Battling Bacne

by Brett & Kate McKay on October 21, 2009 · 26 comments

in Dress & Grooming


Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Dil Uppal. For more skin care tips for men, check out Mr. Uppal’s blog: SCforM.

Bacne. It’s an unpleasant word to write and to read and yet unfortunately we must as this is one of the most common forms of acne you’ll find on a man. Thanks to the over-active sebaceous glands on our backs coupled with hair and several other factors, men are very susceptible to this difficult form of acne.

Bacne can leave a man embarrassed about removing his shirt in front of a lady or at the swimming pool . But thankfully it’s easily treated in a way that requires minimal back-bending and grunting. The first thing you’ll need to do is ascertain what’s causing it; then you can begin treatment.

Causes of Bacne

  • Shampoo, soap and body wash. Many soaps and shampoos contain ingredients with the potential to clog pores and create spots on your back. Eliminate anything fancy or scented and stick to plain washes for sensitive skin such as Sanex. An even better option is to use a soap especially made for treating bacne like Phisoderm Anti-Blemish Body Wash or Neutrogena’s Body Clear Body Wash.
  • Hair products.  If you wear hair products and live in warmer climes, your gel/wax/spray can melt during the day and slowly trickle down your back and into your pores. This will  cause breakouts of spots all over your upper back. Try minimizing the amount of product you use in your hair and see if it makes a difference. At night, be sure to thoroughly wash your hair clean of any product. Washing twice should do the trick.
  • Hygiene. Possibly a no-brainer to some but you’d be surprised how often men overlook the rules of basic hygiene and yet still wonder why they’re breaking out. Shower daily and/or after working out, wear a clean shirt every day, and make sure any towel you use on your body is clean and bone dry; the same goes for your bed sheets.
  • Exercise.  If you’re a man that likes to work out, bear in mind that tight fitting clothes will only exacerbate the thousands of sebaceous glands on your back with excessive warmth and sweat. Remedy this by wearing a clean cotton shirt when exercising and remember to shower immediately afterwards! A lot of guys sit around in their sweaty shirt for hours after a work out, and this breeds bacteria and break-outs on their back.
  • Internal factors. If you’ve eliminated any offending soaps, shampoos or dirty towels and your problem is still persistent, you have bacne caused by either hormones or pores clogged by the accumulation of dead skin cells. There are 2 ways to treat this, best used in conjunction.

Bacne Treatments

1. AHAs (or Alpha Hydroxy Acids) work by getting rid of the uppermost layer of skin from your body – exfoliation, in short. Try using a body wash containing AHAs like the AHA Botanical Body Soap from Mario Badescu to keep your back smooth and clear of any potentially-clogging dead skin cells. Don’t use a physical scrub with beads or a loofah as this will most likely irritate the acne and spread the bacteria across your back.

2. BHAs (or Beta Hydroxy Acids) work by cleaning out the gunk from inside your pores and are the most effective treatment against acne of any variety. If you can reach, try swiping Stridex pads across the areas of acne – the ones in the red box are the strongest. If not, you can use my personal favourite – Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid and transfer it to a spray bottle that you can then spray onto your back. If you’re lazy, Clinique and Murad both carry pre-made anti-acne body sprays (the Murad one also contains Retinol, making it a very potent treatment). Apply these to dry skin post-shower and use enough to cover the area lightly. Wait for the liquid to dry before dressing.

Follow those steps and soon enough your back will be ready and primed for any sunbathing or muscle flexing that comes your way!

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Boris October 22, 2009 at 3:59 am

A very effective way is also to avoid eating food based on refined cereals, and more generally, cereals. So, forget white bread, cheap crackers, white rice and so on.

Google “refined flour acne” for more infos.


2 Mike October 22, 2009 at 8:31 am

This information is all well and good, but sometimes acne isn’t your fault at all, and you need to go to the dermatologist for treatment. You can’t do much about the testosterone levels in your system or the bacteria on your skin, and sometimes Acutane or antibiotics are the only effective treatments.

3 Andy October 22, 2009 at 9:38 am

Acutane is wicked good. I used it back in the early 90s during its experimental stage and I think it is still working!

