The 10 Best Back Acne Treatments of 2023 for Clearer Skin

First Aid Beauty’s treatment pads do it all in just one swipe.

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Back Acne Treatments


There are two types of back acne in the world — one is hormonal and the other is sweat-related. I’m a member of the latter group. And I often find myself struggling with back acne in the winter months. You’d think that it would flare up more in the summer months, but I notice that it gets worse in the winter when my back is trapped under heavy sweaters and jackets with no room to breathe. I find myself reaching for my back acne-treatment arsenal all winter (think: body washes, sprays, pads, and much more). 

Whether you deal with hormonal back acne, bacteria-fueled back acne, or somewhere in between, I’ve tested the best back acne treatments on the market and listed my faves below. A sure winner is the First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma White Clay Acne Treatment Pads 2% Salicylic Acid, which works to effectively fight back acne with one easy swipe each day. 

Read on for our other favorite treatments.

Best Overall

First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma White Clay Acne Treatment Pads 2% Salicylic Acid

First Aid Beauty FAB Pharma White Clay Acne Treatment Pads 2% Salicylic Acid


What We Love: It’s so easy to swipe and go.

What We Don’t Love: They could be a bit drying if used more than once a day. 

There’s truly nothing better for fighting acne than a good ‘ole treatment pad, especially back acne. But gone are the days of using super-strength pads on delicate skin — this pick from First Aid Beauty is alcohol-free and won’t cause major irritation. It contains 2% salicylic acid, along with kaolin clay and Evermat to absorb dirt, oil, and minimize the appearance of pores. 

I like to apply these to my back right when I get out of the shower. Because I have sensitive skin, I will usually use them a few times a week. If you have super oily skin, I’d recommend swiping across your back once daily—make sure the formula has dried down on your back before putting your clothes on. These can be a bit drying, though, so I wouldn’t recommend using them more than once per day. 

Price at time of publish: $30

Active Ingredients: 2% Salicylic acid | Size: 60 Pads

Best Spot Treatment

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Topical Retinoid Acne Treatment

La Roche-Posay Effaclar Adapalene Gel 0.1% Topical Retinoid Acne Treatment


What We Love: Retinoids work well to target active acne and scarring. 

What We Don’t Love: You might need someone else to help you spot treat your back. 

Adapalene, a type of retinoid, works to effectively treat and prevent acne by promoting cell turnover slowly and gently. But it also prevents your pores from getting clogged and helps to fade away any scarring. 

If you’re prone to acne on your back, it’s a good idea to apply this clear gel to a large area to treat and prevent new pimples from forming. We suggest applying this pick at night because retinoids can make you more prone to sunburn. (Make sure you apply an adequate amount of sunscreen to treated areas.)  Because this isn’t a spray or a peel pad, it might be a bit difficult to apply it on yourself, on your back. 

Price at time of publish: $32

Active Ingredients: 0.1% Adapalene | Size: 1.6 oz.

Best Body Spray

Versed Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist

Versed Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist

Versed Skin

What We Love: It has a continuous spray. 

What We Don’t Love: It feels slightly sticky.

Treating back acne is hard because, well, it’s not easy to actually reach your own back to apply treatment. Thankfully with the Versed Back-Up Plan Acne-Control Body Mist, you don’t have to worry about that. This pick features an easy continuous spray mechanism that allows you to spray the bottle upside down (if you need to) and reach all the spots on your back. 

Two percent salicylic acid, witch hazel, and tea tree oil all work together to help fight body acne. Because it’s fast-drying, it’s easy to apply and go — basically, it’s great for anyone too impatient to wait for it to dry. That being said, the formula is a bit sticky-feeling if you apply too much. I would make sure that it completely dries down before putting on your clothes. Additionally, if the sticky feeling really bothers you, perhaps consider applying it at night (while you snooze), rather than during the day.

Price at time of publish: $15

Active Ingredients: 2% Salicylic acid | Size: 3 fl oz.

Best Salicylic Acid Body Wash

Murad Acne Control Acne Body Wash

Murad Acne Control Acne Body Wash


What We Love: It features a cool, tingling feeling that’s actually pleasant. 

What We Don’t Love: The beads might make it too harsh for sensitive skin.

Not only does this body wash contain one percent salicylic acid, but it also uses date seed powder and glycolic acid to gently exfoliate and remove pore-clogging oils and dead skin. Plus, the added licorice root and green tea extracts will help calm inflammation and make your bacne appear less severe. 

I love the cool, tingling feeling this body wash offers — it feels like a nice relief on inflamed skin. It’s important to note that this pick does contain physical exfoliating beads in it, so if you’re not a fan of those, you should opt for something else. Thankfully, the beads in this pick are super gentle on the skin, so I’d say it’s safe for daily use.  

