How to Treat Back Acne and Body Acne

Acne on back

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Treating back and body acne often proves to be a bit tougher than facial acne. For one, the logistics of rubbing a treatment cream on your own back is a factor. Secondly, body blemishes are often deep and stubborn.

But with the right treatments, some time, and patience, you can get your body acne under control. 

Over-the-Counter Treatments

Mild body acne (meaning you just have small bumps and breakouts, or just a few pimples) often responds to good daily skin care and over-the-counter (OTC) treatments.

Try an acne-treatment body wash or cleanser. Choose a body wash containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. If you prefer, there are bars containing benzoyl peroxide. You can find these at any drug store. Use it every day.

Try to shower as soon as possible after working out or sweating to minimize pore blockages.

Use medicated lotions and sprays. If cleansers aren't doing the trick, add a medicated treatment lotion or spray to your treatment routine. Again, look for one that contains either salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. There are pros and cons for benzoyl peroxide vs. salicylic acid you might explore to decide which to use, but in general benzoyl peroxide works better for inflamed pimples while salicylic acid is good for bumps and blackheads. Apply these once or twice a day, depending on the product directions. Sprays are great for those hard-to-reach places on your back. Benzoyl peroxide can stain your clothes, though, so make sure you wait until it's fully dry before getting dressed.

Alpha hydroxy acids can help boost the effectiveness of OTC acne products. Look for an OTC product that also contains an alpha hydroxy acid, like glycolic acid or lactic acid. Alpha hydroxy acids help to speed cell turnover, rapidly exfoliating the skin and reducing the number of pore blockages.

You can use several OTC acne treatments at once, just monitor your skin for irritation. When treating body acne, you typically can use several acne treatment products at once without causing excessive irritation (for example, a salicylic acid wash plus a benzoyl peroxide lotion).

The skin on the back, chest, shoulders, and upper arms is tougher than facial skin, and can generally tolerate more powerful treatments.

But the skin on the neck is fairly sensitive. Use treatment products slowly and carefully in this area. If you notice excessive irritation, dryness or peeling on any area of the body, scale back or discontinue use of the treatment product, and consult your doctor.

Treating Moderate to Severe Body Acne

Body acne is stubborn, so moderate acne to severe breakouts aren't going to get any better with the OTC options listed above. You'll need to bring in some stronger prescription treatments to get those breakouts under control.

Don't wait too long to see a physician for a prescription acne treatment, especially if your acne is severely inflamed. Body acne can also cause deep scarring. The greater the inflammation, the higher the chance of developing lasting scars.

Depending on your situation, your dermatologist may prescribe a topical treatment, oral medications, or both. Some common treatments are:

As with facial acne, it takes time to control body acne. You will most likely have to try several treatment products or medications before finding the one that works best for you.

Other Tips

Once you start on a proven acne treatment routine, there are a few steps you can take to boost the effectiveness of your treatments.

Shower ASAP after sweating. Although body acne isn't caused by a lack of cleanliness, it can be irritated by sweat. So make sure you shower right after a workout.

Minimize anything that rubs against breakout-prone areas. Anything that traps heat against the skin, or causes friction, can also worsen breakouts. This includes sports equipment, backpacks, purse and bra straps, and tight clothing. Try to limit or adjust these triggers as much as you can.

Don't pop or squeeze blemishes. Just as with facial acne, avoid popping your body and back acne pimples. This is a surefire way to cause more inflammation and quite possibly acne scarring.

A Word From Verywell

It can take a lot of time to successfully clear a case of back acne, so try to be patient. You have to be very consistent with your acne treatment medications and daily skin care routine. If you don't feel like your medications are working, let your dermatologist know. It can take several tries before finding the treatment, or treatments, that works for you. But with the right treatment, your body acne can be cleared.

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Article Sources

  • "Questions and Answers About Acne." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). 2015. National Institutes of Health.
  • Zaenglein AL, Pathy AL, Schlosser BJ, et al. "Guidelines of Care for the Management of Acne Vulgaris."Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2016 May;74(5):945-73