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What Are the Causes of Acne on the Back?

What Are the Causes of Acne on the Back? What Are the Causes of Acne on the Back? What Are the Causes of Acne on the Back?

Acne on the back, or "backne," has the same causes as acne located anywhere else on the body--an overproduction of sebum coupled with a proliferation of dead skin cells, with the possibility of bacteria and dirt and other debris thrown into the mix. So, while the root cause of back acne is the same as the cause of acne on your face, there are certain factors that increase the likelihood of flares on your back.


The American Academy of Dermatology states that "almost 100 percent" of people will develop some form of acne breakout. There is a genetic component to acne. It tends to run in families, so if either of your parents suffered from the condition, you likely will, too. Further, if either of your parents had "backne," you may be predisposed to it as well.

There is a likely correlation between genes and hormones, meaning that your genes may cause you to produce more of the hormones that trigger the oil production in your skin that leads to acne formation. Additionally, according to research published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, there is a likely correlation between genes that instigate an inflammatory response and the development of acne.


Hormones play a large role in acne formation, whether on the face, back or anywhere else on the body. Oil production is triggered by androgens, the so-called "male" hormones. When puberty begins to set in, androgens stimulate the sebaceous glands, the glands located in hair follicles that produce "sebum," the oil that lubricates skin and hair. While males have more androgen, women do as well, and hormonal imbalances can trigger an acne breakout in either sex. Because of the role that hormones play in acne formation, dermatologists often prescribe low doses of birth control pills for women who experience acne outbreaks.

Under normal circumstances, sebum would move up the shaft of the hair follicles and exit out the follicles' pores. These pores can become blocked when sebum mixes with the dead skin cells, dirt and other debris. Once blocked, sebum builds up in the follicle, causing blackheads or whiteheads. If the follicle ruptures, a pimple, cyst or nodule will form.

Acne Mechanica

"Acne mechanica" is the term given to acne that is triggered by tight clothing, backpacks, helmets or anything else that causes friction against or irritates skin. Acne Net, a journal produced by the American Academy of Dermatology, describes acne mechanica as "a form of acne caused or aggravated by heat, covered skin, constant pressure and repetitive friction against the skin." This could be, as the article in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology suggests, because irritation triggers an inflammatory response in skin, which in turn can trigger an acne breakout.

Other names for acne mechanica include fiddler's acne, soldier's acne and backpacker's acne.

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