Price at time of publish: $46

Active Ingredients: 1.0% Salicylic acid | Size: 8.5 oz.

Best Patches

Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Surface

Hero Cosmetics Mighty Patch Surface


What We Love: They can cover many pimples at once.

What We Don’t Love: Because they’re so large, they’re not the most comfortable thing to wear on your face.

I have a confession to make: when pimple patches made their way over to the states years ago, I thought they were just another gimmick. Boy, was I wrong. I can’t live without my pimple patches nowadays and appreciate how much they speed up the healing process. 

This pick from Hero Cosmetics features XL patches that work to cover larger areas on either your face or body. They are made with a medical-grade gel (hydrocolloid) that absorbs the gunk found in a pimple, which can help flatten pimples and make them heal quickly. 

If you’re dealing with bacne, you might need some help applying these to your back. Ask your roomie or partner to apply a patch or two to areas of your back that are breaking out.

Price at time of publish: $18

Active Ingredients: N/A | Size: 60mm length x 25mm width

Best Benzoyl Peroxide Body Wash

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash

PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash


What We Love: It’s the highest over-the-counter benzoyl peroxide wash on the market. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s super strong and not ideal for sensitive skin.

When you think of an acne body wash, I bet the PanOxyl Acne Foaming Wash is the first image that pops into your head. Well, at least it is for me. This super-strong foaming wash contains a whopping 10% benzoyl peroxide, and will kill acne-causing bacteria in its tracks in no time. 

Because this face wash is so strong, I personally wouldn’t use it on my face—I have super sensitive skin and need to be picky about which acne-fighting products I apply to my face. However, I love using this foaming wash in the winter, when I sweat under my sweaters and jackets and my back acne flares up. 

It’s important to note that because this wash is made with benzoyl peroxide, there is a possibility that it could stain your clothing or sheets. Considering it’s a wash that’s rinsed off, I don’t foresee you having any issues with staining. 

Price at time of publish: $10

Active Ingredients: 10% Benzoyl peroxide | Size: 5.5 oz

Best Body Wash for Sensitive Skin

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser

CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser


What We Love: It’s a mild wash for sensitive skin. 

What We Don’t Love: It’s not a one-and-done acne-fighting product.

If you’ve got sensitive skin that can’t handle a super aggressive foaming wash, consider trying the CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser. Salicylic acid works to gently fight acne while three different ceramides protect the skin’s barrier.

Hyaluronic acid adds moisture back into the skin, while niacinamide works to calm any inflammation or redness. I love that it’s fragrance-free and super gentle on the skin. If you love a great facial and back acne treatment combo, this cleanser can work well for both. 

The only downside with this pick is that, because it has a mild amount of salicylic acid, it’s not the strongest product for fighting acne — I’d probably use a spot treatment after using this wash for extra acne-fighting effectiveness.  

Price at time of publish: $11

Active Ingredients: Salicylic acid | Size: 8 fl oz.

Best Shampoo for Breakouts

SEEN Skin-Caring Fragrance-Free Shampoo

SEEN Shampoo, Fragrance Free - Dermatologist-Developed - Non-Comedogenic


What We Love: It’s designed and recommended by a dermatologist. 

What We Don’t Love: For severe breakouts, you need to use it in conjunction with another spot treatment or body wash.

Did you know that your shampoo and conditioner might actually be contributing to your back acne? This shampoo from SEEN was specifically formulated to not clog your pores, so when the time comes to lather up, you don’t need to worry about your shampoo causing a scene as it rinses down off your back. Hemisqualane for frizz reduction, smooth hair, and color protection, while bisabolol to help soothe your skin. It might soothe your scalp, too. It even works for all hair types, all skin types, and is safe for color- and keratin-treated hair, too. We love the scented version, but the brand does offer a fragrance-free version if you have super sensitive skin. 

While I love the simplicity of this formula, it isn’t cheap and depending on the severity of your breakout, it might need to be used with another acne-fighting product. If you think your shampoo and conditioner might be affecting your back acne, it might be a good idea to splurge on this specific pick — but, if you’re not convinced that your hair products are the culprit, feel free to skip. 

Price at time of publish: $29

Active Ingredients: N/A | Size: 8.6 fl oz.

Best Body Lotion

Paula's Choice Weightless Body Treatment 2% BHA

Paula's Choice Weightless Body Treatment 2% BHA


What We Love: It’s a gentle yet effective body lotion to target bumps. 

What We Don’t Love: Some reviewers have reacted badly to this product.

