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Dare To Bear: A 101 Guide To Treating Stubborn Back Acne

Cystic Acne, Acne Scar Removal

Dare To Bear: A 101 Guide To Treating Stubborn Back Acne

As if dealing with facial acne isn’t bad enough, other areas of our body such as our back and shoulders can often erupt in reddish bumps as well.

Otherwise known as “bacne”, back acne is a problem that plagues many patients with or without facial acne. In fact, half of the people who have facial acne will experience bacne!

Statistics also show that women are more prone to bacne than men, and regardless of gender, is a condition that can make one feel self-conscious and embarrassed when wearing tank tops and dresses.

Just like facial acne, bacne is caused by three main factors:

  • Overactive sebaceous glands
  • Excess dead skin cells that clogs our pores
  • Overgrowth of P.acnes bacteria

All of these three factors are the perfect recipe to trigger inflammation in the skin, which results in blackheads, whiteheads, papules, pustules, nodules and cysts (all symptoms of acne) forming on our backs.

The causes of bacne

Remember: acne can develop anywhere where we have a high concentration of oil glands.

And yes, our backs, in particular, have more sebaceous glands per square inch than other areas of our body. Also, the skin in this area is extremely thick which makes it more susceptible to blocked pores.

Bacne is mainly caused by genetics and hormones, which is why those who are prone to oily skin often have bacne. Research has shown that the hormones that cause facial acne also play a part in bacne—specifically, too many androgens (the male sex hormone) in the body signals our sebaceous glands to produce more oil.

External factors such as sweating, taking certain medications and stress have also been shown to cause bacne. It can also appear as a type of acne called acne mechanica, which is what happens when friction, heat and covered skin from wearing tight clothing irritates the skin, clogs pores and triggers inflammation.

Given that many of us are starting to work out more in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and combined with the hot and humid weather in Singapore, it isn’t surprising why you might be experiencing a breakout on your back.

Unfortunately, bacne is an issue that is much trickier to tackle than facial acne since it often develops in more severe forms such as cystic acne. When left untreated, bacne is also more likely to result in unpleasant post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and hypertrophic, atrophic and keloid scars.

Back acne treatment options

There are a plethora of back acne treatments available, many of which are similar to the ones used in facial acne treatment.

Over-the-counter medications such as topical products containing benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are often sufficient to treat milder symptoms of bacne—the former helps by killing off acne-causing bacteria and reducing inflammation while the latter helps exfoliate and remove dead skin cells to reveal fresh and clear skin.

Retinoids can also be effective in helping to speed up the skin’s cell turnover process, unclog pores and improve the appearance of scars. However, the problem with most topical treatments is that they can be difficult and frustrating to apply. Worse still, they are often not potent enough to penetrate deep within the skin to produce any significant effects.

This is when visiting a doctor or dermatologist can help you to clear bacne. Treatments such as chemical peels that containing glycolic, salicylic and other hydroxyl acids can help clear up clogged pores, dry out acne lesions, and reduce the appearance of acne scars by nearly 90%, although it will require regular sessions to maintain your results.

Doctors can also prescribe antibiotics for those facing more severe acne, or birth control pills for females who are experiencing hormonal acne. An effective medication known as isotretinoin (a vitamin A-derived oral medication) may also be prescribed; however, it has the potential to cause side effects such as dry skin, depression and cause harmful side effects in unborn babies and isn’t suitable for pregnant women.

This is why many doctors choose to utilize laser therapy to treat bacne as they often come with minimal side effects and downtime. At our clinic, we offer the Q-switch laser to treat pigmentation issues, ageing skin and for effective acne scar removal.

It is an FDA-approved treatment that works by generating a high-energy laser pulse at a specific wavelength that is delivered onto the target area to break down pigments into smaller fragments which are then naturally absorbed and removed by the body.

A 2018 study revealed that Q-switch lasers reported an 81% reduction in acne lesions, with 60% of patients having 90% or greater reduction. This laser can also help to kill off the P.acnes bacteria to help with active acne while simultaneously treating discolouration and scarring.

But what happens if all these treatment options don’t work and your bacne refuses to go away? For patients with stubborn and severe bacne, the best treatment option is one that can reach deeper into the skin to treat acne at its root.

Treat bacne from the inside out: AGNES acne treatment

After years of experiencing recurrent back acne, you may have certain pores that are damaged and clog up more easily; causing bacne to continue reappearing at the same areas.

To shut down stubborn and overactive oil glands that causes bacne to occur in the same spot, our AGNES acne treatment works to selectively destroy acne-prone sebaceous glands to permanently treat bacne!

With the help of a magnifier, our doctors can identify all the blocked and damaged pores on the skin and using tiny, insulated micro-needles—deliver precise and powerful radiofrequency energy to zap and destroy hyperactive sebaceous glands for good.

Completed in just 30-60 minutes, it is a safe and painless procedure that comes with almost no downtime at all. Some redness and dryness can be expected, although it typically subsides within 1-3 days patients—more importantly, patients will notice a decrease of 50-70% of acne breakouts after the first treatment, with the majority achieving up to 90% clearance in just the third session!

Each course of treatment spans up to three sessions—the first is used to target the glands, the second (done on the following day) to remove dead cells from the problem pores, and the last one to remove any debris and impurities for clean and healthy skin.

All in all, AGNES is a permanent solution for anyone suffering from chronic back or facial acne which doesn’t come with the undesirable side effects of oral or topical medications! Less than 10% of acne recurred within a year after the final treatment, which makes AGNES the ultimate acne skin treatment solution.

Treating bacne @ The Clifford Clinic

Ultimately, the treatment of bacne should depend on the severity of the acne, medical history, skin type and specific lifestyle factors.

At our clinic, we offer a range of in-office treatments, topical treatments and oral medications to our patients. Recognizing that it can be inconvenient and difficult to apply creams on the back, we try our best to keep cream applications to a minimum— offering our patients a special chest and back spray that is easy-to-use.

As with the treatment of facial acne, the best type of therapy for bacne utilizes a combination approach to resolve bacne faster by targeting the various pathological factors responsible for acne development while minimizing any side effects.

This is why we offer a plethora of laser treatment for acne such as the Q-switch, fractional CO2 and V-beam laser, micro-needling radiofrequency treatments such as AGNES and INFINI RF and manual techniques such as subcision to tackle back acne scars.

Our doctors have over 40 years of experience working with acne patients and only bring in the most advanced devices and quality skincare products to provide you with the results you desire.

Bacne can be a real confidence killer, and research has shown that people with back acne are less likely to seek professional treatment until their condition becomes severe. Don’t let that be you—contact us to book your consultation today!


  • What else can I do to prevent bacne?

Especially if you are prone to bacne, making simple lifestyle changes such as making sure you rinse your hair thoroughly and using oil-free, non-comedogenic and non-acnegenic products can make a difference.

Also make sure that you change out of your workout gear as soon as you are done and to also cut down on carbohydrate-rich foods with a high glycemic index and limiting your dairy intake, which has both been linked to acne.

Remember: the majority of acne treatments requires time to see improvements—don’t be too quick to give up if you aren’t seeing results just yet!