Natural Remedies for Back Acne

Stay bacne-free with a few simple changes to your daily routine

Back acne is never enjoyable, but a summer wardrobe of tank tops and swimsuits can make you especially self-conscious. While medicated creams and cleansers are usually the top treatment choices, a number of natural remedies and simple tricks may also help banish back acne.

Like all forms of acne, back acne—also referred to as "bacne"—occurs when the hair follicles beneath the skin become clogged. The overproduction of oil (sebum), the buildup of bacterial, and inflammation of oil-producing sebaceous glands can all play a part in pimple development.

Moreover, since pores on the back are significantly larger than facial pores, they can become clogged more easily and quickly set the stage for an acute breakout.

If struggling with back blemishes, trust that you are far from being alone. Research shows that about half of the people with acne suffer from a condition called truncal acne in which pimples can form on the back, chest, shoulders, and torso.


Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil

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A study from India suggests that tea tree oil (an essential oil long used in aromatherapy) may help kill the skin-dwelling bacteria involved in acne. According to the study, people with acne who applied a 5% tea tree oil gel to their pimples had a 3.55-fold reduction in the number of pimples as well as a 5.75-fold decrease in pimple severity.

Some commercial body washes use tea tree oil as a key ingredient, which could help alleviate back acne.

Tea tree oil can cause skin irritation and allergic contact dermatitis in some people. To avoid problems, test the oil on a small patch of skin and wait 24 hours to see if any reaction develops.


Natural Exfoliators

Basket of exfoliators

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Exfoliation—the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin using a chemical, granular substance, or exfoliation tool—can keep pores from getting clogged. With the help of a dry brush, you can slough off dead skin cells that can mix with sebum and cause pore blockage.

While you can buy a commercial body scrub, you can create your own natural version by mixing brown sugar and raw honey in equal parts.

It's important to note that exfoliation is a preventative strategy. It is best not to scrub the skin during an active breakout as this can cause inflammation and scarring.


Botanical Emollients

Argan oil, neem oil, shea butter, tamanu oil and sea buckthorn oil are less likely to clog pores and may therefore help prevent back acne.
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Since body creams and massage oils containing mineral oil, synthetic lanolin, and cocoa butter can aggravate acne, try hydrating with plant-derived products that are oil-free or are less likely to clog pores. These include:

Studies involving the combination of tretinoin (retinoic acid) and 50% aloe vera gel improved symptoms in people with mild to moderate acne. On its own, aloe was soothing but was not seen to offer any significant relief of an outbreak.


Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Eating anti-inflammatory foods can help prevent future breakouts.
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Because inflammation and acne are closely linked, focusing your diet on anti-inflammatory foods such as berries, certain kinds of nuts, whole grains, and beans may help reduce future outbreaks of back acne.

As farfetched as this may sound, studies have shown that eating foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like fatty fish and chia seeds) and decreasing omega-6 fatty acids (found in canola and soybean oils) can help reduce inflammation, androgen levels, and acne symptoms.


Low-Glycemic Foods

Following a diet with a low glycemic load can help prevent back acne.
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Filling up on foods with a high glycemic load, such as candy, sugary drinks, white rice, french fries, and low-fiber cereals, can increase your risk of acne.

Studies show that foods with a high glycemic index can contribute to acne by elevating insulin levels, which in turn increases sebum production and male hormone (androgen) levels—both of which promote acne development.

To help improve your skin and boost your overall health, follow a diet with a low glycemic load by opting for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and beans.


Zinc-Rich Foods

Food rich in zinc, such as spinach, can help curb the skin's oil production, hence preventing acne.
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Some research indicates that the essential mineral zinc may help tame acne-related inflammation and curb your skin’s production of sebum. Zinc is known to reduce the production of the pro-inflammator cytokine called tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α).

You can boost your zinc intake with such foods such as wheat germ, oysters, pumpkin seeds, and spinach.


Reduced Dairy Intake

Easing up on dairy could help fend off back acne. Try using plant-based milk instead.
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Easing up on dairy—lowfat varieties in particular—could help fend off back acne. Research suggests that androgens and growth hormones found in milk products can stimulate acne development.

According to a 2018 study in the journal Nutrients, the daily consumption of one glass of milk is linked to a 1.25-fold increase in the risk of an acne outbreak, increasing to a 1.43-fold if more than two glasses are consumed.


White Willow Bark

White willow bark contains salicylic acid, which can be used to treat acne
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Salicylic acid is a common ingredient in over-the-counter acne cleansers and treatments. For milder acne, applying it on the skin helps to unclog pores by correcting the abnormal shedding of skin cells.

Although products are usually made with synthetic salicylic acid, the chemical is also found naturally in white willow bark. While there is no evidence that white willow bark is as effective as commercial salicylic acid products, a 2010 study reported improvements in skin quality in 30 women treated for 12 weeks with a white willow bark-based serum.

White willow bark may be an option for people who want to avoid certain ingredients in conventional over-the-counter acne remedies.


Stress Management

Meditating woman

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There is some evidence that stress can make acne worse. In a small study published in the Archives of Dermatology, researchers reported that college students experienced more severe acne during exam periods.

Although stress was believed to be a factor, other issues such as reduced sleep, poor sleep quality, improper diet, and variable eating schedules contributed to the effect.

For help in keeping back acne at bay, try taking up stress-reducing practices like yoga and meditation.

A Word From Verywell

It is important to note that the research supporting these natural acne remedies is limited. If you decide to pursue one, speak with your healthcare provider or a dermatologist to determine if it is safe and won't end up causing more harm than good.

9 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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  6. Kucharska A, Szmurło A, Sińska B. Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgarisPostepy Dermatol Alergol. 2016;33(2):81–86. doi:10.5114/ada.2016.59146

  7. Juhl CR, Bergholdt HKM, Miller IM, Jemec GBE, Kanters JK, Ellervik C. Dairy intake and acne vulgaris: A systematic review and meta-analysis of 78,529 children, adolescents, and young adultsNutrients. 2018;10(8):1049. doi:10.3390/nu10081049

  8. Gopaul R, Knaggs HE, Lephart JF, Holley KC, Gibson EM. An evaluation of the effect of a topical product containing salicin on the visible signs of human skin aging. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2010 Sep;9(3):196-201.

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Additional Reading

By Cathy Wong
Cathy Wong is a nutritionist and wellness expert. Her work is regularly featured in media such as First For Women, Woman's World, and Natural Health.