We are frequently asked how to treat back acne

“How do I treat back acne?” is one of the most frequently asked questions that patients ask us at the Advanced Acne Institute; often because back acne is usually more difficult to treat than facial acne so patients often become frustrated when their attempts to treat back acne don’t work.

It’s a common belief that acne occurs only on the face. This is probably because the face is very visible and easily noticed by others. In contrast, the back is usually covered so even severe acne on the back often goes unnoticed. Nevertheless, those who suffer from back acne are often embarrassed by their condition and can become very frustrated with their continual acne breakouts, even becoming socially withdrawn. This leads them to begin a search for any remedy that promises a cure, and they become easy prey for all who claim to know how to treat acne on the back.

Acne Basics

Let’s take a step back and review the basics of acne. This will help us to better understand how to treat this particular form of acne. Although we usually associate acne with a face covered by pimples, the fact is that acne can affect many parts of the body including most commonly the chest, back, shoulders, neck and buttocks. So when deciding how to treat back acne, it’s important to understand that acne treatment can be different for each body location and treating acne on the back can often be more difficult than treating acne of the face. We’ll discuss acne treatment for other locations in future blog posts but for now, let’s remain focused on treatment of back acne.

Acne Experts

When it comes to how to treat back acne, the first thing to consider is the acne exam. An acne dermatologist will look at the common areas where acne occurs, including the face and upper body. This will help when deciding on the best acne treatment to prescribe. For example, the specific treatment of back acne depends on whether it is a mild case with just a few small pimples or if it is severe acne with cysts and scarring. When acne cysts are present, patients are often very frustrated and desperate to find an effective treatment.

When discussing treatment options with patients, it’s very important to explain which treatments will have a high likelihood of working, and which don’t. Many patients come to the Advanced Acne Institute after being treated with topical medications, without seeing any improvement. This is such a common occurrence and so frustrating for patients who are hoping for an effective answer to back acne. The truth is that topical medications are just not usually strong enough to treat back acne. Stronger treatments such as oral prescription medications are often required and are the best acne solution for patients with back acne.

Antibiotics as Acne Treatment

Antibiotic pills are usually one of the first oral medications that are tried for handling back acne. Sometimes they work, but often they are not strong enough. Even if they start to work at first, they often quickly lose their effectiveness. Therefore, at the Advanced Acne Institute, when we discuss how to treat back acne with our patients, we emphasize that antibiotics for acne are seldom used for a long period of time. We discuss other forms of therapy that may be needed if a short period of antibiotic pills does not handle it.

Treating Back Acne in Women

Spironolactone is another oral medication that can be very effective for treating women with acne on the back. Spironolactone works by blocking the hormones that trigger acne to form. It is only used for women with back acne because it can have unwanted hormonal side effects in men. When we discuss how to treat back acne with spironolactone, we always review the possible side effects of this form of acne treatment. Usually, spironolactone is tolerated very well, with very good effectiveness.

Treatment of Back Acne with Isotretinoin

For male patients or for female patients who can’t take spironolactone due to a medical reason, we discuss the use of another pill called isotretinoin, also known as Accutane. Isotretinoin is the most effective treatment available to treat back acne. It works by preventing the oil glands in the acne-prone pores from becoming overactive and enlarged. Isotretinoin can clear even the most severe cases of back acne and can be so effective that some patients can remain acne-free for very long periods even after they finish the treatment.

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