A Guide To Acne
Written by Scott McDougall
Experiencing back acne can be not just uncomfortable but also a painful and distressing condition for many. Luckily, you can treat the condition easily - from simple home remedies to over-the-counter gels and creams for back acne, you can get rid of the spots on your own. If you find your back acne persisting or worsening, please know it’s okay to seek help from a medical professional. They understand your struggle and can offer effective solutions. They'll be able to prescribe you some stronger products or guide you to more advanced treatment options.
Are you still wondering, "Why do I get spots on my back?"
Some of the most common back acne causes are hormonal changes, genetics and even some lifestyle factors. And if you're often stressed, it could be one of the contributing factors, even though not a direct cause.
In this guide, we'll help you understand what back acne is and how to treat it safely and effectively.
In particular, acne can affect the shoulders, neck, chest and, more commonly, the back. Many people who have acne will experience back acne — or ‘bacne' — too; back acne affects more than half of people with acne.
This is because the skin on our back is very thick, which means the potential for pores becoming clogged is very high.
Like your face, your back has a lot of sebaceous glands (oil glands) that secrete sebum, an oily substance. Excess oil, along with dead skin cells and bacteria, can build up in the pores on your back and clog them, creating different types of acne spots.
Back acne can be particularly troublesome, causing distressing breakouts, sore spots and painful pustules or cysts.
Acne happens when your skin makes too much oil, which then mixes with dead skin cells. This mixture can block the small pores in your skin, leading to different kinds of acne spots. Sometimes, bacteria found in the skin can infect the area and make the condition worse.
There are a few different causes for acne on back.
Like other types of acne, teenage back acne is most commonly linked to the hormonal changes that happen during puberty, which is why many teenagers and young people will experience acne problems (although it can start at any age). These hormonal fluctuations can result in the overproduction of sebum and the blocking of pores, which is the main cause of acne (and teenage back acne).
But what causes back acne in females?
Women experience hormonal changes during menstruation, pregnancy and menopause. And because these changes are so significant, they make women more likely to have adult acne than men and can cause hormonal back acne for females.
Another back acne cause is genetics. Acne can run in families, so if your parents had acne, it's likely that you'll also develop it.
Certain medications — such as some antidepressants, epilepsy medications and steroid medicines — can also cause back acne to develop.
Some other lifestyle factors can contribute to acne outbreaks and be what causes acne on back. For example, if you sweat excessively and don't shower straight away (such as after the gym), then sweat that sits underneath tight-fitting clothing can mix with bacteria and dead skin cells on the skin and make acne worse or contribute to breakouts.
Stress isn't a direct cause of back acne, but it has been suggested to be a contributing factor.
Although back acne cannot be cured, it can be controlled with back acne treatment. If you develop acne, then speaking to a pharmacist for advice is a great start.
If you have mild back acne, then you may be able to get an over-the-counter treatment. For mild back acne, there are gentle yet effective medications available, such as creams, lotions, or gels, that can provide relief and improve your skin's health.
If you have bad acne on back, which is not uncommon, don't lose hope. Stronger prescription medications are available and can make a significant difference in your skin’s condition.
Back acne medication may contain strong active ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide, a type of acid or retinoids, or be combined with antibiotics (either oral or topical) to kill the bacteria making your acne worse.
Here are some of the acne medications we offer at The Independent Pharmacy:
Some people like to use home remedies to treat back acne.
There is no concrete clinical evidence to suggest that using these home remedies will definitely work, though some users do report that natural remedies like the ones below help clear up milder cases of acne.
Here are some traditional home remedies for back acne:
While some home remedies for back acne are popular, it’s important to approach them with caution as they might not always be suitable for your skin type. While some of them may be low-risk treatments and unlikely to cause you any harm if you do decide to test them out (such as aloe vera or honey), the NHS warns that some home remedies like toothpaste can irritate and damage the skin. You may even find that these traditional remedies make your back acne worse.
Your GP will recommend using medication to treat back acne rather than relying on a home remedy — there are far more effective and safer treatments available from pharmacists.
It's important to understand that while back acne can be a persistent issue and there is no cure, many have found effective ways to manage and significantly reduce its impact.