4 Bill Kathrein October 22, 2009 at 10:07 am

Not mentioned is the importance of diet. Many bodies, especially those of young people, do not eliminate or process the plethora of additives in processed and packaged foods. These toxins are eliminated by erupting through the integument resulting in small ulcerations on the surface. Clean up the diet with organic and other natural foods and the problem resolves. Instead of adding more chemistry to treat the symptoms, it’s better to address the source.

5 Miss Gabriel October 22, 2009 at 11:37 am

Great advice, and yet another reason to avoid hair styling products. I’m a fanatic for hair care, and so often commercial hair products (or soaps, for that matter) are more trouble than their worth. Thanks for the enlightening discussion!

6 Dave October 22, 2009 at 12:21 pm

I had some acne and bacne issues in the past. The first thing I did was stop drinking caffeine. I did this because I was getting migraines, but it cleared up my acne and helped the bacne very quickly. The other thing I noticed was that when I used non-cotton or cotton/polyester blend t-shirts or sheets, it would cause bacne a couple of days later. I now only wear cotton shirts and only use cotton sheets on my bed and it’s a ton better.

7 Charles October 22, 2009 at 12:23 pm

Thank you for these tips. It’s not a fun subject to talk about, but I’ve been really embarassed about mine and not sure how to proceed.

8 Cynthia October 22, 2009 at 12:56 pm

Hey thanks for the plug for the Paula’s Choice 2% BHA Liquid. It is by far our best-selling product, and for good reason. Paula Begoun, creator of Paula’s Choice will be hosting an online talk radio show today just for bloggers. You can just listen or call in and ask Paula any questions you may have about her products or any skin care questions – she’s reviewed over 45,000 skincare and makeup products. Send me an email if you want to participate and I’ll get you the link and call in number. It is at 9pm EST / 8pm CST / 6PM PST today, Oct 22.
Cynthia – Sr Dir of Marketing, Paula’s Choice, Inc

9 microgaming October 22, 2009 at 1:38 pm

I agree with the comments here, the diet is also a very important factor when it comes to bacne. I have had this issue in the past and AHA products worked better for me than BHA, but it all depends on the brands you use. Usually the most expensive is not the best one and sometimes a good product is not working for a person while it does for another.

10 Brendan October 22, 2009 at 1:51 pm

Had some bad acne before…

did all the creams, oral pills/etc. Only thing that really worked is Accutane. But that shit is strong and terrible for you, so if you can avoid it, avoid it. Makes your lips peel/dry/cracked every hour of the day, screws with your hair, and messes with your liver. It’s not good.

11 Chemical Erik October 22, 2009 at 5:27 pm

What worked for me is a product that you might have if you’re doing Grandpa shaves (or Great Grandpa shaves). That product is barbar’s Alum (Potassium Alum). I either rub an alum block over my back or dissolve some alum in water in a spray bottle for use on my back. I’ve found the alum is better at stopping acne and backne than AHA/BHA on me.

12 Gryphon MacThoy October 23, 2009 at 11:46 am

I had this problem for a while, until my back hair started coming in. My solution for it was simple: A back scrubber with really tough bristles. It feels great and scrubs the gunk out.

13 Anonymous October 24, 2009 at 12:24 pm

It sounds ridiculously simple, but I found that my bacne problem disappeared pretty much completely after simply drinking more water. Never underestimate the simple.

14 Chris Richardson October 26, 2009 at 12:15 pm

My workout partner is a doctor, and we have the opportunity to discuss the many unusual cases he sees everyday, and he told me about a young man who was admitted to the hospital with “bacne” so bad that it would have killed him if he had not been brought in. The sores on his back had become so infected that it had entered his blood stream and he was very sick. So this stuff can really get out of hand if you don’t keep it in check!

15 Bob SAget November 8, 2009 at 6:59 am

@ Chris Richardson -

Poor kid, how can he get any girl in that condition?

16 Andrew Lambert December 23, 2009 at 11:50 am

Just adding to what has been written: I’m lactose intolerant and once I eliminated diary, the bacne cleared quick.

