How to get rid of back acne, per a cosmetic dermatologist (2024)

When scrubbing in the shower — perhaps with your favorite acne body wash — you’re likely thinking to yourself, how can I get rid of back acne, once and for all?

While you won’t solve those pesky pimples overnight, there are some great treatment options to keep on hand. Of course, if your acne is severe — possibly even cystic — you’ll always want to consult your dermatologist before incorporating any product into your weekly routine.

“There are two major types of acne: (1) inflammatory acne or cysts that are bigger, redder, deeper and more painful classic pimples and (2) comedones, which are blackheads or whiteheads,” Papri Sarkar, MD, Massachusetts-based board-certified dermatologist specializing in cosmetic dermatology, told the New York Post. “You can have one or the other or both. They both start with clogged pores which can lead to whiteheads or blackheads (closed or open comedones). If they’re also filled with inflammatory cells or pus, they can become pimples or cysts.”

RELATED: Best acne face washes we reviewed

Ahead, Dr. Sarkar hand-picked the best products to help clear your back acne, along with incorporating her expertise in our in-depth FAQ section — a guide dishing out what you need to know about the acne on your skin. Say it with us: let’s eliminate those unwanted back spots as best we can.

Clean Skin Club XL Premium Face Wipes (30- or 50-Pack)

Sometimes after a sweaty workout, there’s just no time or place to shower.

“In that case, I recommend hitting a bathroom stall, stripping off your shirt and sports bra and using these to get that sweat off your skin,” Sarkar told The Post. “Then, throw on a new top so you’ve gotten that pore-clogging oil and sweat-covered shirt off your skin.”

They’re also fragrance-free, so they’ll be well-equipped for sensitive skin. Plus, if you have time for a shower, having one of these in your bathroom or gym bag is a great idea.

AMAZON $8.96 – $19.90

CLn BodyWash

“This is a great option for patients with sensitive skin who have acne,” Sarkar said, recommending the CLn BodyWash.

Plus, it isn’t irritating, is great at preventing and treating inflamed pimples and contains sodium hypochlorite.This formulation is also recommended for eczema-prone skin, too, doubling as a skin-soother to keep on hand.

AMAZON $36.00

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash (1- or 2-Pack)

How to get rid of back acne, per a cosmetic dermatologist (3)

“This product contains either four or 10% benzoyl peroxide and has a good lather which is important to a lot of my patients,” Sarkar noted. This product also features antimicrobial foaming — which is great for acne-prone skin to help deeply cleanse — that draws out dirt and debris.

However, she notes it can be quite drying, so it’s not the best option for dry or sensitive skin.

AMAZON $9.77

TARGET $9.79

“This product gently exfoliates with a PHA (polyhydroxy acid) and contains salicylic acid to help unclog pores and treat blackheads,” Sarkar noted. This formulation is fragrance-free, too, so it works well on sensitive skin.

Even better, it’s readily available to order online and just $10.

AMAZON $9.97

TARGET $9.97

WALMART $9.97

Murad Acne Body Wash

“This formulation hits acne with multiple ingredients to get it under control,” Sarkar noted. “It contains salicylic acid and glycolic acid and also contains fine date seed extracts for some mechanical exfoliation.”

Plus, patients who don’t feel like their body wash is working unless it has a scrubbing component will like this one.

MURAD $48.00

SEPHORA $48.00

ULTA BEAUTY $48.00

Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Alpha Beta Exfoliating Body Treatment Peel

“These are great supersized pads that help to treat acne and lighten some of the hyperpigmentation that can accompany it,” Sarkar said. “I recommend using them once a week.”

If you want to help reduce the look of crepey skin, too, these pads are here to help. This precise blend of alpha and beta hydroxy acids, enzymes and bakuchiol (a retinol alternative) is gentle on the skin as well.

Oh, and Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare has some of the best glycolic acid products we’ve tried (hello, Alpha Beta Peel).

AMAZON $60.00 $57.00

DERMSTORE $60.00

SEPHORA $60.00

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Topical Retinoid Acne Treatment

If you’re plagued by blackheads or clogged pores, using this vitamin A derived gel will help to clear things up.

“This used to be prescription-only but got approved for over-the-counter use a number of years ago,” Sarkar noted. “If you need something stronger, prescription-strength tretinoin or tazarotene is a good bet!”

For more options, check out our full La Roche-Posay review.

