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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan and Physician Luke Yau Wai on August 8, 2022

How To Get Rid Of Back Acne

Back acne can be hard to treat, especially if you live in hot environments where sweating is inevitable. Follow these tips to help keep your skin clear and healthy.

Back acne min scaled

Back acne occurs when you develop acne on your back. This may include your upper back, in between shoulder blades, and the top of your shoulders.

It occurs when oil, dead skin cells, and sweat get trapped in pores. Clothing, sports bras, and sweaty sports equipment can worsen the condition.

In this guide, we’ll explain why you may have back acne, even if you don’t have acne on your face. Our experts provide tips for clearing it quickly.

What Causes Back Acne?

Eating too many fried, fatty foods may contribute to back acne.

Back acne stems from clogged skin pores. A few substances or matter that get trapped in the pores daily are sweat, dirt, dead skin cells, and a type of oil called sebum.

Sebum, in particular, is essential for protecting the hair and skin. However, excessive oil production will induce plugged pores and acne. 

Stress and anxiety

Someone who has anxiety or stress produces more cortisol – a type of hormone that primarily regulates how they respond to stress – than that of a relaxed person. When cortisol levels rise, so does the amount of sebum in the skin’s pores.

Gland disorders

Cushing’s syndrome is more predominant in women and adolescent females but more frequent among pre-adolescent males. A rare endocrine disorder (hypercortisolism), the disease appears with many clinical symptoms or physical abnormalities.

One of these is steroid acne. This causes red, single-form papules – raised bumps on the skin surface – or small, pus-filled blisters on the face, neck, upper trunk, and extremities.

Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is another endocrine disorder that centers on a surplus of androgens – a group of reproductive hormones that primarily influence the growth and development of the male reproductive system – in a woman’s body. It can manifest as inflammatory or non-inflammatory acne lesions on the chest and back.

Improper diet

Overconsumption of fatty, spicy, or sugary foods can provoke an appearance of back acne.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the condition’s development due to food consumption is associated with the Spleen and stomach.

The two organs absorb, transform and transport food, which is why when food is too cold, heaty, or greasy, it affects the Spleen and stomach in the Cold, Heat, and Dampness pathogens respectively. 

When Damp-Heat amasses internally in the Spleen and stomach, it’ll reflect externally as skin acne on the back.

Irritating clothing

Shirts or pieces of clothing that rub against sweaty skin can trigger or worsen back acne.

Backpacks and some types of sporting equipment can also have the same effect. It occurs when sweat gets trapped between a person’s skin and clothing, clogging the pores.

People with hyperhidrosis – abnormal sweating that doesn’t necessarily relate to exercise or heat – are more likely to have back acne than people with normal sweating.

Hormone imbalances

Acne can affect both men and women. Women have a higher risk, especially if they’re pregnant or going through menopause.

In addition, a woman could experience hormonal changes during her period, if she has irregular periods, or after she stops practicing birth control.

A man will see a change in hormone levels if they undergo testosterone treatment.

3 Ways To Get Rid Of Back Acne

The signs of back acne include: 

  • Blackheads 
  • Whiteheads 
  • Cysts – deep bumps usually filled with pus under the skin’s surface 
  • Nodules – hard lumps under the skin surface 
  • Blind pimples – red skin bumps without a head 

If you notice a recurrence or a significant number of pimples on the back, it’s advisable to seek treatment with a healthcare provider.

Keep skin dry and cool when it’s hot out

Avoid letting your back get overly heated or sweated. Make sure to clean skin and cool down properly after exercising.

A hot and humid environment coupled with the wearing of non-breathable, tight-fit clothing can increase the possibility of back acne.

Hence, it’s better to wear clothing made from breathable or sweat-wicking materials. It’ll ensure optimal airflow behind the back, thus alleviating or averting acne onset.

Your back will also thank you if you use a gentle, unperfumed soap on it when showering. Ensure you dry your back properly before putting clothes on.

Find healthy ways to handle stress

Emotional regulation plays a central role in relieving stress and breaking through psychological barriers – anxiety, anguish, depression, melancholy – that impair the endocrine system.

A few techniques or therapy types that can be considered are: 

  • Mindfulness 
  • Cold showers 
  • Listening to calm, gentle music 
  • Acceptance and commitment to therapy 
  • Cognitive or dialectical behavioral therapy 
  • Stimulating acupoints that can help to calm the heart to reduce stress and anxiety, including Shen Men (HT7), Nei Guan (PC6), Bai Hui (GV20), Feng Chi (GB20), and San Yin Jiao (SP6)

Improve your diet

A platter of Chinese herbs is surrounded by small bowls of herbs
Adding Chinese herbs to your diet can help with back acne.

Eat bland foods that are not sweet or oily.

“Increasing your consumption of fruits and vegetables like cucumber, celery, hawthorn berry (Shan Zha), bitter gourd, lotus root, and winter melon can eliminate Heat and Cool Blood. White-colored foods, such as radish, snow fungus (Yin’er), lily bulb (Bai He), and snow pears (Xue Li) help clear Lung Heat. Drinking an ideal quantity of water helps maintain smooth excretion and stave off toxin accumulation,” explains Eu Yan Sang Physician Luke Yau Wai.

Likewise, you may also consider the use of herbal remedies, such as Bu Qi Jian Zhong pills and Kang Du Qing Fei pills, Pear Nourishing Herbal Soup, and Si Shen Appetising Herbal Soup. Using an herbal calming relief skin cleanser may help improve skin texture and clear acne without irritating sensitive skin.

You Can Treat Back Acne Naturally

Naturally, clean skin will enable a person to be free of back acne. To prevent this annoying and painful condition, you may consider using herbal foods or formulas. However, each has differing effects and is suitable for different acne conditions.

The cause of your back acne should be identified before the consumption of herbal remedies. Speaking to a TCM practitioner will help clarify if these are suitable for your specific acne condition. 

References

  1. Cleveland Clinic. Back Acne
  2. National Library of Medicine. 2017. Dermatologic manifestations of endocrine disorders
  3. Cleveland Clinic. Hormonal Acne
  4. PsychCentral. Do You Know How to Manage Your Emotions and Why It Matters? 

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