfoliate your skin and remove dead skin cells, unblocking your pores.
Software's Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash works to slough away dead skin cells and inject hydration. It helps unclog debris and oils in the pores, while also washing away acne-causing bacteria to reduce the formation of whiteheads and blackheads.
Best of all, this wash can be used across the body including your face, chest, back, arms, neck and butt. And, even if you don't have active acne lesions, this type of wash can help prevent acne from popping back up .
Incorporating a personalised treatment into your daily routine can also help prevent acne from occurring, while also treating existing acne scars.
Software's prescription acne treatment is custom formulated to your skin needs and compounded just for you.
While the ingredients will differ based on your individual circumstances, you can expect your formula to include medical-grade ingredients like prescription retinoids, which increase the rate that old skin cells are shed and encourage the growth of new cells and niacinamide, which helps combat acne by reducing sebum production and can help fade pigmentation .
And, if needed, a Software doctor can prescribe oral antibiotics, which work to control acne-causing bacteria from within. As you progress through your treatment and see improvements in your skin, your doctor will follow up and advise you if any changes need to be made to your prescription.
If your breakouts have cleared and you want to tackle your acne scars with a multipronged approach of topical prescription treatment and other procedures, you can also consider looking into chemical peels, laser treatments, fillers and skin needling.
It's best to consult a dermatologist for these procedures as they will be able to advise what the best treatment is for you, depending on your skin type and the type of acne scars you have .
With all these skincare products and procedures, it's important to apply sunscreen to the affected area every day to reduce the risk of pigmentation returning and to maintain the overall results of your skin improvement.
How long does it take for back acne scars to fade?
As much as we wish there was a miracle remedy, there's no quick or permanent fix when it comes to fading bacne scars. But, there are a lot of approaches you can take to improve the appearance of your skin over time. If you want to reduce the appearance of your scars, you have to commit to it for the long haul.
It can take a couple of months to see the improvements from using active skincare ingredients like retinoids and azelaic acid. Retinoids can take 12 weeks or more before you start to see results, while azelaic acid generally shows improvements after one month and maximum results after about six months of use .
Dermatologist treatments also work to fade bacne scars over the long term. Both laser therapy and skin needling can take about six weeks before results are seen and even then, your skin texture should continually improve over the next 12 months or more .
When it comes to chemical peels, these usually require multiple treatments over several months to see significant improvement in skin texture. Stronger peels may have better first-time results but have longer healing times .
Dermal fillers have the advantage of being able to immediately plump some atrophic scars, but not all types of scars can be treated by filler. And, if a temporary or semi-permanent type of filler is used, you may need repeated treatments to maintain the appearance of your skin.
Depending on the type of acne scars you have, fillers alone may not be enough to achieve your ideal results and they are generally considered to be one tool in a comprehensive approach to treating scars .
If you're unsure about what kind of scars you have or what would be the best way for you to treat bacne, a consultation with a dermatologist or one of Software's skin experts can provide you with guidance on how to achieve your skin goals.
- MCLAUGHLIN, Mercedes, et al. Acne, The Gale Encyclopedia of Children's Health: Infancy through Adolescence, 2021.
- PARADOX, Patience, and CULVERT, L. Lee. Acne, The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, 2020.
- AGRAWAY, Dipty, and KHUNGER, Niti. A morphological study of acne scarring and its relationship between severity and treatment of active acne, Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery, 2020.
- POOJA, T., et al. A randomized study to evaluate the efficacy fractional CO[sub]2laser, microneedling and platelet rich plasma in post-acne scarring, Indian Dermatology Online Journal, 2020.
- TAM, Curtis, et al. A Comprehensive Review of Non-Energy-Based Treatments for Atrophic Acne Scarring, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2022.
- JUETTNER, Bonnie. What Happens During an Acne Breakout?, Acne, 2010.
- WOLLINA, Uwe, and GOLDMAN, Alberto. Fillers for the improvement in acne scars, Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, 2015.
- DermNet, Acne Scarring, accessed 15 August, 2022.
- FABBROCINI, Gabriella, et al. Acne scars: pathogenesis, classification and treatment, Dermatology Research and Practice, 2010.
- DermNet, Topical Retinoids, accessed 15 August 2022.
- DermNet, Azelaic Acid, accessed 15 August 2022.
- YOUNG, Constance. Matching Laser Protocol to Acne Lesion Dictates Success, Dermatology Times, 1998.
- American Academy of Dermatology Association, Chemical Peels: FAQs, accessed 15 August 2022.
- DermNet, Acne Treatment, accessed 15 August 2022.