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With summer in full swing, back acne can be a real mood-killer. If you’re dealing with body acne you are probably not thrilled about exposing more skin. If your bacne manifests as blackheads or whiteheads, then certainly the main concern is an aesthetic one, but if you have cystic acne then the pain can be unbearable. No matter the severity, I’ve compiled a comprehensive guide for beating back acne and achieving smoother skin all over the body.
To start, I’ve collected the best body products for dealing with body acne, including acne body washes, scrubs, sprays, and lotions. I explain how body acne is formed, and then cover what you really care to learn: exactly how to get rid of back acne, recommending both at-home treatments and professional help.
I have a few other tips and tricks up my sleeve, and I’ll finish off with prevention tips that will ensure that your back acne is banished along with any dark marks or scarring.
Back Acne Treatment Guide: Contents
- 19 Best Body Products to Treat Back Acne
- Back Acne Causes & Types
- How to Get Rid of Back Acne: Bacne Treatment Options
- Getting Rid of Bacne Scars: Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
- How to Prevent Bacne Once and for All
- Other Must-Know Bacne Tips
Getting rid of back acne, as well as bacne scars is going to be a lot easier with these body care products we have rounded up for you!
1. Paula’s Choice Resist Weightless Body Treatment 2% BHA
Salicylic acid is an ingredient with a proven track record for treating acne, and back acne is absolutely included in that. It works by exfoliating the skin and dislodging those dead skin cells that clog up the pores. It also has an anti-inflammatory effect that brings down the redness and swelling that comes with infected pimples.
This formula is made especially for the body, so it spreads easily, and can also help smooth skin that is bumpy from razor bumps or keratosis pilaris. It contains a variety of soothing extracts and skin-restoring antioxidants to get the skin in great shape. Buy it from Nordstrom!
2. Murad Clarifying Body Spray
This wonderful spray is very easy to apply to the back, since it has a nozzle that’ll work from any angle to spray a fine mist of product. It is also based on salicylic acid, although at a lower percentage that might help you avoid irritation. The salicylic acid is boosted by niacinamide, which is able to somewhat control oil production. It is fragrance-free and it also contains skin-soothers like allantoin and butylene glycol. It contains alcohol and it might be a little drying as a result, so make sure to also moisturize regularly. Get it at Ulta!
3. Glytone Acne Treatment Spray – Back and Chest
This is a powerful spray treatment to counter bacne, with a similar 360-degree spray nozzle. It contains 2% salicylic acid, which is essentially maximum strength, to slough away dead skin cells and to unclog the pores on the back and chest. It also contains benzalkonium chloride, which is an antibacterial agent. It is totally fragrance-free, though it might be a little drying, so follow it up with a moisturizer. Order it online from Dermstore!
4. Murad Acne Body Wash
This body wash is actually more of a scrub, but we won’t hold the misnomer against it. The fact of the matter is that it is a great product for treating and preventing non-inflammatory body acne. It contains date seed power, which physically dislodges impurities and dead skin, as well as a blend of salicylic and glycolic acids to promote the natural dissolution of sebum. Since it is sulfate-free it won’t dry out your skin, so leave it on for a couple of minutes to get the full benefits of the ingredients in it. It is available at Sephora.
5. Jan Marini Benzoyl Peroxide 10 Percent
Benzoyl peroxide is considered one of the most effective over-the-counter medications for fighting acne, and it seems to be especially effective for getting rid of back acne. It can work well in cleansers, but we think it’s much better when it can stay on the skin and do its job. This formula is concentrated, with 10% BPO, but if your bacne is not severe you can dilute it in your moisturizer right before application. Be aware that benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothes, towels, and sheets. Pick it up from Dermstore!
6. Lancer The Method: Body Nourish
Though this body cream is marketed as an anti-aging product, we think it’ll also be a fabulous choice for treating back acne. It is powered by 10% glycolic acid, which is the strongest amount of AHA you can buy over the counter. It helps to dislodge dead skin to quickly get rid of breakouts as well as to prevent them later on. It will also do a wonderful job of clearing post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and fading scars. The formula as a whole is light and moisturizing but free of acne-causing ingredients. Purchase it from Sephora!
7. Lord Jones High CBD Formula Body Lotion
If you’re dealing with cystic body acne, this cream is worth trying. Cystic back acne takes a long time to clear up, and until it does it can really hurt. This light body lotion is made with CBD and menthyl ethylamido oxalate, which work together to penetrate into the skin and alleviate pain and inflammation. The formula is light and contains non-comedogenic hemp and MCT oils. You can buy it at Sephora.
