The Causes and Treatments of Back and Body Acne

Blackheads and pimples don't only appear on the face. There are plenty of other places those breakouts can pop up, including your back.

The chest, neck, shoulders, upper arms, and even the butt are common places to get pimples. And back acne is so common it even has its own name: bacne.

If you're dealing with back and body acne, know that it's completely normal, and you've got plenty of company. Body acne can happen to anyone, both teens and adults.

This article explains the causes of back acne and how to treat it.

How pimples develop and Ways to avoid back acne
Verywell / Joshua Seong

Causes

The same factors that trigger facial acne can lead to body acne. Namely, overactive oil glands, excess dead skin cells, and acne-causing bacteria can lead to breakouts anywhere on the body.

Here's how pimples develop: 

  1. Oil and dead skin cells become trapped within the follicle (pore) and create a blockage.
  2. The blockage becomes a blackhead.
  3. If bacteria invade, the blackhead progresses to an inflamed pimple.

Body acne generally appears on the back and upper half of the body as opposed to your legs.

Like the face, the upper half of the body has many sebaceous glands. These glands produce sebum (oil) to help maintain moisture, regulate temperature, and prevent bacteria and other pathogens from causing infections.

However, since so many of these glands are on the upper body, the follicles are more likely to become plugged with excess oil and dead skin cells.

Acne Mechanica

Tight clothing, sports equipment, and other gear may trigger your body breakouts. When rubbing or pressure on the skin, combined with heat or sweat, irritates and inflames follicles, it causes a specific type of acne called acne mechanica.

If at all possible, try to avoid sources of friction while you're trying to heal body acne, including:

  • Tight-fitting clothing
  • Too-snug collars
  • Backpacks
  • Purse straps
  • Athletic pads or gear

Sweat can also irritate body acne. To minimize irritation, shower as soon as possible after exercising.

Don't aggressively scrub the skin, though. Remember, you want to avoid friction. A thorough but gentle cleansing—preferably with a salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide wash—is better than a vigorous scrubbing.

Treatment

Good daily skin care is the backbone for your acne treatment routine. However, finding a treatment that works can seem frustrating, especially if you've already tried several things with little improvement.

OTC Treatments

Over-the-counter (OTC) treatments are often the first place people begin when looking for acne solutions. OTC options include:

  • Benzoyl peroxide
  • Sulfur and resorcinol (such as Clearasil)
  • Salicylic acid

While OTC treatments are great for mild breakouts, you may need a prescription treatment to get good results if your breakouts are more severe.

Prescription Treatments

While a trip to your healthcare provider or dermatologist may seem like a hassle, in the long run, you'll save yourself time and money. That's because you won't be buying products that don't work, and you'll be happier with the results you get.

Prescription acne treatment options include:

Coping

If body acne doesn't bother you all that much, you probably don't need to worry about it. But if it does bother you, know you're not alone. Many people say they feel embarrassed or ashamed of their body acne.

Often, people take great pains to cover affected areas. Unfortunately, the embarrassment can sometimes affect which clothing you choose or whether you participate in sports and other activities. It's hard to enjoy yourself if you're feeling self-conscious about your skin.

But all of these feelings are entirely normal. You're not vain. Try to acknowledge these feelings; don't feel like you have to justify them or talk yourself out of them. Then, talk to your doctor about the best treatment for body acne to get your breakouts under control.

Summary

Back acne is common. Since it is often caused by friction or sweating, showering after a workout is important for managing back acne. Be sure to avoid harsh scrubbing. Instead, gently wash the area with a product that is specially formulated for acne. In addition, you may find OTC or prescription treatments helpful.

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7 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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