How to Treat Body and Back Acne

How Dermatologists Can Help You Banish Your Bacne

Back acne
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Body acne such as acne on the back, or "bacne" as it is commonly called, can be harder to treat than facial acne. Blemishes are often deep and highly inflamed. Large cystic breakouts and nodules often occur. These serious lesions can also cause significant scarring. Often, acne on the back and body needs to be treated aggressively with help from your dermatologist.

Benzoyl Peroxide Body Washes for Mild Body Acne

If your back acne is mild, and you only have occasional breakouts, you may be able to get sufficient clearing benefit from on over-the-counter body wash.

Look for one containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Use it every day, but don't scrub the skin too aggressively as that may actually cause acne to worsen.

If you aren't getting good results from your over-the-counter products after a few weeks, it's time to see your doctor. Mild breakouts can quickly progress into something more severe.

Prescription Benzoyl Peroxide Products

Your dermatologist may suggest a benzoyl peroxide gel, lotion or cleanser. Lower concentrations of this medication can be found over-the-counter at the drugstore. Stronger prescriptions are also available. The back can generally tolerate higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide than the face.

Benzoyl peroxide gels or lotions are to be applied to a cleansed back once or twice daily. It can stain your clothing, so wait until it's fully dry before you get dressed. Benzoyl peroxide cleansers, on the other hand, are used once or twice a day and don't pose as great of staining risk.

Topical and Oral Antibiotics for Body Acne 

Your doctor may also prescribe topical antibiotics. Like benzoyl peroxide, topical antibiotics are applied to cleansed skin once or twice a day. They work by killing the bacterium that causes acne breakouts. Topical retinoids, such as Differin, are also commonly used.

To get moderate to severe back acne under control, you'll probably need an oral medication as well as topical treatments. Oral antibiotics commonly prescribed to help with back breakouts include tetracycline, minocycline, doxycycline and erythromycin. If you're taking oral birth control pills, remember that these antibiotics are believed to decrease the contraceptive effectiveness of the pill. A backup birth control method is recommended.

Isotretinoin as a Last Resort

If acne doesn't respond to first-line treatments, amoxicillin or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole may be prescribed. For some people, Accutane (isotretinoin) may also be an option, but it comes with serious side effects, and requires constant monitoring to avoid pregnancy. Accutane and other drugs containing isotretinoin have been shown to cause birth defects if taken by pregnant women.

Other Tips for Treating Your Body and Back Acne

Acne on the body can be irritated by sweat, so make sure you shower right after a workout. Anything that traps heat against the skin, or causes friction, can also worsen breakouts. This includes sports equipment, backpacks, purse and bra straps, and tight clothing. Try to limit or adjust these triggers as much as you can.

Just as with facial acne, avoid popping your body and back acne pimples. This is a surefire way to cause more inflammation and quite possibly acne scarring.

It can take a lot of time to successfully clear a case of back acne, so try to be patient. You have to be very consistent with your medications and daily skin care routine. If you don't feel like your medications are working, let your dermatologist know. It can take several tries before finding the treatment, or treatments, that works for you. 


"Questions and Answers About Acne." National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS). 2015. National Institutes of Health.