8. PCA Skin Men Total Wash Face and Body Cleanser
Don’t get dissuaded by the “for men” marketing – because this cleanser is formulated for both face and body you can be certain that it will be gentle enough to treat your inflamed back acne. It will keep the skin clear of excess oil and pore-clogging impurities without drying it out or irritating it. It contains tea tree oil, which has antibacterial benefits, but it keeps the skin soft with glycerin and lactic acid. It’ll perfectly prepare your skin for post-shower treatments. You can get it from Dermstore.
9. Briogeo B. Well Organic + Australian 100% Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an all-natural back acne treatment that potentially works just as well as benzoyl peroxide but without the bleaching issue. This potent essential oil inhibits the acne bacteria and over time it helps blemishes heal. This bottle is only 1oz, but that’s okay since you don’t want to use tea tree oil on its own – it’s too potent and may irritate the skin. Instead, you can add a drop to your moisturizer right before you rub it on your skin. Find it at Nordstrom!
10. Peter Thomas Roth Acne Face & Body Scrub
Since this scrub is made with jojoba beads, it is gentle enough to use on the face and you can probably also give it a try over your body acne even when it is slightly inflamed (but not if you have any pustules that are ready to burst). It is made with 1% salicylic acid and just a touch of glycolic acid, so you will benefit if you let it sit on your skin for a couple of minutes before rinsing it off. You can expect results as long as you use it a few times a week but without overdoing it. Buy it at Sephora!
11. Proactiv Deep Cleansing Wash
This is another salicylic acid scrub you can try for preventing bacne. It is made with 2% salicylic acid and mildly abrasive jojoba beads. This back acne treatment is sulfate-free so it won’t leave your skin feeling stripped of moisture, and even contains green tea extract to keep it soothed. It also has a touch of menthol, so you can expect a cooling effect after using it. Order it from Ulta!
12. Dermadoctor KP Duty High Potency Daily Body Peel
Though it is intended for treating keratosis pilaris, we know that this body peel will also have wonderful effects on chest and back acne. It is a two-step bacne treatment you can use 3-4 times a week to get clearer skin that is still moisturized. The first towelette is saturated with a powerful acid blend that includes salicylic, glycolic, lactic, phytic and lactobionic acids to give a very thorough exfoliation, while the second one is saturated with a non-comedogenic essence that will calm down irritation and load your skin up with moisture to make it more resistant to damage. It is sold at Sephora.
13. Glo Skin Beauty Clear Skin Body Spray
These sprays are like anti-acne toners for the body, which is why we’re so obsessed with them. This is another choice you might wanna pick up, which is similar to the Murad spray in its gentle 0.5 percent salicylic acid content. However, this formula also differs in that it has a prominent minty aroma. The combination of spearmint oil and menthol in here has a cooling effect that can momentarily alleviate the pain associated with cystic back acne. Find it through Dermstore!
14. Differin Daily Deep Cleanser BPO 5%
Benzoyl peroxide contact therapy with a cleanser can be a great way of treating body acne without dealing with all of your clothes getting bleached. Even just a few minutes of contact with your skin are enough for the benzoyl peroxide to kill bacteria, calm inflammation and help unclog pores. This cleanser is sulfate-free and non-drying, so you can use it on your face as well. Pick it up at Ulta!
15. SkinCeuticals Body Retexturing Treatment
This hydrating gel is made to resurface the skin and give it a smoother texture. It is made with urea, which is a very gentle and moisturizing ingredient that has a keratolytic effect and is helpful for both keratosis pilaris and back acne. It also contains niacinamide, which is great for controlling oil production while also preventing premature aging. It contains a very small percentage of oils, so it shouldn’t clog the pores and would be fantastic to use after a salicylic acid body spray, to prevent dryness. It is available online via Dermstore.
16. Ren Clean Skincare AHA Smart Renewal Body Serum
This two-in-one body serum will exfoliate your skin while loading it up with moisture. It contains 10% AHA to dislodge dead skin cells and to brighten up post-acne pigmentation. It is non-comedogenic yet deeply hydrating, with probiotic ingredients that will fortify the microbiome. It’d be especially great woven into a routine that involves benzoyl peroxide, as it will counter the drying effects while also boosting its efficacy. Pick it up at Sephora!
