Shoulder and Back Acne

By Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Symptoms of Acne on the Back and Shoulders

Shoulder and back acne do not always require a visit to the dermatologist. That said, you should consider making an appointment if the lesions are widespread, painful, and/or chronic. Our Minneapolis-area clinics are uniquely equipped to help diagnose and treat your acne, no matter its location or severity. If you're interested in visiting one of our offices for a consultation, try tracking the location of your acne in the days and weeks prior to the visit. This can help use better determine the acne's cause and severity.

Symptoms of Acne on the Shoulders

Acne develops on the shoulders for a variety of reasons. This part of the body is often exposed, which can lead to a buildup of hair follicle-clogging debris. Nearly any type of acne can develop on the shoulders. Some cases of shoulder acne will be severe, while others can clear up on their own within a couple of days.

The issue with shoulder acne isn't its development it's the treatment. The exposure shoulders experience significantly increases the likelihood of developing an infection or increased inflammation. Additionally, people are likely to distractedly pick at shoulder acne, which can lead to additional complications. If you have lesions on this part of the body and are undergoing shoulder acne treatment, consider wearing loose-fitting clothes that cover the bumps. This will reduce the risk of infection whether caused by your habits or the environment.

Symptoms of Acne on the Back

Back acne is the second-most common place on the body to develop acne, coming in just after acne on the face. The pores on the back are easy to clog because they are larger than in other places. Because these pores are larger, the lesions that appear on the back are typically bigger, more painful, and more widespread than those that develop on the face. What's more, they can be more difficult to treat because of their relative inaccessibility.

Like acne on the shoulders and acne on the face, back acne can stem from a variety of factors. A genetic predisposition, stress, medications, and lifestyle factors can all lead to the clogging of hair follicles, which can then create acne lesions and swelling. The best way to prevent back acne from developing is to adjust your body skin care routine. This could mean anything from showering directly after a workout and using a full-body cleaner to exfoliating with a salicylic acid treatment. Wearing loose-fitting clothing can also reduce the risk of developing back acne.

What Causes Shoulder and Back Acne?

Like face acne, there are several reasons why pimples and bumps can develop on the back and shoulders. Acne symptoms can vary by cause. Determining the source of your acne is an important step in back and shoulder acne treatment.

  • Acne Mechanica: This is one of the most common types of acne to develop on the shoulders and back. Caused by friction, acne mechanica is typically the result of ill-fitting clothing, exercise, and athletic apparel, but it can also be the result of something as simple as an improperly fitting backpack. If your acne is seasonal, or if it appears after physical activity, this may be the cause of your shoulder and back acne.
  • Acne Vulgaris: This is another common form of acne that frequently develops on the back and shoulders. Also known as hormonal acne, these lesions appear when the skin produces too much sebum, or oil, which can lead to clogged hair follicles. This type of acne responds well to at-home treatment, but it can become painful and widespread, especially on the back. If you're struggling to treat your acne vulgaris, a dermatologist can provide relief.
  • Keratosis Pilaris: While not itself acne, keratosis pilaris can sometimes look like pimples. These bumps appear in patches across the shoulders, back, and upper arms. They are a result of keratin overproduction. The condition is not painful, but it can be unsightly when it appears in large swathes across the body. Most keratosis pilaris treatment is very effective.
Rare but Severe Back and Shoulder Acne Conditions

Most back and shoulder acne is easily treated, but there are two conditions that always require a professional's help. Acne fulminans, which manifests as ulcerative and nodular lesions, and acne conglobata, which is characterized by interconnected and deep lesions, both require medical treatment. When on the back and shoulders, these conditions can be very painful and difficult to treat.

Visiting the Doctor for Shoulder and Back Acne Treatment

If you're struggling to find a shoulder or back acne treatment that works for you, make an appointment at one of our Minnesota dermatology offices. Seeking medical attention can help to quickly treat the acne while also preventing it from recurring. Regardless of the acne's type or cause, a dermatologist can help. Shoulder and back acne may be easy to hide, but it is often uncomfortable. Schedule a consultation with us to start on a treatment plan designed for your acne and lifestyle.

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