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Discover how to banish those body blemishes for good…

Breakouts can be as unpredictable in their timing as well as where they pop up. Sure they can strike from the neck up, but annoyingly from the neck down too. Common body acne-prone zones? The chest and back, where there’s a naturally higher concentration of sebaceous (oil) glands.

‘Acne can occur all over the body,’ confirms Dr Ifeoma Ejikeme, general medicine consultant and expert aesthetic physician. ‘But the face, chest and back have higher sebum levels so are more likely to be affected.’

One area that’s particularly prone to breakouts is the back. According to the NHS[1], back acne – or ‘bacne’ – affects more than half of people with acne. Often appearing in hard-to-reach (and hard-to-see) areas, we’ve broken down everything you need to know about ‘bacne’ 

Discover our picks of some of the best products, brimming with skin-savvy ingredients like salicylic acid, tea tree oil and witch hazel. A word of caution: avoid using too much, too soon if your skin isn’t used to ingredients such as exfoliating acids to avoid irritating your skin’s barrier function. We’d also recommend popping an SPF on top as some may make skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays.

Here are our 3 skincare product picks to help keep your back looking good all summer long…
Try: Boots Tea Tree & Witch Hazel Exfoliating Body Bar, £6

• Size: 100g

This exfoliating body bar, packed with tea tree oil and witch hazel, lathers up with warm water to help remove oil, dirt and dead skin cells.

Try: La Roche-Posay Effaclar Micro-Peeling Purifying Gel, £20

• Size: 400ml

This foaming face and body wash helps unclog pores and remove excess sebum with salicylic acid, zinc and the brand’s thermal spring water. Massage onto wet skin before rinsing off.

Try: Drunk Elephant T.L.C. Glycolic Body Lotion, £21

• Size: 240ml

• Vegan

• Fragrance-free

Blended with 10% AHAs, this body lotion sloughs away dulling dead skin cells, while helping to moisturise skin with plant oils and butters. Note that a slight tingling may occur on the first few applications.

Here are our 2 product picks to help manage back blemishes…
Try: Acnecide 5% w/w Gel, £10.49

• Size: 30g

• Contains hydrous benzoyl peroxide

This gel is a leave-on treatment that can be used on the face, chest and back. It contains 5% benzoyl peroxide, which effectively kills up to 95% of spot-causing bacteria, as well as microsphere technology, which helps absorb excess oil, and glycerine to support skin hydration. Always read the label.

Freederm Treatment 4% w/w Gel, £9.99

• Size: 25g

• Contains nicotinamide

• Fragrance-free

This cooling translucent, fragrance-free gel contains nicotinamide, which is anti-inflammatory to help soothe inflamed spots. Have sensitive skin? We recommend testing the gel on a small area first and waiting for 24 hours before using it on larger areas. Always read the label.


‘Back acne is caused by the same mechanisms as facial acne,’ says Dr Sophie Shotter, aesthetic doctor and founder of Illuminate Skin Clinic. ‘Pores become plugged by an overproduction of sebum and build-up of dead skin cells,’ she explains, ‘which provides the perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

Trying to figure out where they came from? Our clothes could offer up a clue. ‘If you haven’t had back acne before and suddenly develop it, question whether it could be friction-related,’ says Dr Shotter. ‘Tight fitting clothing or wearing backpacks can lead to acne mechanica – spots that are caused by friction,’ she continues.

‘Other things that can cause back acne to develop are hormonal changes, certain medications, diet and stress,’ adds Dr Shotter.

Different types of back acne

As with facial acne, there are different types of back acne that vary in severity. Non-inflammatory acne, like whiteheads and blackheads, are considered mild forms of acne.

Inflammatory acne, including papules, pustules, nodules or cysts, is more severe and occurs when sebum, dead skin cells and bacteria clog pores, leading to swelling and redness.

The NHS[2] identifies three types of acne severity:

• Mild: Mostly whiteheads and blackheads, with a few papules and pustules.

• Moderate: More widespread whiteheads and blackheads, with many papules and pustules.

• Lots of large, painful papules, pustules, nodules or cysts; you may also have some scarring.

If your back acne is moderate to severe, speak to a dermatologist or your GP, or book in with the Boots Online Doctor Acne Treatment service, which can provide more specialist advice and product recommendations, if deemed clinically appropriate. Charges apply.

How to manage back acne

Treatments can vary depending on the type and severity of acne. According to NICE[3], a topical treatment containing benzoyl peroxide can help. While for more severe cases, an oral antibiotic alongside a topical treatment may be prescribed by your GP or through the Boots Online Doctor Acne Treatment service.

While acne requires medication to help treat it, experts agree there are several simple steps you can take to help keep skin in good condition, including:

1. Upgrading your body wash
‘Start by swapping your body wash for something containing either salicylic acid or AHAs like glycolic or lactic acid,’ says Dr Shotter. ‘These ingredients will help exfoliate the skin and help wash away excess sebum.’

2. Always showering after exercise
‘If you’re a regular gym-goer, always make sure you shower promptly after a workout,’ says Dr Shotter. While sweat doesn’t cause acne, it can mix with bacteria and dead skin cells to clog pores. ‘It’s a good idea to wear loose-fitting clothing during exercise and to always remove sweaty clothing straight after a workout,’ adds Dr Ejikeme.

3. Go for non-comedogenic moisturiser
‘Don’t use a comedogenic body moisturiser post-cleanse and exfoliation,’ says Dr Shotter. These formulations may contain ingredients that are more likely to clog pores. Rather, go for lightweight, fragrance-free products.

4. Try an in-clinic treatment
‘There are also excellent in-clinic options that can complement good home care,’ points out Dr Shotter. ‘Body peels can give excellent results.’

Found this helpful? Learn more about the causes and treatment options available for acne in our guide.

All prices correct on date of publication.