17. EltaMD UV Aero Broad-Spectrum SPF 45
When you’re dealing with something as frustrating as how to get rid of back acne, other things like sun protection are probably the last thing on your mind. However, using sunscreen when you go out swimming or wear an open-back outfit is important for avoiding sunburn but also to reduce the chances of breakouts turning into dark scars.
It is even more important if you’re using photosensitizing acne treatments like benzoyl peroxide or glycolic acid. This spray sunscreen from EltaMD is great because it is light and non-comedogenic, but also very easy to spray over the back and other hard-to-reach areas. Order it through Dermstore!
18. Hempz Age Defying Glycolic Herbal Body Scrub
If you’re dealing with both post-back acne scarring and continuous clogged pores, then this scrub will definitely help. It contains glycolic acid to slough off the dead skin, along with vitamins C and A to promote renewal and reduce pigmentation. It is a sulfate-free formula that also contains beads for physical exfoliation. It is very lightly scented but non-drying. Find it at Ulta!
19. Paula’s Chocie Clear Acne Body Spray With 2% Salicylic Acid
Last but not least, this is one of the best back acne treatments that not only fight body acne, but also prevent new breakouts from forming. It contains 2% salicylic acid to exfoliate the skin, removing any pimples, blackheads and skin irritation, and it’s also alcohol-free in order not to overly dry your skin. It’s a non-wash formula, so you just spray it on the affected area after taking a shower and let it work its magic. Pick it up directly at Paula’s Choice!
The face is not the only part of our body where we can experience breakouts. After the face, the back and chest are the other parts of our body where acne frequently shows up.
Body acne can manifest as blackheads, a.k.a. open comedones, which look like little black dots on the skin, whiteheads, a.k.a. closed comedones, which look like little bumps but are not painful or red, and pimples, which are inflamed and painful. If they are deep under the skin they are considered cystic acne, which is usually the most painful but also the hardest to get rid of.
All forms of body acne can make you feel self-conscious, but the latter ones will also make wearing certain clothing painful.
Back acne occurs when our hair follicles (which I use interchangeably with ‘pores’) get clogged up with a mixture of dead skin and sebum. The clog can occur closer to the surface of the skin or a little below it, and it can become infected with the acne bacteria in which case it turns into a pimple, which is inflamed and might be painful.
As dermatology professor Noëlle Sherber told Women’s Health, the back has more oil and sweat glands than other parts of the body, which is why it is the next most frequent area of breakouts after the face.
There are a few factors that lead to body acne, including but not limited to: increased oil production due to age, genetics or hormonal imbalance, over or under-cleansing the skin, and reactions to sweat or comedogenic substances.
Many people find that they begin to experience body breakouts when they take up the gym, because of the sweat and the constant contact with unclean surfaces. Certain foods can be acne triggers for people, with dairy and sugar being very common culprits. A poor body care routine is rarely the initial cause of back acne, but it can certainly make things worse than it would be otherwise.
Lastly, it’s important to note that you might not be suffering from body acne at all, and the culprit might be a fungal infection, in which case fungal treatments will be necessary.
Figuring out how to get rid of back acne is probably going to be a slow process, especially if you’re going to try gentle home treatments first. Back acne treatments are very similar to facial acne treatments, but the big difference is that they need to cover a lot more space and be easy to apply in hard-to-reach areas. This is why that 1 oz tube of highly targeted spot treatment won’t cut it for bacne care.
Remember that the new products you introduce into your routine will always take at the very least a few weeks to start showing results and that a complete change will take a few months. Try to only introduce one new product at a time, so that if your condition worsens you will know which product was the culprit.
Skincare Ingredients for Body Acne
Note that your basic body care routine should be comprised of cleansing with a gentle, sulfate-free cleanser and moisturizing with a light, non-comedogenic moisturizer. You can incorporate the following acne-fighting ingredients into your routine by finding them in cleansers and moisturizers, or you can choose additional steps that will include them.
• Benzoyl Peroxide (BPO)
This is the best first treatment to try for back acne, especially if you’re hoping for quick results.
Benzoyl peroxide works in a few ways: it is anti-inflammatory, so it can bring down the swelling and reduce the pain of active breakouts, it is antibacterial, so it kills the acne bacteria and prevents further spreading of it, and it is keratolytic so it helps to dislodge the dead skin cells that clog up the pores.
