Hormonal acne can take a toll on your skin and your confidence. Discover what causes this type of acne and how to treat it so you can be you again.

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Back Acne: Causes, Treatments, And Prevention

06/07/20228 min read

Most people experience pimples on their face at some point in their lives. But that's not the only body part that can break out. Back acne is also a common skin condition that causes zits to form on your back and shoulders.

To help you get rid of those pesky pimples, we've put together this guide on back acne causes, treatments, and prevention.

With these tips, you can experience more good skin days. But let’s start by understanding more about what this form of acne is.

Table Of Contents

What Is Back Acne?

Young man with back acne

No matter where the pimples are, acne is a skin condition in which your hair follicles become clogged with sebum (an oily substance produced by the sebaceous glands in your skin) and dead skin cells.

When your body produces too much sebum, it can mix with dead skin cells and form a plug in your hair follicle. This plug can cause the follicle wall to bulge and rupture. If the break is deep enough, it can cause inflammation and pimples can form.

Back acne occurs when this process takes place on your back and shoulders. Like other types of acne, back acne can cause different types of blemishes.


The exact symptoms you experience will depend on the type of pimples you have. For reference, you’ll often find the following blemishes on your back:

  • Blackheads: Small, dark-colored bumps that form when a plug of sebum and dead skin cells block your hair follicle. They're usually not painful.
  • Whiteheads: Small, white bumps that form when a plug of sebum and dead skin cells block your hair follicle. They're similar to blackheads but tend to be more inflamed.
  • Papules: Small, pink bumps that can be tender to the touch. They're caused by inflammation and are often a sign of infection.
  • Pustules: Large, pus-filled pimples that can be painful and inflamed. They occur when the blockage in your hair follicle ruptures and bacteria enters the open wound.
  • Nodules: Large, hard bumps that form deep within your skin. They're often painful and can last for weeks or even months.
  • Cysts: Large, pus-filled pimples that form deep within your skin. They can be painful and cause permanent scarring.

In addition to the actual blemishes, you might also notice other symptoms associated with back acne. These include dry or tight skin, irritation, inflammation, and scarring.

Back Acne Causes

Man wearing backpack going down an escalator

Several factors contribute to the development of back acne. Knowing what causes your breakouts helps you find the best treatment and prevention method for you. Let's look at a few common causes of this skin condition.

Hormonal Changes

Hormonal changes can cause an increase in sebum production, which can lead to back acne. Fluctuations in your hormone levels are common during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.


Friction from backpacks, bras, or tight clothing can irritate your skin, cause a breakout, and make existing blemishes more inflamed.

Certain Medications

Certain medications can also cause an increase in sebum production. These include steroids, testosterone replacement therapy, and some types of birth control pills. If you’re concerned your medication contributes to your back acne, talk to your doctor about your options.

Genetic Disposition

Certain genes make you more likely to experience back acne. For example, if you have a family member with it, you may be more likely to develop it yourself.

Poor Hygiene

Poor hygiene can also contribute to acne on your back. Sweat, oil, and bacteria build up on your skin if you don't wash it regularly. In addition, not showering after working out can make back acne worse.

Common Triggers

Several common triggers can cause back acne to flare up. Pay attention to when you experience breakouts to identify any patterns and pinpoint your triggers.

Here are a few everyday things that can make your acne worse:

  • Stress
  • Sweat
  • Tight clothing
  • Oily hair
  • Hair or beauty products
  • Certain fabrics, like polyester or nylon
  • Humid weather

If you notice your breakouts getting worse at certain times, look at your lifestyle and see if you can identify what could be causing the flare-up.

Acne Treatment Options

A doctor examines acne on a patient’s back

There are a variety of treatment options available for back acne. The best choice for you will depend on the severity of your breakouts and your skin type. Consult with a dermatologist to determine the best course of treatment.

With that in mind, here are a few common recommendations that can help you reduce the severity of your back acne so you can experience better skin days.

Lifestyle Changes

Simply changing a few things in your daily routine can make a big difference in your skin condition. Try to incorporate the following tips to help reduce back acne:

  • Shower immediately after working out
  • Change out of sweaty clothes as soon as possible
  • Wear loose-fitting, breathable fabrics
  • Reduce stress
  • Wash your sheets and pillowcases regularly
  • Reduce the amount of weight you’re carrying in your backpack

When you combine these lifestyle changes with a good skincare routine, you’re well on your way to clearer-looking skin.

Helpful Ingredients In Over-the-Counter Products

What you use on your skin is just as important as what you put in your body when trying to clear up acne. Choosing the right over-the-counter products can help speed up the healing process and prevent future breakouts.

Here are a few key ingredients that can help:

  • Benzoyl peroxide: Benzoyl peroxide helps kill acne-causing bacteria and can also help reduce inflammation. (Just be cautious when using this product since it can bleach fabrics.)
  • Salicylic acid: This ingredient helps unclog pores and prevent future breakouts.
  • Sulfur: Sulfur has antimicrobial properties that can help kill acne-causing bacteria. It can also help reduce inflammation.
  • Tea tree oil: Tea tree oil has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties that can reduce the severity of acne.
  • Colloidal oatmeal: This type of oatmeal can help soothe the skin and reduce inflammation.

Prescription-Strength Back Acne Treatments

If over-the-counter treatments aren’t enough to clear your back acne, you may need a prescription-strength treatment. Prescription treatments usually contain higher concentrations of ingredients like benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, or sulfur.

You'll likely start treatment with a strong topical steroid ointment that you apply to the affected areas. If your acne is severe, you may also need oral medication. In addition, doctors often prescribe antibiotics to help reduce inflammation and kill bacteria.

The most common oral antibiotics used to treat acne are tetracyclines, including doxycycline and minocycline. These treatments can have side effects, so it’s important to talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits before starting any medication.

Preventing Pimples On Your Back

Woman applying moisturizer to her shoulder blade

You can take preventive measures to avoid or minimize future breakouts. These tips can help keep your back pimple-free.

Stay Moisturized

Proper hydration inside and out is key to keeping your skin healthy. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day and apply a moisturizer to your back after showering.

Even if you have oily skin, moisturizing is a crucial part of your skincare routine. Moisturizers help keep your skin hydrated and prevent your body from producing excess sebum.

Gently Exfoliate

Exfoliating your back on a regular basis can also prevent breakouts. In addition, gently exfoliating helps remove dead skin cells and unclog pores, reducing the likelihood of developing pimples.

Try using a gentle body scrub or exfoliating brush a few times per week for the best results. However, avoid scrubbing too hard, as this can irritate your skin and make breakouts worse.

Avoid Triggers

As we mentioned, certain lifestyle factors can trigger back acne. To help prevent breakouts, make sure you avoid anything that worsens your acne.

While you'll need to determine what makes your pimples pop out, here are some everyday things to avoid:

  • Picking your pimples
  • Long, hot showers
  • Tight-fitting clothing
  • Excess sweat and humidity
  • Heavy lotions or creams
  • Dirty sheets and towels

Staying away from these triggers can prevent breakouts before they start.

Say Goodbye To Your Back Acne

Woman lathering her back with a loofah

Back acne can be frustrating and embarrassing, but there are ways to treat it and help prevent future breakouts. The key is to find the best treatment for you and stick with it. Using the right products in your skincare routine makes a huge difference in the state of your skin.

At Bodewell, we specialize in skincare products that are gentle on your skin. For example, our Sensitive Skin Moisturizing Body Wash is the perfect way to gently wash your skin while keeping it hydrated.

No matter how mild or severe your back acne is, with the right tools, you can eliminate painful pimples and get back to loving the skin you’re in!

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