Back Acne Causes: The Unexpected Factors You Should Know About

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Acne vulgaris, or acne, is one of the most common skin conditions among people of all skin types. It can result in whiteheads, blackheads, and pus-filled spots. It is a common phenomenon during the teenage years, thereafter resolving itself in the early 20s. It, however, tends to persist in some people into their late 20s and 30s.

While facial acne tends to receive the most attention, back acne, or “bacne,” is also a prevalent issue that can cause discomfort and embarrassment. In this article, we will delve into various causes of back acne and explore effective strategies to prevent, manage, and care for it.

What is Back Acne?

black and white woman showing her back holding her hair back acne causes

Also referred to as bacne, back acne is more common than you might think. Just like your face or chest, your back also has hair follicles and sebaceous glands that secrete sebum. Sebum is a waxy substance that helps keep your skin moisturized.

Once this waxy substance comes into contact with dead skin cells and bacteria, your pores can get clogged, leading to pimples on your back. It has the same characteristics as facial breakouts, including blackheads, pimples, whiteheads, oily skin, scarring, and red spots.

Back Acne Causes

A rise in hormones in the blood can cause excess oil production, leading to breakouts. Several causes are to blame for the formation of breakouts on your back. Many times, it is triggered by the production of high amounts of sebum and dead skin cells.

When these are produced in high amounts, the follicles are blocked, leading to clogged pores. Everyone has P. acnes bacteria living in their skin. This bacterium is linked to acne. However, these bacteria do not normally cause any problems unless a buildup of oil occurs.

Once there is a buildup, if your skin is acne-prone, the perfect environment for bacteria growth is created. This then leads to inflammation and the formation of acne lesions. The other trigger is poor lifestyle habits, including labor-intensive work and workouts.

If you sweat too much and don’t shower immediately, breakouts are likely to occur. The American Academy of Dermatologists now shows some links between diet and acne. Certain foods could raise blood sugar levels, which is a common acne trigger.

Other factors that contribute to back acne include:

  • Skin diseases: Seborrheic dermatitis and dandruff can contribute to outbreaks of acne on the back as they present themselves with skin inflammation and abnormal shedding.

  • Laser treatment: A side effect of laser treatment is that it can cause folliculitis due to the heat emitted during therapy.

  • PCOD (Polycystic Ovarian Disease): This disease could lead to truncal acne, which can manifest in different forms, such as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples, and cysts. It occurs when hair follicles and pores on the trunk become clogged with dead skin cells, excess oil (sebum), and bacteria, leading to inflammation and the development of acne lesions.

  • Shaving and waxing: These can cause folliculitis. Folliculitis occurs when there is inflammation of the hair follicles, causing red, tender bumps or pustules around the hair follicle.

  • Heat or friction: Occlusion, friction, and heat can lead to acne and skin irritation in the back area.

Back acne can be caused by a combination of factors, including hormonal changes, clogged pores due to dead skin cells and excess sebum, bacterial growth, and various musculoskeletal and skin diseases that can trigger acne outbreaks on the back.

How to Care for Back Acne

woman with winged eyeliner showing her back acne causes

The cause of acne determines the form of treatment. It is recommended that you begin with the same skincare routine you would for your face. If you work out or sweat too much, ensure that your clothes are loose, and be sure to shower immediately after your exercise. Several treatments can be effective, including:

Topical Creams

Topical medications tend to be highly effective for mild breakouts. If you have just a few pimples, over-the-counter medications can help combat them. Be sure to clean your skin thoroughly using ingredients containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide at least twice a day.

Apply it to the affected area, not just the spots. This is a sure way of getting rid of dead skin cells that could be blocking the pores. You will notice a change in about 4–8 weeks.


If you have severe acne, including nodules and cysts, your doctor may recommend oral medication. Some of them may include:

  • Contraceptives: Medications that control hormones, such as birth control pills, can reduce the production of oil on the skin. For girls in their teenage years, these may not be recommended due to a possible interruption of ovulation.

  • Antibiotics: These kill bacteria and reduce inflammation. You may need to take them for about 2–6 months to experience changes.