It works best in leave-on creams, but it’s still quite effective in cleansers as long as you let the cleanser sit on your skin for 2-5 minutes. It is just as effective at 2.5% as it is at 10%, so if you pick up a high percentage BPO cream you can simply mix a bit of it with your moisturizer right before applying.
The main drawbacks of benzoyl peroxide are that it can dry out or irritate the skin, which is why moisturizing or diluting it is important, it can bleach fabric if it comes into contact with it, and it makes the skin more prone to sunburn.
• Chemical Exfoliants
This category includes salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, and a few other acids are great bacne treatments. They can be your only back acne treatment if you’re only dealing with a couple of pimples or just whiteheads and blackheads, although you might want to combine them with another treatment if your bacne is more severe.
Salicylic acid is the best chemical exfoliant to start with because it’s gentle, it can cut through oils, and in general, it seems to have the best results for clearing breakouts. It is best in leave-on formulas like sprays and lotions, and seems to be only slightly useful in cleansers.
Glycolic acid is a bit more heavy-duty, although it works best when the skin is totally free of oils. It seems to work very well in combination with benzoyl peroxide, at least according to Acne.org. Other chemical exfoliants are less common in body care products, although you might run into lotions with lactic acid, which is gentler than both salicylic and glycolic acids, but doesn’t penetrate through oils.
If you do happen to choose a cleanser or physical scrub that contains these chemical exfoliants, let it sit on your skin for a few minutes before you rinse it off, to allow these ingredients to work.
• Tea Tree Oil
This is an essential oil that seems to have a wonderful ability to reduce body breakouts. It has the ability to kill the back acne bacteria, and studies on the skin have shown that a 5% solution of it can be just as effective at treating breakouts on human skin as benzoyl peroxide.
The efficacy of tea tree oil hasn’t been studied as thoroughly as other acne treatments, but many people suffering from acne find that it is very effective. It is often added to other back acne treatments, but you can also buy the essential oil on its own and mix a drop of it into your moisturizer right before application. Always make sure to dilute it before applying it to your skin, as it can be very irritating at full strength.
Niacinamide is not a great acne treatment on its own, but it’s a wonderful addition to a body acne-fighting routine, especially in lotions. This wonderful ingredient does it all – it’s an antioxidant, it can brighten the skin, it reduces transepidermal water loss, but most importantly, it seems to be able to reduce oil production in the skin.
Many people find that adding it to their routine gives great results. It is present in a few of the body lotions I’ve recommended.
Salon Bacne Treatments
As much as I love a good salon treatment, I gotta admit that it’s not my first choice when it comes to issues like bacne. A salon treatment can definitely help speed up the healing of your back acne, but it is no substitute for a good daily skincare routine.
If you already have a favorite salon, you can ask your facialist if they’d be willing to convert one of their acne-fighting facials or peels into a back acne treatment. Aestheticians have access to peels with higher percentages of acids that can give more intense results.
A peel with trichloroacetic acid (TCA) would be especially useful for giving a very deep exfoliation, and it can be followed with a clay mask to deep clean the pores. If you’re only dealing with the upper part of your back the treatment shouldn’t be much more expensive, but if a large part of your back is covered in breakouts you might have to pay double or triple the amount of a regular facial, since your aesthetician will have to use more product.
If your body acne manifests primarily as blackheads and whiteheads, and you experience very little inflammation, your aesthetician might recommend a microdermabrasion, which is a very strong and targeted physical exfoliation. They might also offer to do extractions, which will help clear deep blackheads from your back.
How to Get Rid of Back Acne with a Dermatologist’s Help
If your bacne is very severe and seriously impeding your quality of life, or if none of the at-home solutions seem to do anything, then don’t hesitate to visit a dermatologist. Acne is a real skin disease so there is nothing shameful or vain about speaking to a doctor about it.
There are a few things your dermatologist might prescribe based on the condition of your skin.
• They might suggest hormone-regulating medication or birth control in order to lower the amount of male hormone your body produces and thereby reduce oil production.
• They might prescribe you topical back acne medication that is not available over the counter, like tretinoin, clindamycin, or erythromycin.
• They might prescribe oral antibiotics.
• They might suggest you start taking isotretinoin, which is colloquially referred to as Accutane.
Once you’ve cleared up those pesky blemishes on your back and shoulders, you might be dismayed to notice that you’re left with some scarring and pigmentation. The process of getting rid of hyperpigmentation is a long one, while scarring can be even harder to eliminate.
