Back acne (bacne) Overview
Acne is a skin condition not just limited to teenagers or on the face. Acne can affect people of all ages and any area that has oil-secreting glands and hair follicles, such as the back. Back acne, commonly known as bacne, is a particularly troublesome form of acne as the back can be a large area of acne-prone skin.
Back acne can cause problems with body image, self-esteem and anxiety. If you feel this way, consult a doctor, pharmacist or dermatologist for a treatment plan.
What causes back acne?
Just like acne anywhere else on the body, bacne is caused by a combination of dead skin cells, bacteria and body oils. Excess dead skin mixes with an excess of natural body oils, and some of the natural bacteria on the skin and blocks pores. The clogged pores then form into whiteheads or blackheads. Inflammation as a result of the bacteria may lead to cystic acne which is a slightly more severe form of acne.
A number of common factors can cause or worsen bacne including:
- Hormonal changes - Most common in teenagers and young adults or due to the menstrual cycle.
- Some medicines - Hormonal medicines and some others can have a side effect of acne or worsening acne.
- Skin products - Skincare products, some sunscreens and cosmetics that are high in oils.
- Clothing - Tight-fitting, non-breathable clothing traps sweats and oils creating an environment that can easily form pimples.
- Genetics - A family history of the condition can make the body acne-prone.
- Diet - Foods high in sugars, fats, and dairy.
Back acne (bacne) Treatments
To get rid of back acne, changes to lifestyle and the use of medicated acne treatments are often used in combination. It is important to note that before using any bacne treatment, particularly prescription treatments, you must consult a doctor or dermatologist for a diagnosis.
Creams, gels & solutions
Most mild to moderate back acne will be treated first with a topical cream or gel applied directly to the affected areas. Treatment often starts with a stepped approach, starting with over the counter medicines such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. These are generally less irritating to the skin than other acne creams and gels and may be more appropriate for sensitive skin.
Stronger topical treatments are often prescription-only medicines, available only after an online or in-person consultation with a doctor or dermatologist. They are often topical retinoids or antibiotics or a combination of several active ingredients.
Retinoids work by promoting the regeneration of skin and removing the excess dead skin. While usually effective, these tend to have more side effects such as skin peeling and dryness.
Topical antibiotics work by reducing the number of bacteria on the skin that can get into blocked pores causing inflamed acne.
Combination bacne creams and gels are considered when one agent alone is not effective in clearing the back. These target multiple acne pathways to improve clearing and results however may also cause more side effects than a single active ingredient treatment.
One downside for topical treatments when treating back acne is the difficulty of reaching and covering a large affected area. If bacne affects a large portion of your back or you are unable to apply the medicine, your doctor may consider an oral tablet treatment.
Topical treatments will generally take 4 weeks of use for a noticeable effect. 8-12 weeks of treatment may be required before the full effect is noticeable.
In cases of severe bacne, widespread acne or for patients who have skin sensitivity to topical medicines, oral back acne treatment can be prescribed. There are three major types of oral acne treatments, antibiotics, birth control pills, and oral retinoids.
Oral antibiotics, just like topical ones, work by killing the bacteria that can be responsible for acne inflammation. The reduction in bacteria has an anti-inflammatory effect on the affected areas, including the back.
Birth control medicines such as the oral contraceptive pill can be useful in controlling acne and back acne for women, particularly in those who experience hormonal acne around the time of menstruation.
Finally, oral retinoids can be used in the most severe cases after other treatments have been ineffective. While a powerful treatment, it can have many more severe side effects such as dry skin and feelings of depression.
Oral bacne treatments can take up to 8 weeks before noticeable results can be seen. They tend to be only used if topical medicines are not appropriate due to the potential to cause a greater number of potential side effects.
Bacne prevention and lifestyle tips
Preventing back acne is largely about limiting exposure to acne risk factors with small changes to lifestyle. Some tips for preventing bacne include:
- Washing sweat away - After working out or sweating in the hot sun, have a shower to wash away the sweat and oil on the back.
- Wear clean clothing - Dirt and sweat from dirty clothes on your back worsens bacne.
- Avoid tight clothing - Tight clothing can cause dirt and sweat to rub into the back, blocking pores and causing pimple formation. Wear loose breathable clothing, especially when exercising.
- Choose oil-free skin products - Keeping cosmetics, sunscreens, and other skin products should be oil-free to avoid bacne worsening.
- Eat healthily - A diet avoiding excess sugars, fats, and dairy.
- Gentle exfoliation - By using a gentle scrub and body wash, excess dead skin that causes blocked pores can be removed.
- Consult your doctor about your medicines - If you take medicines such as testosterone, contraception, or other medicines with the potential to cause acne, consult your doctor about your options and alternative treatments.
Almost all forms of back acne will resolve or are treatable with lifestyle changes and/ or the use of acne treatments. Finding the right treatment may take time. Consult a doctor, pharmacist or dermatologist if you are ever unsure about which treatment might be right for you.