Acne, or the formation of pimples, white heads, blackheads, cysts and pustules, can occur on the face, body or back. The risk of developing acne on the back increases when you take specific types of medications, such as steroids, or engage in specific activities, such as using gym equipment without wiping it down first. In the gym people sweat and deposit that sweat with bacteria on the equipment. When you sit down to workout with a wet back, you pick up the bacteria right to your skin.
Another factor in the development of back acne is the condition of facial acne. Although the development of body acne is the same as it is for facial acne, the skin is thicker and has larger pores which means you can have more severe lesions on the body and back.
The back also has a large number of sebaceous glands. These glands produce oil and can lead to clogged pores. Perspiration, tight clothing, synthetic material that trap sweat next to surface oils and stress are all factors that will predispose you to developing acne over your back and chest areas. Acne will also tend to be more prevalent in certain families and be triggered by hormonal changes (puberty, pregnancy), hair products, cosmetics, and high levels of humidity in the air.
Like facial acne there are things that you can do to treat and prevent further outbreaks. Keep your back area clean and dry. After the gym workouts, take a shower and change your clothes. Don’t wear tight fitting shirts to the gym or during the day. These just trap perspiration near your skin which mixes with oil and clogs your pores.
Avoid using any cosmetics, sunscreens, hair products or other products that are irritating to the skin. Use things that are labeled “water-based” or “noncomedogenic” which means they don’t have a tendency to clog the pores and trigger whiteheads or pustules.
Don’t pick or squeeze any of your blemishes. Picking and squeezing can drive the infection deeper into the skin and cause the pimple to grow in size. Opening the pimple up also exposes it to further bacteria and it can cause the pimple to scar your face.
Some over the counter preparations that can help to reduce the bacterial growth on your back and heal acne include Tea Tree Oil, Alpha Hydroxy Acids, Azelaic Acid, zinc supplements and brewer’s yeast.
Acne: Back and Body acne
PubMed health: Acne
National Insitute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and skin diseases: Questions and Answers about Acne