How to Get Rid of Backne

If your back and shoulders are covered in a pimples or pustules that make you embarrassed to bare your skin, you're not alone: More than 20% of men and women suffer from this condition.

What Causes It?

The same factors that cause facial acne are responsible for back-ne, even though you may have one kind without the other. Excess sebum or oil production, clogged pores and hair follicles, hormonal changes, the presence of acne-causing bacteria, and hereditary factors can lead to acne. The main difference between acne on your face or back is the treatment approach: The skin on your back is thicker and has more productive oil glands, and because oil and bacteria can be spread by clothing and rubbing, back-ne can be difficult to cure.

Are There Different Kinds?

Any kind of acne can be classified as non-inflammatory, which causes blackheads and whiteheads, or inflammatory, which leads to more noticeable pimples, pustules, and lesions. Cystic acne - a severe form of inflammatory acne that often occurs on the back - is characterized by painful, burning inflammation that can leave permanent scars.

How Should I Treat It?

Acne treatments vary and are targeted to do some of the following:

  • Clear blocked pores and help skin cells shed naturally with mechanical and chemical exfoliation
  • Regulate/change hormone levels with birth control medication
  • Ease irritation with anti-inflammatory medications
  • Reduce excess oil production and acne-causing bacteria with topical or oral antibiotics or antiseptics

For less severe backne, you can try a home remedy of spot treating whiteheads and blackheads with apple cider vinegar or cleansing with a medicated body wash. If that doesn't work, try an over-the-counter acne medication formulated for use on your body.

If your back-ne is moderate to severe, the first step should be to see a dermatologist to make sure the treatment is targeted towards the right kind of acne. Cystic acne is often tackled in multiple ways at the same time. Treatments include antibiotics, cortisone shots, retinoids, and vitamin A.

Lifestyle Changes to Reduce Backne

In combination with any treatment approach, these simple tips can help alleviate your back-ne:

  • Wear shirts made of natural fibers like cotton or silk that are as irritant-free as possible.
  • Wash clothing in dye- and perfume-free detergent, especially before wearing it for the first time. 
  • Don't carry a bag or backpack that rubs irritated areas.
  • Shower whenever you sweat, washing your back with a gentle wash
  • Never use a harsh scrub or sponge on your back


Go Ask Alice: Health Services at Columbia. "Back-ne (Acne on My Back)." Columbia University's Health Q&A Internet Service. March 12, 2004 "Backne Treatment." Web. 2007