AMAZON $35.99

LA ROCHE-POSAY $35.99

ULTA BEAUTY $35.99

Neutrogena Rapid Clear Stubborn Acne Spot Gel

If you have a large pimple that pops up and you want to hasten its departure, try applying some of this on the spot. It’s a solid, expert-recommended acne spot treatment to add to your cart.

“Just remember that this is probably a bit too strong for the face, so save it for areas off the face!” Sarkar advised.

AMAZON $13.39 $10.77

TARGET $11.39

Mighty Patch Surface Hydrocolloid Spot Patch (10-Pack)

Pimple patches aren’t just for the face. These larger than usual pimple patches are great for targeting pimples on your body.

“Bonus: if you usually carry a heavy backpack, this will help to protect the area from friction so you’re less likely to get acne scarring,” Sarkar added. “Picking at acne or the top of a pimple rubbing off from friction can increase the risk of scarring so protect pimples from fingers and friction.”

AMAZON $17.89 $16.10

HERO COSMETICS $17.99

ULTA BEAUTY $17.99

An FAQ on Back Acne

Ahead, Sarkar gave us the 411 on how to get rid of back acne safely and effectively.

What causes back acne?

Although there isn’t one singular answer, you’re likely wondering what the causes of back acne are (and, rightfully so).

“The three main things that cause back acne are hormones (that’s why we often first see it occur in the teenage years), clogged pores, and genetics (acne is somewhat hereditary),” Sarkar told The Post. “There are a few surprising triggers that people don’t think of that can contribute to these causes like not showering right after a sweaty workout or heavy backpacks that lead to friction, occlusion and pooled sweat which increase clogged pores.”

In addition, for some people (only some) things like whey protein supplements, skim milk or high sugar foods can cause acne.

What are the best at-home treatments for back acne?

In general, some easy treatments are to implement are showering or wiping your skin and changing your shirt after a workout.

“I like acne washes for back acne because they’re easy to apply and encourage showers, as well as acne creams or peels,” Sarkar added.

Why is back acne so hard to get rid of?

Below, Sarkar details the main reasons why back acne can be a struggle to eliminate:

  • People don’t care as much about back acne as their facial acne as it’s seen less often. That’s totally fine, but it does mean that people are less likely to actively treat their back versus their face.
  • It’s more difficult to reach your back area.
  • It’s not as easy to apply medicines privately because you generally have to remove your shirt.
  • Treating back acne calls for more effort/behavioral change than treating facial acne. (it’s much easier to wash your face than to shower.)

Can you use at-home treatments with a dermatologist-prescribed acne remedy?

Yes, you can use an at-home treatment with a dermatologist’s acne prescription.

“I prefer patients to do both in general especially if there is a deadline (prom, wedding, etc.) that they’re trying to be clear by,” Sarkar added.

What ingredients are best for acne-prone skin?

Depending on the type of acne, benzoyl peroxide, salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, hypochlorite, antibiotics, hormone decreasing agents (these are generally prescription) and vitamin A derivatives like retinoids or retinol are best for acne, per Sarkar.

Where on the back is acne commonly found?

“In my experience, the whole back can be affected, but the upper-and mid-back is the most commonly affected,” Sarkar noted. Acne tends to taper off as you travel down the back toward the legs.

What is cystic acne?

Cystic acne or inflammatory acne is deeper, often more painful and is inflamed. It’s often filled with pus and is much more likely to scar.

“When someone has this type of back acne I encourage earlier treatment because it’s much more effort to treat acne scarring than treating the original acne,” Sarkar recommended.

How long does it typically take for back acne to go away?

Of course, that really depends on the cause of the acne.

“If it’s mostly due to clogged pores from sweat and oil sitting on the skin it might go away quickly but if it’s due to more internal reasons like hormones it can take longer,” Sarkar explained. “In general, based on the cause, it usually takes anywhere from four weeks to four months to see a marked difference.”

Why Trust Post Wanted by the New York Post

This article was written by Victoria Giardina, New York Post Commerce Journalist & Content Strategist, who has spent countless hours researching, testing hundreds of products and comparing the latest and greatest makeup, skincare, hair and beauty items and trends to determine what’s truly worth your hard-earned cash. She evaluates formulas, textures, ingredients and more, in addition to consulting medical and industry experts. Some of Victoria’s latest conquests include reviewing the viral Korean beauty brand, Cosrx, and testing dermatologist-recommended acne cleansers. Victoria has been creating shopping guides for the New York Post since 2021 and previously held positions at Insider Reviews and CNN Underscored.

Hunting for a headline-worthy haul?Keep shopping with Post Wanted.

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