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Back and Body Acne

Information and Treatment for Back and Body Acne

By: Dan Kern, Acne.org Founder & CSO
Last updated: October 04, 2019

The Essential Information

Body acne is very common. In fact, more than half of people with facial acne also have some body acne.

It can occur anywhere on the body other than the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, but tends to show up most often on the:

  • Back
  • Chest
  • Back of the neck
  • Shoulders
  • Upper arms

The skin in these areas have larger pores and skin oil glands compared to the face and often produces more severe lesions. Treatment for body acne is similar to treatment for facial acne, but the skin on the body tends to be tougher than the skin on the face and can withstand more aggressive treatment.

The Science

Body acne, which most often shows up on the back and chest, is very common. You may not realize it because people are normally wearing clothes, but more than half of people with facial acne have some amount of body acne.1-3This is because, much like the skin of the face, the skin of the back and chest contains more sebum (skin oil) and acne bacteria than the rest of the body. Body acne develops in a similar way to facial acne. However, the skin on the body can be thicker than that on the face and often has larger pores, making for more severe acne lesions at times.4

Body Acne Can Develop Anywhere

Acne can develop anywhere on the body except for the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. That is because these are the only two areas that do not have sebaceous follicles where acne is formed. If you're wondering if the pus filled red marks on your neck, shoulders, arms, legs, buttocks, or elsewhere are acne, chances are they just might be. If you are unsure, see a dermatologist for a diagnosis.

Sebaceous Follicle

As with any type of acne, the exact cause of body acne remains unknown. However, we do know that physical irritation can make it worse. This is so well accepted in scientific literature that it has its own name, acne mechanica. Anything that rubs against your skin can cause irritation. While sweat itself should not cause acne, damp, sweaty clothing combined with irritation tends to exacerbate irritation and further aggravate acne.5-6

Acne Mechanica

Avoiding Irritation

  • Wear breathable cotton clothing when possible. If you get sweaty, try to change your clothing when you can.
  • Time your workouts so that you can shower and treat your skin using The Acne.org Body Regimen afterward.
  • Generally try to be aware of what might be irritating your skin in areas where you break out regularly and make changes where you can.

Don't worry too much.Our bodies are constantly in contact with various things and it is impossible to avoid irritation altogether. There is no need to obsess about avoiding irritation on the body. Rather, simply be aware of small changes you might be able to make and leave it at that. The Acne.org Body Regimen should clear you up nicely and does not require you to avoid irritation altogether.

Treating Body Acne

The Acne.org Body Regimen. The most effective topical treatment is The Acne.org Body Regimen, which uses the combination of 2.5% benzoyl peroxide and 10% glycolic acid. This powerful combination can clear up even tough to treat cases of body acne. However, the process of The Acne.org Body Regimen is just as important as the products. It must be followed precisely to be effective.

Accutane (isotretinoin). For severe, widespread, and potentially scarring acne, Accutane (isotretinoin) is an option. Isotretinoin is a systemic oral treatment which is taken for 15-20 weeks and produces long-term remission of acne symptoms in about 2/3 of people, but comes with a large range of side effects, some potentially long-term, including causing severe birth defects, and must be administered in close partnership with your physician.

Ongoing Treatment. Treatment must continue until your body outgrows the disease, which the majority of people do for the most degree after adolescence. Aside from Accutane (isotretinoin), there is no other oral or topical treatment for acne that has a chance to produce long-lasting remission of acne symptoms. However, ongoing treatment can get the skin completely clear and keep it that way for years if need be.

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  1. Del Rosso, J. Prevalence of truncal acne vulgaris: A population study based on private practice experience. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 56, AB3 (2007). https://www.jaad.org/article/S0190-9622(06)02914-8/fulltext
  2. Tan JK, et al. Prevalence and severity of facial and truncal acne in a referral cohort. J. Drugs Dermatol. 7, 551-556 (2008). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18561586
  3. Del Rosso, J. et al. A closer look at truncal acne vulgaris: prevalence, severity, and clinical significance. J. Drugs Dermatol. 6, 597-600 (2007). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17668525
  4. Mourelatos, K., Eady, E. A., Cunliffe, W. J., Clark, S. M. & Cove, J. H. Temporal Changes In Sebum Excretion And Propionibacterial Colonization In Preadolescent Children With And Without Acne. Br. J. Dermatol. 156, 22-31 (2007). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17199562
  5. Short RW, et al. A Single-Blinded, Randomized Pilot Study to Evaluate the Effect of Exercise-Induced Sweat on Truncal Acne." Pediatric Dermatology 25, 126-128 (2008). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18304176
  6. Freiman, A., Benjamin, B. & David, J. E. Sports dermatology part 1: common dermatoses. CMAJ 171, 851-853 (2004). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC522647/

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