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Sudden Back Acne

author image Shannon Marks
Shannon Marks started her journalism career in 1994. She was a reporter at the "Beachcomber" in Rehoboth Beach, Del., and contributed to "Philadelphia Weekly." Marks also served as a research editor, reporter and contributing writer at lifestyle, travel and entertainment magazines in New York City. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in literature from Temple University.
Sudden Back Acne
Friction from clothing can cause acne to occur quickly. Photo Credit back image by Valentin Mosichev from <a href="http://www.fotolia.com">Fotolia.com</a>

The back is one of the most common places for an acne breakout, according to the National Women's Health Information Center. Pimples form when hair follicles become clogged with oil, bacteria and dead skin cells. Though acne is not a serious health problem it is one of the most common skin conditions in the United States. If not treated properly, back acne can cause permanent scaring.


Daniel Kern of Acne.org reports that acne can be considered a hormonal disease. Hormones activate glands below the hair follicle to secrete sebum, an oil that lubricates the skin and hair. Too much sebum can clog pores and cause inflammation. Your hormones are more likely to become unbalanced and cause a sudden acne breakout during puberty, pregnancy, menopause, menstruation and times of intense or increased stress.

Gender Differences

Acne affects men and women differently. Although men usually have more serious forms of acne, reports the National Women's Health Information Center, breakouts in women are often linked to hormone changes, which can shift quickly. One disorder unique to females, Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, or PCOS, is caused by hormone insensitivity. According to PCOSupport, one of the main symptoms of PCOS is acne, which can occur frequently and quickly.

Preventing Breakouts

When your acne is unpredictable and occurs quickly, it's best to maintain a preventative treatment regimen. Dr. Geoffrey Redmond of the Hormone Help Center in New York explains that hormonal treatments work by blocking androgen's effect on the oil glands. Prescription oral contraceptives lower testosterone levels and protect oil glands from exposure to the acne-causing hormone.

Treating Sudden Breakouts

Over-the-counter acne medications can be used by men and women to treat sudden acne. Benzoyl peroxide works by killing the bacteria that cause acne. Benzoyl peroxide can also dry your lesions and cause the top layers of skin to peel, allowing newer, healthier skin to grow in its place. Salicylic acid sloughs off dead skin cells and prevents pores from becoming clogged.

Other Causes

You don't have to have sensitive skin to experience a sudden breakout caused by irritants such as clothing or sweat. Acne mechanica is a form of acne that's caused by heat irritation, covered skin and constant pressure and friction against the skin, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists. Avoid touching your back with your hands, which could spread surface oils and bacteria. To treat dry skin on your back, the Mayo Clinic suggests using a water-based or noncomedogenic moisturizer. Wear loose cotton tops and use a shoulder bag instead of a backpack. Avoid using a backpack when it's hot outside; sweat can worsen your acne or make it more difficult to heal.

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