What Is Back Acne and How to Get Rid of It | Proactiv Australia

What Is Back Acne and How to Get Rid of It

Day-to-day living can be a struggle and none of us need challenges that seem to be out of our control. We try to do all the right things – work hard, exercise, and eat well – then out of nowhere something totally unexpected pops up. (Yes, we said “pops up” because that’s pretty much how the dreaded back acne presents itself.) Now, if back acne doesn’t sound bad enough, combine the two words to create a name for the condition that is just downright cruel: bacne. Saying it is one thing, but enduring it can be a nightmare. If you’re reading this you probably know what we’re talking about – but don’t despair, because you are not alone. Let’s dive into the following:

What is back acne?

Why do you get pimples on your back?

How do you treat back acne?

Is there a specific product that can help treat acne on your back?

What is back acne?

Back acne is a result of excess oil production by hair follicles. When the follicles are irritated and the pores get clogged, the result is increased bacteria in the follicles.

Types of back acne

According to the International Journal of Drug Development and Research there are three main types of acne that can appear:

  • Mild: This includes whiteheads (closed clogged pores) and blackheads (clogged pores that are open at the skin surface and more easily noticeable).
  • Moderate: This includes a more severe form of whiteheads and blackheads, as well as papules (reddened areas that are elevated above the skin surface) and areas of pustules (pimples — small bumps on the skin that contain visible fluid).
  • Nodulocystic: These nodules or cysts are deeply embedded solid, often painful lesions. These may develop additional infections and may eventually lead to scarring if not treated. Nodules can be greater than 5 mm in diameter.

Why do you get pimples on your back?

Acne appears on our backs for similar reasons that acne appears anywhere let’s call it the triple threat: a combination of excess sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria.

Firstly, excess sebum. Sebum is the natural oil produced by the sebaceous glands in our skin. These glands are particularly sensitive to hormones known as androgens, even at normal levels.

Secondly, a build-up of dead skin cells. These dead skin cells mix with the sebum and get trapped in our pores. The skin on our backs is extremely thick, so the potential for blocked pores is very high.

Thirdly, bacteria. If you are prone to spots, blackheads or whiteheads, the accumulation of oil and dead skin cells in our pores creates a perfect environment for particular bacteria to thrive. When you exercise, for example, you become hot and unfortunately the bacteria that cause acne thrive in sweaty, moist conditions.

So, how do you treat back acne?

Before you can treat your back acne you need to understand and identify what is causing the outbreaks. By doing this an effective approach for treatment can be implemented.

Family history

A sometimes overlooked factor that should be considered is personal and family history. If both parents had acne, 75% of children will have acne. If one parent had acne, then the probability becomes 25%. 1 Not all family members are going to be affected in the same way and the predisposition can even skip generations.

Food habits/diet

In conjunction with genetic makeup, food habits also affect the severity of the disease. Recent studies provide strong evidences that diet is a potential contributing factor to the flare up of acne. 2

Tweaking of the diet could provide some benefit, especially for those of us who do not respond well to medication. A good idea is to keep a food diary so you can track your food intake in relation to outbreaks. While there will always be some debate over the link between certain diets and acne there is definitely a connection between the two.

Take milk for example. The intake of milk, (especially skimmed milk) in adolescence, is generally associated with a history of teenage acne 3, as is the consumption of other foods that contain milk such as cottage cheese, breakfast drinks and cream cheese.

A diet comprised of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes is far better for the skin’s health. Nutrients that have possible beneficial effects include omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, zinc and other antioxidants.

Before making drastic changes to your diet it would be wise to consult a doctor or dietician to ensure you’re getting the right balance that would be suitable for your individual needs.


You’ve tweaked your diet so let’s do the same to your personal hygiene routine. It could prove to be the extra boost you need.

Some key points include:

  • Wearing clean, loose and breathable clothes made of natural fabrics
  • Wash clothes in mild laundry detergents
  • Think of your back like your face and implement an acne-fighting skincare routine
  • Don’t miss showers after work-outs
  • Always use a clean towel
  • Use oil-free medicated body washes and lotions
  • Change your bed linen more often than you think you need to

Above all, be consistent. Don’t give that bothersome bacteria any chance.

1. http://www.ijddr.in/drug-development/acne-an-understanding-of-the-disease-and-its-impact-on-life.php?aid=4993

Cordain L. Implications for the role of diet in acne. Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2005;24: 84-91.

Kaufman WH. The diet and acne. Arch Dermatol. 1983;119:276.

2. http://www.pragatipublication.com/assets/uploads/doc/cab2a-497-505.13469.pdf

3. Hellenic Journal of Nutrition & Dietetics. Jul-Dec2010, Vol. 1 Issue 2, p87-99. 13p.

Is there a specific product that can help get rid of acne/pimples on your back?

There are many products promising solutions, the sheer number and variety makes choosing what’s right quite daunting. But when looking at products, the most important thing to look for are acne-fighting ingredients – these are your best weapon. Here are a few ingredients to look out for when embarking on your fight for a bacne-free life:

Key acne-fighting ingredients

Salicylic acid: This beta hydroxyl acid (BHA) has been shown to help minimise whiteheads, blackheads and future breakouts from forming and gently washes away excess oil, dirt and other impurities.

Find it in: Cleansing Body Bar

Glycolic acid: This skin-loving alpha hydroxyl acid (AHA) helps to keep your skin clear by exfoliating the skin and turning over dead skin cells.

Find it in: Skin Smoothing Exfoliator

Benzoyl peroxide: This key acne-fighting ingredient is perfect for the onslaught of bacne breakouts. It penetrates into pores and kills bacteria, helping to clear up pimples and prevent new ones from forming.

Find it in: Pore Targeting Solution

Natural acne-fighting ingredients

As well as the acne super heroes mentioned above, there are several natural ingredients that are beneficial in the treatment of back acne.

Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil is a natural disinfectant, which is well trusted and can be used on its own. It is also found as an ingredient in products specifically designed to get rid of bacne.

Find it in: Skin Purifying Mask

Soothing Natural Ingredients: Witch hazel, green tea extract and aloe vera, have soothing qualities that have long been recognized for providing relief for such things as acne and burns. They are also excellent relief for painful and cystic bacne.

Find it in: Green Tea Moisturiser

We all want a life free of acne, so hopefully some of the ideas mentioned here will help you tackle this sometimes painful and annoying problem. Remember to be consistent and conscientious in your approach and good results are sure to follow.

And as always, if your skin does not improve with over the counter treatments and lifestyle/dietary changes, it might be time to see a dermatologist.

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