back acne

Back acne – what it is, why it happens and how to get rid of it

  • Marie Claire is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy.
  • Bacne (code word for back acne), be gone.

    Back acne can be really distressing – not only can it affect your confidence levels, meaning you’re reluctant to wear certain things in summer, but it can also be quite sore.

    It’s totally understandable if having it makes you feel self conscious and, as a result, you want to get rid of it.

    We caught up with a skin expert, Consultant Dermatologist Dr Justine Kluk, to find out everything you need to know about managing acne on the back.

    What causes back acne?

    ‘The reasons for acne appearing on our backs are similar to the reasons acne appears elsewhere,’ explains Dr Kluk. ‘Firstly, excess sebum production; 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. In those who are prone to spots, the accumulation of oil and dead skin cells in our pores creates an ideal environment for a particular bacteria called Propionibacterium acnes (P. acnes) to thrive. Exercise and heat are good examples of this because the bacteria that cause acne thrive in sweaty, moist conditions.

    ‘Inappropriate skin or hair care products can also contribute if left in contact with the skin of the upper back for extended periods.’

    Back Acne

    Follow these tips and you’ll be able to work the backless trend in no time

    Back acne treatments

    It might feel like having back acne is largely out of your hands, but there are several things you can try to help take back control of your skin in terms of acne treatments.

    Below, Dr Kluk explains five lifestyle changes you can make to help manage bacne.

    Shower gel

    ‘Cleanse your skin thoroughly in the shower every day. Use a body wash containing ingredients such as salicylic acid, glycolic acid and lactic acid to prevent dead skin cells from building up and blocking your pores.

    ‘Using a special shower gel that contains alpha or beta hydroxy acid can help reduce bacne as part of a treatment regime. I also like the BHA sprays and lotions that you can apply post-shower too.’


    ‘If you get lots of under the skin spots or blackheads, using a scrub a couple of times a week in the shower may be effective. Be gentle and don’t rub your skin raw as this can increase inflammation.’

    Use a body cream for back acne

    ‘Apply a moisturiser to soothe and repair your skin barrier, but make sure that any products you leave on your skin are labelled “non-comedogenic”, meaning that they won’t clog your pores.’

    If you feel like your body cream needs an extra kick, using a product that is formulated with salicylic acid can help. The hero ingredient, which unclogs pores and gently exfoliates, works to clear impurities and reduce acne. Superdrug’s Me+ Salicylic Acid Body Gel (£7.99), is a light-weight formula that you can apply morning and evening after you have showered.

    Shower after sweaty activities

    ‘The bacteria responsible for causing acne thrives on sweaty skin so it’s very important to remove your gym clothes and shower as soon as possible after a workout,’ Dr Kluk explains.

    The same applies if your job involves manual labour and or working in a hot and sweaty environment, so try to shower as soon as you get in from work.

    Avoid back acne scarring

    ‘Whatever you do, don’t pick, squeeze or scratch your spots. This can introduce infection and lead to scarring. Apply a benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid gel to spots instead. I like Medik8’s Blemish SOS Gel (£19 | Lookfantastic) with azelaic and salicylic acid, or Acnecide Benzoyl Peroxide 5% Gel (£10.49, Boots).’

    What happens if this doesn’t help?

    ‘If you’ve tried all of the at-home self care tips and skincare products and you are still struggling to get on top of your back breakouts, or are aware of developing cysts, nodules, post-inflammatory pigmentation or scars, a consultant dermatologist can talk you through the various prescription treatment options to bring your acne under control definitively.’

    Reading now