What Causes Back Acne?

J. Beam

Back acne refers simply to acne on the back and is caused in the same way as facial acne, or acne located anywhere else on the body. In most cases, acne appears first on the face and later on other parts of the body, including the shoulders and back. Though acne on the back can affect any acne sufferer, male or female, it is more common in males.

Using an exfoliant can help clean out pores.
Using an exfoliant can help clean out pores.

Like other forms of acne, back acne is caused by an infection of the skin’s pores resulting from overactive sebaceous glands just below the skin’s surface. As excessive amounts of oil are produced, the pores become clogged with dead skin cells, oil, sweat, and eventually bacteria, which is present on everyone’s skin. The clogged pores may take the form of blackheads, pimples, pustules, or even cysts and are eventually marked by redness and inflammation caused by infection.

Washing thoroughly with soap may help to alleviate back acne.
Washing thoroughly with soap may help to alleviate back acne.

Acne on the back can be harder to treat than facial acne. This is due largely to the fact that keeping the back clean is harder than other parts of the body that are easily reached. However, most acne sufferers do not have acne as a result of poor hygiene, but rather physiological happenings within the body. Back acne can become irritated by the friction caused by clothing, the accumulation of sweat from physical activity, and also the difficulty in thoroughly cleaning the back to remove sweat and surface oils. Unlike facial acne, which may be successfully treated with creams, the back is a larger surface to cover and can be difficult to reach.

In many cases, back acne is treated along with other forms of acne. When over-the-counter and home remedies fail to treat acne, dermatologists often take a staged approach, starting with a gentle cleansing routine coupled with prescription strength creams and broad spectrum antibiotics. If these conventional attempts fail, isotretinoin, a synthetic retinoid, is typically prescribed. Patients with severe and unresponsive acne, whether back or facial acne, typically respond to isotretinoin.

Many people with moderate to severe acne will have difficulty controlling facial or back acne regardless of skin care regimens. However, mild and occasional acne can be avoided by gently cleansing, not scrubbing, the entire back with a mild cleanser and using a moisturizing lotion containing benzoyle peroxide and salicylic acid. Other measures, such as showering immediately after physical activity, avoiding tight-fitting shirts and other clothing, as well as avoiding loofah scrubs, can help control mild back acne.

If you suffer from chronic or severe acne, consult a dermatologist for treatment, as there are several medical options that can successfully treat acne.

Back acne has many of the same causes as acne on the face or any other part of the body.
Back acne has many of the same causes as acne on the face or any other part of the body.

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Discussion Comments


I realize that they say there is no "connection" between fatty/greasy foods and back acne, but I notice that when I let my diet slip and eat a lot of fried food I get severe breakouts on my back. It certainly doesn't make it any better!


also oatmeal soap is good for acne as well. you can buy it at trader joes.


surflover00- Many people think that eating chocolate or greasy food can trigger acne. However, this is largely based on speculation. No medical studies have found any correlation between diet and acne.


lawnmower- Thank you for the advice. I will purchase the body wash the next time I am at the drug store and see if it works for me.

Does anyone know if a poor diet can trigger back acne?


I have found that Neutrogena body clear body wash is a very effective back acne treatment. You use the body wash every day in the shower, paying particular attention to the back area. Do not scrub the back. It will only aggravate the acne.

The body wash is very effective at treating back acne in a number of weeks. The body wash retails for about $6 and can be purchased at most drug stores.

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