We’ve got your back: Causes & treatment of back acne

Woman Standing With Back Acne

Back acne is such a common, and frustrating, occurrence that it’s even been given the pet name of “bacne”. Cute name? Not so much. Treatable? Very much.

While back acne, or bacne, often shares the same root cause as facial acne, clogged pores combined with excess oil and bacteria, there are differences between the two in terms of both prevention and contributing factors.


What causes back acne?

Much like facial acne, there are a few factors at play when it comes to pimples on your back. Hormones are a shared culprit, as is our gene pool, certain medications, skincare products and environment. But other factors could also be contributing.

Put your hand up if you’ve ever sweated it out during a workout or sports game and lounged around for a solid spell afterwards? Well, we hate to break it to you, but by letting the sweat stay on your skin after a workout, you’re creating a ripe habitat for back acne to flourish. The sweat itself isn’t to blame, it’s the potentially pore-clogging mix of the sweat with dirt, excess oil, dead skin cells and the addition of bacteria that can cause bacne.

Additionally, when you combine a workout regimen with tight, non-breathable fitted clothes, this can irritate the skin and impede its ability to breathe, and, when you do combine this with sweaty workouts, you’ve got a pretty good recipe for clogged pores.

This is in line with acne mechanica. Acne mechanica is caused by repeated friction[1] and sweat. You’ll find it occurs in areas that are not exposed to enough air, too, like around backpack straps and tight clothing, for example. This type of acne is common amongst folk who live an active lifestyle and whose work involves sweating it out.      

It can be helpful to suss out any common denominators that line-up with the appearance of your acne. For example, is it more common when you wear particular clothing/fabrics? Do you find it flares up during summer? Or when you use certain products? This can help you narrow in on potential causes.


Is it different from facial acne?

Appearance-wise, back acne can look just like facial acne – blackheads, whiteheads, red spots, papules and pustules.

The fact is, our skin is covered in pores, so it makes sense that our backs, and other parts of the body that attract friction and can be particularly oily, get acne. A difference between facial acne and back acne, besides location, is that the skin on our backs is thicker than that on our faces, so the potential for blocked pores due to a build-up of dead skins cells is higher.


How to treat back acne

Using a benzoyl peroxide (BPO) body wash like Benzac’s Moderate Strength 5% Acne Wash , which kills up to 94% of the bacteria that cause acne and clears blocked pores, can help mild-to-moderate cases of back acne. Do note that when using products containing benzoyl peroxide, you need to adhere to the instructions for the best results. Also, BPO can bleach fabrics, so make sure that you rinse the body wash off thoroughly to avoid the tie-dyed look (and if you’re using a treatment gel containing BPO, make sure that it dries and won’t transfer before putting on any clothing. Or wear white…).

Also, it’s important that you not only shower after you play sports or sweat it out in any kind of workout (or at the beach), but that you also wash your clothing every time. Try to don loose, breathable clothing when sweating it out so your skin can breathe better.

Your bed sheets can also play a role, so make sure you’re washing your sheets regularly to prevent bacteria from creating a playground in your sanctuary.

And, we must replay this mantra because it is super important: try not to pick, pop or scratch your spots. It can not only lead to scarring, but also infection.

If you find that none of the above is helping your back acne, it could be worthwhile to book an appointment with your doctor or dermatologist.

The thing is, back acne is treatable. There are a number of variables involved, but by adding in some bacteria-busting essentials and perhaps changing a few post-workout habits or friction-causing accessories, you could have it well under control.


[1] Draelos Z.D. (2014) Acne Mechanica. In: Zeichner J. (eds) Acneiform Eruptions in Dermatology. Springer, New York, NY. DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4614-8344-1_18. 2.  Galderma Data on File. R Jackson, Report no. 88 - 0740-74 June 1989. Funded by Owen/Allercreme.