Back acne does not discriminate for age or sex and is seen in the form of whiteheads, blackheads, pustules, and cysts. It is commonly referred to as “Backne” in slang and affects both men and women alike in the 10- to 40-age range. Knowing what causes back acne and what its treatments are is key in preventing it.



Hormone fluctuations seem to play a fundamental role in the production of back acne. This lends credence to the notion that back acne is most prevalent in the 10- to 40-age group. Because the start of puberty varies among individuals, and hormone fluctuations for menopause typically begin to occur around the age of 40, it only makes sense that this age group would be the most affected by back acne.

Androgen seems to be the leading culprit when it comes to back acne. At the start of puberty, androgen that is present in both men and women forces the oil glands to go into overdrive and produce an excess of oil. The oil glands are located directly beneath the surface of the skin and are always secreting oil through the pores and hair follicles called sebaceous glands. On the surface area of the back, there is a much larger number of sebaceous glands, thus making the back an ideal area for acne. When there is too much oil production, the result is a clogging of the hair follicles. This inhibits the removal of dead skin and, in turn, the sebaceous glands then become plugged with dead skin and excess oil. This condition is one where bacteria enjoy living and, unfortunately, the result is back acne.

Back acne is the one form of acne that does not have a known genetic predisposition. Furthermore, as opposed to other forms of acne, foods that are high in fat or grease do not contribute to back acne. It is possible that constrictive clothing may play a role in back acne, as many women report more breakouts around their bra lines where they wear their most restrictive garments. Carrying heavy loads on your back frequently may also be a source of irritant for the excess oil production. Some studies suggest that stress may play a role in back acne but at minimal levels. Excess levels of stress will cause longer healing times for back acne but is not a known trigger. Furthermore, stress may force individuals to pick at their pimples, thus, making the condition worse, but again, stress is not a known trigger for back acne as it is for many other kinds of acne.

The skin on the back has a tendency to be thicker, and this provides for stronger treatment options. The use of Benzoyl peroxide at the 10% level of concentration has been shown to be very effective in the treatment of back acne. This concentration is not recommended for other areas of skin where the skin tends to be thinner and will react to this concentration. Over-the-counter methods will be very effective in treating moderate back acne, but if you develop cystic back acne that grows deeper under the surface, this can cause permanent scarring. In these cases, it is best to see a dermatologist for prescription strength or in-office treatment of back acne.