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How to Get Rid of Back Acne: 5 Treatments That Work

Ugh. As if puberty wasn’t bad enough, with its hormones, insecurities, and acne; now you might feel like it’s rearing it’s ugly head yet again with a whole new set of breakouts on your back! It can be painful, awkward, and maybe even itchy. Sure, you might be able to cover it up during the winter months, but come summer — or a winter escape to a tropical locale — and you’re right back to 12 or 13 years old and freaking out about taking your shirt off again when you should be relaxing and enjoying the temperate weather. Don’t worry, as always, we’ve got your back — almost literally in this case. We checked in with Dr. Anne Beal, M.D., M.P.H., to ask about what causes back acne and how to prevent and treat it. 

“‘Bacne’ is very similar to the acne on your face,” says Beal. “It occurs on a part of your body that is subject to excess oil production and blocked pores. In general, people with bacne may also experience acnes on their chest. The major difference is the skin on your back is slightly thick, and applying treatments can be a challenge to reach all parts.”

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“Prevention should focus on keeping the skin on your back clean and hydrated. When skin is dehydrated it produces more oil to protect itself, which can lead to more clogged pores and acne,” Beal goes on to explain. “Wear loose-fitting clothing. Wash your workout clothes. Change your sheets and pillow cases at least once each week.”

According to the American Association of Dermatology (AAD), be sure to wash your workout clothes after every session, too. Take a shower and change clothes as soon as possible after a workout. If you can’t, grab some oil-free cleansing wipes to clean up sweaty skin. 

Differin Adapalene Gel

This prescription strength gel helps clear and prevent acne by regulating skin-cell turnover and reducing inflammation. Be patient: It can take up to 12 weeks to work, so get started with it now. 

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash Benzoyl Peroxide

This maximum strength antimicrobial wash contains 10% benzoyl peroxide, the highest over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide wash available. Its foaming formula kills acne-causing bacteria while lifting dirt from pores, cleaning and unclogging pores on face, chest, or back. 

Phisoderm Anti-Blemish Body Wash

This body wash features 2% salicylic acid as well as Vitamin E, aloe, and chamomile to treat and sooth your skin all over. It works to remove pore-clogging dirt and sweat, and is pH balanced to work with your skin’s natural chemistry. 

Clinique Post Workout Face And Body Cleansing Wipes

Throw these wipes into your backpack to keep them handy for a quick wipe down after a pick-up game or anytime you feel like you’ve gotten sweaty and dirty. With Witch Hazel, gentian, and even yeast extract, these will help keep your back clean and oil-free to reduce breakouts.  

Lotion Applicators

If you don’t have a significant other to help out with this project (or if they just can’t handle the pressure), grab one of these lotion applicators to smooth on treatment. This elegant number comes with textured pads that won’t absorb the lotion, but also won’t allow it to just slide off before you can use it. There’s a textured rubber grip to make it easier to hang onto in the shower, too. It’s also handy for solo days at the beach for applying sunblock. 

How to Treat Back Acne

“To treat, try products with benzoyl peroxide,” says Beal. “However, be careful as this ingredient bleaches clothing and bedding. Body washes with salicylic acid are great, and you can buy over the counter retinol in the form of Differin Gel,” she says. “Treatment is not much different from treating acne on your face. Since the skin on your back is thicker, you may be tempted to scrub or pick – don’t do it! The skin on your back deserves the same gentle care as the skin on your face.”

The AAD recommends using products that contain 5.3% benzoyl peroxide because its less likely to irritate your skin or cause dryness and peeling. If you feel like you need something stronger, though, 10% formulations are available over the counter. Leave treatment on your back for a few minutes, also, so it can really work its magic. The professional organization also recommends avoiding any harsh skin products that can irritate your skin like antibacterial soaps, astringents, and even loofahs or back brushes. Keep things gentle and fragrance-free.

Retinol can also help when applied after a shower and before bed. It will help keep pores unclogged so the benzoyl peroxide can work better.

We wondered if bacne was exacerbated or affected in any way by too much sun exposure or from wearing thick, viscous sun block.

“Yes, sun exposure can exacerbate backne. When it comes to sunblock there are two things to consider: It should be oil-free and non-comedogenic (specifically formulated to not block pores), and stick with mineral-based sunscreens. Those contain zinc oxide which is very beneficial for acne, even on your face!”

Beal also cautions bacne sufferers who have long hair to keep those locks off your back as oils and products can clog your pores. “When showering, don’t let hair products—particularly conditioner — run down your back. Those products are not meant for your skin and can worsen bacne.”

Finally, you may want to avoid backpacks that can irritate your back’s skin. Grab a briefcase, duffel, or tote instead.

Of course keep in mind that if you are having any really deep, painful acne, you should consult a dermatologist to get one-on-one help with your problem. Don’t suffer alone.

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