Back acne (aka bacne) can pop up for lots of different reasons. Here’s a rundown of the most common causes of acne on your back. We also have the deets on the best treatment options, plus tips on how to prevent future breakouts.

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Back acne is when zits breakout on your back. The basic cause is when oils and debris mix with skin cells and bacteria. This mixture of gunk can clog your pores and lead to those pesky pimples we all know and hate.

Here are some other reasons why you might have a back breakout:

  • Hormones. Hormonal acne is hella common. Breakouts are common during periods of hormonal fluctuations like during pregnancy, puberty, or menstruation. Keep in mind, estrogen and progesterone aren’t the only hormones to blame. A 2019 study showed that testosterone fluctuations can also increase the severity of breakouts.
  • Genetics. There’s no single gene that makes a person more prone to acne. But research shows that acne is more likely to run in families. You might have a higher chance of breakouts if you have a close relative — like a parent or sibling — who also has a history of acne.
  • Medications. Some medications have been known to trigger acne breakouts. Common culprits include oral corticosteroids, anabolic steroids, testosterone, and antidepressants (e.g. amoxapine and lithium).
  • Stress. If you feel like your acne gets worse when the pressure is on, you’re right. Studies show that stress can contribute to breakouts.
  • Diet. Diet can be a factor in your overall skin health and might contribute to acne. There’s evidence to show that refined sugars, high glycemic index foods, and dairy are associated with higher acne rates.
  • Sweat. Exercise boasts beaucoup benefits for your body and mind. But all that extra sweat and oils might clog up your pores, especially if you’re wearing tight clothing.

Here’s a rundown of the most common types of back acne.

Whiteheads (aka closed comedones)

These little buggers form when dead skin cells, bacteria, and oil get trapped inside a closed pore. This causes a raised white bump with a reddish or discolored border.

Blackheads (aka open comedones)

Blackheads are a lot like whiteheads, expect the pore is open. The yucky stuff inside turns black when exposed to oxygen. They’re uber common on the T-zone and chin, but you can also get them on your back.


Papules occur when the pore walls break down due to inflammation. They tend to be pretty painful and can cause hard, red or discolored bumps.


Pustules may look like whiteheads, but they’re usually larger and more severe.


Nodules are hard, inflamed, and usually painful pimples that that form deep in the skin. They don’t have a head, but you might notice an inflamed bump on your skin. Over-the-counter (OTC) acne remedies don’t always work on nodules. So, you might need to ask your doc for an Rx-grade treatment.


Like nodules, cystic acne forms under the skin. It sometimes looks like a boil, but can also be a puss-filled red or discolored bump. They’re very tender to the touch and don’t always go away on their own.

Are you ready to send those pesky pimples packing? Here’s a rundown of the best back acne treatments for your unique skin sitch.

  • Acne cleansers. Cleansers that have salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide can reduce the bacteria that cause acne. But be gentle. These products might be too harsh if you have sensitive skin. Also, try not to rub or pick at your pimples too much while you’re cleansing.
  • OTC treatments. OTC acne creams that contain benzoyl peroxide or an adapalene gel can help zap your zits. You can try a lotion or spot treatment depending on how severe the breakout is.
  • Prescription topical treatments. Prescription creams and lotions have a higher concentration of ingredients that might help with acne. Your dermatologist can help you pick the best product for your type of bacne.
  • Oral medications. Rx oral meds like isotretinoin (formerly known as Accutane) can be prescribed to treat stubborn or severe acne. Your doc might also suggest a hormonal medication if your acne is caused by hormones. FYI: Some oral acne meds are known to have side effects. So, talk with your doc about the pros and cons before trying them.

Popping PSA: We know popping pimples can be satisfying AF. Just keep in mind, squeezing your zits can leave you with acne scars or dark spots. It can also up the chance of an infection.

You can’t prevent every pimple and pustule. But there are lots of effective techniques you can try to reduce the severity and rate of flare-ups.

1. Exfoliate

Exfoliation can help remove dead skin cells, oils, and other debris that can cause back acne. Just keep in mind, you don’t have to go buck wild and exfoliate til your skin hurts. A gentle body scrub, or a light chemical exfoliant can be great options that are easy on the skin.

2. Keep it clean

Try to take a shower after you exercise. All of that oil and sweat you produce when you work out can lead to a breakout. You can opt for a body wash that has natural acne-reducing abilities. Tea tree oil and volcanic ash are both popular choices. Oh, and don’t forget to pat your back dry with a clean towel when you’re done.

3. Rinse your hair in front of you

Shampoo and conditioner that doesn’t get washed off your back can clog your pores. A good workaround is tipping your head forward when you lather, rinse, repeat. Another option is to cleanse your back after you wash your hair to make sure no residue is left behind.

4. Eat a nutritious diet

While it can def play a part, diet usually isn’t the main cause of acne. But filling your plate with lots of nutrient-rich, tasty nom noms can’t hurt. Following a low glycemic diet might help keep your bacne at bay. Some peeps also see results by reducing their dairy and sugar intakes.

5. Pick the right products

Opt for noncomedogenic skin care products that are less likely to clog your pores. Your best bet might be water-based creams, and cleansers, and lotions that don’t have added oils.

Psst. Try to steer clear of brands that contain harsh chemicals or fragrances. These ingredients can irritate and inflame the skin.

Back acne happens when a mix of oils, dead skin cells, bacteria, and other debris clog the pores on your back. It’s super common and nothing to be ashamed of. You can usually treat minor bacne with OTC cleansers and products. But if your pimples are stubborn or severe, your dermatologist might prescribe an Rx oral medication or topical treatment.