Bacne 101: Help banish a spotty back

Finding pimples, blackheads and whiteheads on your back is more common than you may think. Our experts are here to help
Getty Images

‘My back is covered in spots, and I dread wearing a bikini or strappy dresses. What can I do to clear it up?’

The pharmacist
Boots pharmacist Scot Taylor says:

‘“Bacne” is a term for acne – think pimples, blackheads, whiteheads – on the back and shoulder areas. It’s caused by a combination of excess oil production and a build-up of dead skin cells and bacteria, which create the ideal environment for breakouts to form. For most people, this skin condition begins in puberty and usually disappears by their late teens/early twenties. But it can persist, or develop for the first time, in later life. There are things you can try at home before visiting your GP. The key is to be gentle. Wash skin no more than twice a day with a mild soap or cleanser – over-cleansing with harsh products or scrubbing hard risks irritation, which can make it worse. Don’t squeeze spots or blackheads, as it may cause scarring. And, contrary to popular opinion, oily skin needs moisturising. But avoid heavy, thick creams that can block pores, and use a fragrance-free, water-based emollient. When it comes to exercise, wear loose, breathable clothing, and shower as soon as possible afterwards to avoid a build-up of sweat, as this can irritate the condition. Keep a diary to note when skin flares up to help identify and avoid triggers. If you’re concerned about your bacne, or it erupts into cysts, see your GP, as they can scar.’

The dermatologist
Dr Justine Hextall, consultant dermatologist with La Roche-Posay, says:

‘It might come as a surprise to learn that half of those with acne on their face will also get it on their back. However, it can also be confused with folliculitis, where the hair follicles become infected and inflamed. This can happen if you’re exercising a lot, sweating and irritating the skin. If you’re not sure, see your GP for a diagnosis. Folliculitis will often clear up on its own, although severe cases may need antibiotic treatment. If it is bacne, you could consider using a gentle daily cleanser that contains benzoyl peroxide, which has antiseptic properties to help reduce the number of bacteria on the skin. Follow with a topical retinoid cream or gel, which can be prescribed by your GP. It acts as a gentle exfoliator, to help prevent dead skin cells building up in pores. And don’t forget to wear a light, fluid, non-clogging sunscreen every day, as some treatments may increase sensitivity to the sun. Having acne on your back can affect your mood, so see your GP if you’re struggling.’

Check out the Boots Acne Online Clinic*. Starting with an online consultation (subject to clinician approval), you can get access to prescription-only medicine without needing to see your GP.


View ProductsView product
Skin support

Acnecide wash 5% w/w Gel, £10.49/1.049 points (50g), helps treat acne, and is ideal for use on larger areas. Contains benzoyl peroxide always read the leaflet.

*May be able to help people aged between 16 and 65 who have mild-to-moderate acne; subject to stock availability and clinician approval; eligibility criteria and charges apply.
Photography Getty Images