Formulated to help treat a skin condition called keratosis pilaris (KP), this pick from Paula’s Choice also works wonders for back acne, thanks to its stellar ingredients. Featuring two percent salicylic acid, this body lotion will help moisturize your entire body while minimizing the appearance of KP and acne bumps.

This pick is one of Paula’s best sellers, but some folks have complained about the bad reactions they’ve had from this formulation. Make sure you always patch-test a product and see how your skin reacts before applying it to your face or entire body.

Price at time of publish: $28

Active Ingredients: 2% Salicylic acid | Size: 7 fl oz.

Best Body Scrub

Neutrogena Body Clear Acne Body Scrub with Salicylic Acid

Neutrogena Body Clear Body Scrub


What We Love: The aloe and chamomile included will soothe the skin as it cleanses.

What We Don’t Love: It can’t be used daily.

Neutrogena gets a lot of recognition for its body and face washes that fight acne, but we’re equally as in love with this body scrub. It contains two percent salicylic acid with gentle exfoliators to help slough away dead skin, further helping your acne treatment penetrate into the skin more easily. Additionally, it’s free of harmful-to-the-environment plastic microbeads, which is sometimes hard to find in drugstore body scrubs. 

While I love this classic, I don’t recommend using it every day. I recommend using it a few times a week (or every other day) to prevent over-exfoliating your skin.   

Price at time of publish: $8

Active Ingredients: 2% Salicylic acid | Size: 8.5 fl oz.

What to Keep in Mind

Active Ingredients

One of the most important things to consider when choosing a back acne treatment is the active ingredients. “Look for something with active ingredients that will treat the acne you have right now,” explains Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL. “Look for a treatment that can help prevent acne from forming, either by killing acne bacteria, or expediting cell turnover.”

Your Skin Type

You also want to consider your skin type — do you have dry skin, oily skin, or combination skin? “Choosing a product, or regimen of products, that complement your natural skin type will be most helpful in regulating back acne,” explains Hartman.

Over-the-counter vs. Prescription Treatment

Finally, you want to see a professional if you think your back acne might be severe. Dr. Anar Mikailov, a board-certified dermatologist, founder of KP Away, and co-founder of Skintensive, suggests starting with a visit to your dermatologist to determine the cause of your acne. “If you are using a hammer where a screwdriver is needed, then it does not matter what brand or ingredients you use,” he says. “Make sure you understand the cause of the problem first, then look for the right solution.” 

Either your dermatologist will recommend over-the-counter products that contain ingredients like sulfur, salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, or retinoids, or they will prescribe you something else. “Some prescription products will be a combination of these ingredients and work very well,” says Mikailov.

Your Questions, Answered

What causes back acne?

Like face breakouts, back acne can be due to several different causes, according to Mikailov. “In the teenage years, back acne is usually hormonal, identical to the acne seen on the face,” he says. “Other causes of back acne include pityrosporum (yeast), medication-induced acne (such as steroids, lithium, or chemotherapy), hormonal acne post-adolescence (in women age 20 or greater and around menstruation), acne fulminans, acne conglobata, folliculitis due to pseudomonas or other bacteria or other acne mimickers.”

You might notice that your back acne flares up when you’re sweating more often. “Back acne is worsened when you wear sweaty clothing for an extended period of time, or have a lot of friction on the back caused by anything from wearing a backpack to workout equipment,” explains Hartman. “Back acne is most common on the upper back and shoulders as you have more sebaceous glands in those areas — sebaceous glands are responsible for the production of oil.”

What's the best treatment for back acne?

Treatment depends on how severe your back acne is. “If you have mild back acne, the best treatment is a benzoyl peroxide body wash — benzoyl peroxide kills the p.acnes bacteria that causes acne and it helps to clear out pores,” says Hartman. “Use it daily and wash your back with a clean washcloth (make sure it’s white in color, as benzoyl peroxide can bleach dark fabrics).” If you have severe back acne, which is often tied to hormones, Hartman’s patients see success with the oral medication called Spironolactone.

Another easy treatment for back acne is to try extra hard to avoid it from forming in the first place. “If you work out, shower and clean your back immediately—don’t sit in sweaty clothing for any longer than you need to,” suggests Hartman. “Make sure to take a shower to remove sunscreen after being outside, as sunscreen can clog pores and lead to back acne.”

Why Shop With Us

Daley Quinn is a freelance writer, specializing in beauty and health, who has contributed to numerous publications, such as Elle, Real Simple, Allure, The Cut, WWD, and more. She used her personal experience with acne to report this story, and she consulted experts — like Dr. Corey L. Hartman, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Skin Wellness Dermatology in Birmingham, AL., and Dr. Anar Mikailov, a board-certified dermatologist, founder of KP Away, and co-founder of Skintensive — for the best tips on treating back acne.

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