Back and Body Acne Causes and Treatments

Back acne ("bacne") is a common form of body acne. See how to get rid of it.

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Back acne and body acne are common problems. About 10% of people have acne at some point. While it most often starts during puberty, acne has gotten more common in adults.

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 informal name: bacne.

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

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


The same factors that trigger facial acne can lead to body or back 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.

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

Because so many of these glands are on the upper body (as opposed to the limbs), the follicles are more likely to become plugged with excess oil and dead skin cells.

Acne Cosmetica

If you have acne on the back of your neck and along your hairline, it may be acne cosmetica. It's a mild but long-lasting form that's triggered by using certain makeup and hair products.

These products are called comedogenic (from the technical word for pimples, which is comedone.) Those that may be applied to and affect areas other than the face include:

  • Hair oils
  • Pomades
  • Heavy moisturizers

Potentially problematic ingredients are:

  • Algae extracts
  • Coconut oil
  • Linseed oil
  • Isopropyl myristate
  • Lanolin
  • Butyl stearate
  • Stearyl alcohol
  • Oleic acid

If you have acne cosmetica or acne in general, look for products that are labeled "non-comedogenic" or check the ingredients list before buying.

Acne Mechanica

Tight clothing, sports equipment, and other gear may trigger your body and back acne breakouts. Rubbing or putting pressure on the skin, combined with heat or sweat, irritates and inflames follicles.

This causes a specific type of acne called acne mechanica. Try to avoid sources of friction while you're trying to heal body acne. They include:

  • 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.

Acne Scars

If you have acne scars that negatively affect your life or self-esteem, see a dermatologist to discuss treatments. They can include fillers (collagen for fat used to plump up the skin), resurfacing like chemical peels or microdermabrasion, or minor surgery for highly visible scars.


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 body or back acne 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.

Prescription acne treatment options include:


To prevent body or back acne breakouts, experts recommend:

  • Wearing loose clothing
  • Eating less sugar and dairy products
  • Lowering your stress level
  • Using non-comedogenic body care products
  • Treating pimples with antibacterial body wash, topical retinoid, or chemical exfoliants

If those measures don't work, see a dermatologist.


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 about their body and back 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. 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.

When to See a Dermatologist

You should get help from a dermatologist for your body or back acne when:

  • You suddenly have body or back acne but never had it before
  • It's getting worse despite using OTC remedies
  • Pimples are severe or highly inflamed
  • You have nodular or cystic acne
  • You suspect it's medication-caused acne
  • It really bothers you mentally or emotionally


Back acne and body acne are common. Since it is often caused by friction or sweating, showering after a workout is important for managing back acne. Be sure your clothing choices don't cause or aggravate it, as well.

Keep the area clean, but 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.

12 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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Additional Reading

By Angela Palmer
Angela Palmer is a licensed esthetician specializing in acne treatment.