Practising good skin hygiene is particularly important if you have back acne.
To control oil and dead skin buildup, regularly clean your skin with gentle exfoliating products. Use products that control oil and contain glycolic or lactic acid. These ingredients help your skin renew itself more effectively. Always moisturise post-cleansing to avoid over-drying. It's also important to keep your hair clean (greasy hair can irritate upper back acne), don't squeeze or pick spots and avoid unnecessary sun exposure.
Those prone to body acne should visit a dermatologist for prescription treatments like topical creams, oral medications, or laser therapy to address excessive oil production. Taking proactive steps can be empowering, helping you to prevent further acne flare-ups and take control of your skin health.
Exercise is great for you and doesn't cause acne itself.
However, it is important to shower straight away after you exercise: not showering promptly after a gym session causes sweat and dirt to gather on your skin, mix with bacteria, and clog pores further — causing acne to worsen.
Shower immediately after exercise, using an acne body wash containing salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide. These ingredients help kill acne-causing bacteria. Avoid abrasive scrubs, which can irritate skin. Wear loose, breathable clothing to prevent sweat accumulation and CHANGE out of sweaty gym clothes promptly.
An unhealthy diet can affect our bodies in a variety of ways, including our skin. If you're prone to back acne, certain foods (such as dairy, white bread, pasta, or fatty foods) could be triggers.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables will help to keep your skin healthy.
As explained, severe back acne can result in scarring. There are various types that may form. The good news is there are options to address these acne scar tissues.
First and foremost, have an open talk about your back with your physician. They have specialised expertise to advise proven treatments to safely and effectively reduce the scars.
The Independent Pharmacy also carries quality products designed for back acne scars, including formulas with resurfacing retinol, acne-fighting ingredients, and exfoliating acids. Some of our popular products are CeraVe Resurfacing Retinol Serum, Duac Gel or Skinoren Cream. Those with substantial pitted scarring may need more intensive clinical procedures per a doctor’s guidance.
Some also find gentle, natural oils beneficial to minimise scars’ appearance. However, always get your physician’s input on an oil’s suitability and test for skin sensitivity beforehand.
In short, while dealing with back acne scars can be tiresome, viable solutions exist through healthcare guidance and access to treatments.
If back acne is a concern and you wish to alleviate it securely, The Independent Pharmacy can assist. We provide an array of products to help treat spots and improve your skin condition. Choices span acne-targeting body creams to complexion-refining serums and clarifying cleansers that may integrate into one’s regimen for fresh, healthy skin.
To begin, simply complete our brief self-assessment. Our experts will review your case and recommend treatments that may banish annoying acne spots based on your needs.
Further questions or advice about beginning your journey to enhanced skin? Please contact our supportive team via:
We look forward to assisting you on your journey towards healthier skin.
There are many reasons why one may experience body acne, even into adulthood. Excess oil production, hereditary factors, hormonal changes, and lifestyle choices can trigger outbreaks. The thick skin and abundance of oil glands make the back particularly prone to clogged pores and acne.
While severe back acne takes consistent treatment, implementing good skincare habits may quickly treat mild breakouts. Exfoliating with salicylic acid cleansers, wearing loose-fitting cotton clothes, showering after sweating, changing sheets regularly, avoiding irritation, staying hydrated, reducing dairy/sugar intake, applying over-the-counter acne medications, and/or oral antibiotics could clear up some back acne within 7 days. More severe cases will require longer treatment or prescription medications.
Consuming more anti-inflammatory foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins like berries, leafy greens, citrus fruits, omega-3 fatty acids, bone broth, mushrooms, green tea, and zinc promotes enhanced skin health and acne clearance. Studies also reveal dairy and high-glycemic foods may worsen acne, so limiting those may aid prevention and recovery. Always consult a dermatologist about dietary interventions for optimal skin benefits.
Scott is one of the two founders of The Independent Pharmacy. He is a registered pharmacist and the registered manager of our service with the CQC.
Dan is an experienced pharmacist having spent time working in both primary and secondary care. He currently supports our clinical team by providing robust clinical governance review of our internal processes and information.