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All About Back Acne (Bacne)

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 8/13/2020

Bacne: it’s a funny word to describe a very unhumorous condition. 

Having acne on your back isn’t like having it on your face. Sure, fewer people see it, but it’s an entirely different level of discomfort when you can’t itch or apply medicine because your pimples are always out of reach. 

Back acne, in most ways, is like acne anywhere else on your body. It’s caused by the same factors and can be treated in the same ways. 

So, read on to understand just how to get rid of your back acne once and for all. 

What You Need to Know About Back Acne 

  • Acne is caused by dead skin cells clogging hair follicles, oil production, inflammation and bacteria. That goes for acne on your face, chest, back or anywhere else. 

  • There are numerous different kinds of pimples or acne lesions: some small and relatively non bothersome, and others large, painful and potentially scarring. 

  • When acne has spread to your back, it’s often considered moderate to severe. 

  • Treating bacne can be done with a combination of over-the-counter and prescription drug options. 

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Acne 101

Yeah, you know what acne is, but do you really understand what causes it or the different types of acne lesions? 

Understanding exactly what’s going on with your skin can help you make informed decisions about treating it properly. 

Acne is the most common skin disorder among adults in the U.S., with as many as 50 million affected.

 For many, it’s the bane of their teen years, but acne affects all ages and doesn’t discriminate due to race or gender. 

Acne is caused by your pores being blocked or clogged by dead skin cells, sebum (oil) production, inflammation and bacteria. 

The results: several different types of pimples or zits. Noninflammatory acne lesions include open and closed comedones, more commonly called blackheads and whiteheads. 

Inflammatory acne lesions include: pustules, papules, nodules and cysts. Inflammatory blemishes are more likely to be large, painful and possibly cause scarring. 

Acne most often develops on the areas of your body where oil production is highest. This includes your face, back, chest, shoulders and neck.

What Causes Back Acne? 

Back acne or “bacne” is caused by the same factors as acne elsewhere on your body. That said, some things may make you more prone to developing acne on your back. 

If you are an athlete, sporting equipment carried on your back could increase your risks of bacne. 

Shoulder pads and backpacks, for example, can rub on your back and create what’s known as acne mechanica. 

Acne mechanica typically starts out as small bumps, but can develop into larger inflammatory acne that leaves scars. 

Likewise, wearing sweaty non-breathable clothing can encourage back acne or worsen the acne you currently have.

When you develop acne on your back, it’s more likely to be considered moderate to severe acne, than if you only have it on your face. 

Further, research shows people with back acne are less likely to seek professional treatment until the condition has gotten bad. 

After all, not too many people see the acne on your back, so it’s easier to ignore than if it were on your face, for example. 

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Acne Treatment for Your Back

Treating bacne begins by keeping your back clean and free of bacteria — easier said than done, right? 

Many over-the-counter acne washes and cleansers marketed for your face can just as easily be used on your back. 

The active ingredients should include benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Use it daily, and let it sit on your skin for a while before rinsing off. 

You can also purchase over-the-counter retinoid products to apply to your back. If you can’t reach it yourself and don’t have someone to help out, invest in a lotion applier to get the medicine where it needs to be. 

The difficulty of reaching your back and the severity of bacne may warrant talking to a healthcare professional or dermatologist about your condition. 

Both topical and oral prescription medications may be appropriate to aid in treatment and prevent breakouts. 

Oral antibiotics including tetracyclines such as doxycycline are often prescribed to assist in the management of moderate to severe acne. 

They work by fighting the bacteria that causes acne, and are taken daily for a period of months.

Prescription topical retinoids like tretinoin and adapalene can be used in conjunction with antibiotics to fight acne on your back. 

They work by preventing clogged pores and inflammation. 

Like antibiotics, they need to be used consistently over a period of weeks or months before results are obtained. 

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.