However, there are some very effective treatments. Be aware that it’s important to combine these treatments with a routine where you regularly cleanse and moisturize your skin!
• Make sure to stick to a preventative body care routine that will keep the bacne from returning.
• Using an AHA-based lotion or spray a few times a week will give a deeper exfoliation than a physical scrub, and will allow better skin cell renewal. This is a key part of getting rid of pigmentation.
• If you go out in the sun, make sure to apply an adequate amount of sunscreen. Any unprotected sun exposure will darken dark marks.
• If you are most dealing with textured scars, then the best treatment is a retinoid. It’s hard to find body products with retinoids in them, so it is best to simply pick up a facial treatment like Differin and use it as a spot treatment.
• You can also visit a dermatologist, who may recommend a more intense treatment like microneedling or laser.
Adopting a bacne busting skincare routine will help you maintain the health of your back and to prevent future breakouts.
• Hop in the shower and cleanse your skin shortly after every workout, or before you go to bed every night. Stick to cool or lukewarm water, and use a sulfate-free cleanser.
You can choose to use a medicated cleanser like one of the ones I’ve recommended above, but a regular sulfate-free cleanser should also work to keep your skin clear of excess sebum and free of bacteria. You can use a washcloth to help you reach your back, but make sure to wash it after every shower or it will hold bacteria.
• Make sure to exfoliate your skin a few times a week to prevent the dead skin build-up that contributes to clogged pores and back acne. You can use a physical scrub if you are no longer experiencing inflamed bacne, but if you are still dealing with some acne-related irritation, then it is better to use a lotion or spray exfoliant that contains glycolic or salicylic acid.
• Moisturizing after every shower is very important because it is much easier for the skin to become reinfected with acne if it is dry and dehydrated. You can choose a medicated moisturizer (one with glycolic, lactic or salicylic acid will be a great two-in-one moisturizer and exfoliant) or just opt for a gentle, non-comedogenic body lotion.
You don’t need to worry about finding oil-free moisturizers, since most oils used in skin care are not going to cause acne. Just avoid moisturizers that have high-oleic oils like almond oil or olive oil towards the beginning of their ingredient list.
• You can maintain use of an anti-acne body spray with salicylic acid or benzoyl peroxide even after your breakouts fade, as they work well both to treat back acne as well as to prevent it.
These general tips will help you maintain good hygiene and best practices both to help body acne clear up more quickly and to prevent it in the long term.
• Avoid hot showers, and stick to lukewarm water. Hot water damages and dehydrates the skin, which makes it easier for the acne bacteria to infect it.
• Be careful with loofahs, body brushes, and shower mitts. If they are too abrasive, they can irritate your skin while you are suffering from active breakouts. Additionally, brushes and loofahs are very difficult to clean, so they might end up holding on to bacteria and re-infecting your skin.
• The same warning applies to body scrubs! I recommended a few on my list, but they are better for back acne prevention and for clearing blackheads. If the skin is compromised because of inflamed breakouts, then it is better to avoid anything that will physically abrade the skin, particularly if there are pimples that look like they might pop, as this will only spread bacteria around.
• An anti-inflammatory bath mix can help momentarily alleviate the pain and irritation associated with more severe body acne. Opt for adding relaxing epsom salt or soothing oatmeal flour to your bath once a week, along with a few drops of tea tree oil.
• Switch to a fragrance-free laundry detergent and don’t use too much of it. Harsh remnants of laundry detergent on your clothes can irritate the skin and increase breakouts.
• That being said, washing is very important. Wash anything that comes into contact with your body regularly, including clothes (bras in particular!), bedding, and towel. Wash them after every time they come in direct contact with your back, especially during active breakouts. Workout clothes, in particular, should be washed after every visit to the gym.
• Be careful with shampoos, conditioners and other hair products. In the shower, make sure to rinse them away thoroughly and then to rinse your back for good measure. Ensure that your hair doesn’t touch your back if you use heavy styling products.
• Avoid wearing very tight clothing for too long, as they can irritate the skin and trap in impurities.
• If you have an event coming up where you would like to wear a backless garment, you can definitely consider applying some non-comedogenic body makeup that won’t rub off on clothing. It will make you feel more confident!
Photos via @rumineely, @sharmtoaster, @lumi_lise, @dom.overseas, @taramilktea, @anajohnson, @morethanafashionblog