17 Bill January 22, 2010 at 1:39 pm

Best and cheapest thing I’ve found is a mixture of witch hazel and tea tree oil applied after a shower. You can find all sorts of recipes, but I put a bottle of tea tree oil from Trader Joe’s (about $6) into a bottle of witch hazel from Target ( under $2). I put it in a spray bottle, give it a shake, and then spray it on my chest, back and shoulders. If I have any irritating breakouts, I put alittle tea tree oil directly on it.

18 todd b May 12, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I’ve heard that excess protein can also cause acne and or bacne. Try to limit your protein intake and see if that helps.

19 Giovanni June 10, 2010 at 2:20 am

One thing that also would help to know is detoxification. We live in a toxic environment and cleaning our bodies from the inside out is also important. This includes juice fasting and water fasting. I did a 3 day water fast and literally saw my eyes sparkle and my skin clear up.
The first 3 days suck though – if you decide to thoroughly cleanse your body. Learn about that by searching on NaturalNews dot com.

I remember finding the solution to acne very quickly: Just be clean. This includes what your skin touches on daily basis and what you put into your body. You attitude is also a factor: having a bad temper or negative attitude makes a pretty toxic environment for your body. Notice how when you get stressed out you also get breakouts.

Anyway, if I sweated, I changed my clothes and showered. No fake shampoos or soaps. Only real stuff.

20 Richard Rivers June 30, 2010 at 2:47 pm

While calling them alpha-hydroxy and beta-hydroxy acids is technically correct, the specific ones which are (almost always) in these products are, respectively, glycolic acid and salicylic acid.

Glycolic acid is potentially dangerous if used incorrectly or at too high a potency. You want to shoot for a product that is around 30% glycolic acid by volume. More risks damage, less risks no significant effect. The pH of the solution ought to be around 2 or 2.5. Again, lower pH risks damage, higher pH risks no significant effect.

There’s actually a big difference between a pH of 2 and a pH of 2.5. The pH scale is logarithmic, so half-increments actually differ by a multiple of the square root of 10, which is about 3.2. So a pH of 2 is actually about 3.2 times more acidic than a pH of 2.5. A pH of 1 is 10 times more acidic than a pH of 2, about 32 times more acidic than a pH of 2.5, and 100 times more acidic than a pH of 3.

You may want to avoid salicylic acid, since it actually makes your skin more sensitive to sunlight. In extreme cases it can induce hyperpigmentation, which is not nearly as easy to get rid of as it is to cause. Pyrithione zinc, the main ingredient in most dandruff shampoos, works just as well and doesn’t cause photosensitivity. It’s actually a potent antiseptic, working equally well on bacteria and fungi. Some such shampoos also contain salicylic acid, but these days it’s more the exception than the rule. The leading brands do not.

A small minority of people are allergic to pyrithione zinc, so if you’ve never used it before, be sure to try a small amount on a test patch of skin and watch for swelling.

21 Mike October 11, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Seems like alot of it is just genetic, maybe some things work better than others.

22 Mike October 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm

I mean different things work for different people depending on their genetics…

23 Brendan May 19, 2013 at 5:27 am

CHANGE AND CLEAN YOUR SHEETS AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK. It was shocking to me how this absolved 90% of not only backne, but all acne on my body. And single bachelors, don’t sit there and and go “well duh” to me, if you are under 30, you probably change and/or wash your sheets once a MONTH.

24 Stephanie Kayle June 15, 2013 at 1:54 pm

These tips are very good but I also find that using natural remedies also help to speed up the process.

For example, rubbing aloe vera or taking an oatmeal bath can help to clean clogged pores which is a major contributor to acne.

First time visiting your website and I enjoyed it. All the best.


25 Ilona June 20, 2013 at 11:26 am

Put some hot, moist towels on your back for ten minutes. Then get your girlfriend to squeeze out the blackheads. Lance the cysts with a fingerstick lancet and gently squeeze the trapped oil out. Finish with a bit of alcohol. Don’t irritate or dry out your skin.

26 Jay November 11, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Seriously the best thing you can use for bacne or any body acne where ever it happens to be on you is neutrogena body clear body wash grapefruit. I’ve been using it for about 3 years now and have very few breakouts, and usually only get them when I run out of it and am too lazy to go to the store and get more. Before I used it my bacne was sooo bad that I was embarrassed to take off my shirt. Every person I have gotten to use it tells me that it clears it up.

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