  • Isotretinoin: This is a strong medication that can present certain side effects. For instance, because it has the potential to harm unborn babies, it is not recommended for pregnant women. Blood tests may be required before your doctor prescribes it, and they may need to monitor you after prescribing it.

  • Procedural Intervention: Several procedures, such as laser treatment, can reduce the level of P. acnes. Sometimes, chemical peels are given to treat papules and blackheads. For large cysts, drainage and extraction may be used when they fail to respond to medication.

Bacne Home Remedies

Use the following home remedies as an acne treatment to clear bacne:

  • Baking soda: This is a great exfoliant and can neutralize the pH balance of the skin.

  • Apple cider vinegar: Neutralizes the pH of the skin and contains antibacterial properties.

  • Honey: Contains medicinal properties. Mix it with oats to cleanse the pores and soothe your back.

  • Aloe Vera: Contains multifarious benefits, including anti-fungal and astringent benefits.

  • Lemon juice: Contains citric acid, which is excellent at cleansing the pores.

Bacne Prevention

The factors that predispose you to acne on your back, including genetics and hormonal fluctuations, are beyond your control, which means you cannot always control it.

However, there are certain habits you can practice to reduce your chances of developing it in the future. They could include:

  • Avoiding certain medications: Lithium and androgens, for example, can heighten your chances of developing acne.

  • Keeping off pressure on your back: If you carry objects that put too much pressure on your back, such as sports equipment, avoid them. Prolonged pressure on the back can lead to acne mechanica [1].

  • Limiting the use of oil-based skin care products: Sunscreens, moisturizers, and oily products can lead to flare-ups on your back.

If you are always in tight clothes or wear them occasionally but over prolonged periods, you may be at risk of flare-ups. Such clothes tend to trap sweat and block pores, which could then lead to breakouts.

As soon as you notice the appearance of pimples, begin to use anti-acne creams such as benzoyl peroxide and retinol. Before the treatment, moisturize your skin.

While it is completely normal to experience acne on your back and other parts of the body, it can lead to more discomfort and embarrassment, especially due to a lack of information.

If you try home remedies and over-the-counter medications unsuccessfully, it might be time to check with a dermatologist.

woman showing her back with mirror and towel

Frequently Asked Questions

Are there any specific foods I should avoid to prevent back acne?

Yes, certain foods with a high glycemic index, dairy products, and sugary snacks have been associated with worsening acne symptoms. Reducing their consumption might help prevent back acne.

Can stress cause back acne?

Yes, stress can contribute to hormonal imbalances that may trigger acne breakouts, including back acne. Managing stress through relaxation techniques and healthy coping mechanisms may help reduce its impact on skin health.

Is back acne hereditary?

Genetics can play a role in acne susceptibility. If you have a family history of acne, you may have a higher risk of developing back acne. However, lifestyle and skincare practices can still influence the severity and frequency of breakouts.

Are there any over-the-counter products effective against back acne?

Yes, over-the-counter products containing ingredients like benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid can be effective in treating mild to moderate back acne. However, it’s essential to follow product instructions and avoid excessive use to prevent skin irritation.

When should I seek professional help for back acne?

If over-the-counter treatments do not improve your back acne or if you experience severe, painful cystic acne, it is best to consult a dermatologist. They can recommend personalized treatment options and address any underlying issues contributing to acne.

woman with backless dress


Being aware of the factors contributing to back acne empowers individuals to take proactive steps in combating this skin condition. Improved hygiene practices, including regular showering and changing clothes after sweating, can help prevent pore-clogging and bacterial buildup.

A balanced and nutritious diet can positively impact skin health, reducing inflammation and promoting clearer skin. Choosing breathable and loose-fitting clothing can minimize friction and irritation, further supporting efforts to combat back acne. Finally, managing stress levels and opting for gentle skincare products suitable for one’s skin type can also contribute to better outcomes in the fight against back acne.

With a combination of knowledge, lifestyle adjustments, and suitable treatments, individuals can make significant strides toward achieving a clearer and healthier back.