Sweaty Underwear when left unattended, unwashed, or unchanged can lead to clogged pores and yes, butt acne. Yuck. Acne is less unsightly on the backside as, at least in theory, fewer people will see a broken out butt. Acne is also painful, and can lead to infections. In a world where most people sit in front of a computer all day an infected butt cheek can be be a reason for a workman’s compensation claim. Read more in this article from InStyle to learn more.
Benjamin Franklin once said the only things that are certain are death and taxes, but we are positive about another thing: No one wants butt acne, either. There’s no reason to be ashamed of butt acne (it happens to the best of us). However, simply because of its inconvenient location, pimples on your backside can be, well, a pain in the butt. Here, we unpack why butt acne happens in the first place — plus, how to treat and prevent it.
Related:How to Get Rid of Bacne for Good
What Causes Butt Acne
We tend to focus a lot on facial acne, but the truth is that wherever you have pores (which means everywhere on your body except the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet), you can get acne. Yep, that means even your butt is susceptible. “Butt acne, bacne, and acne on the face are all due to the same thing: oil and dead skin getting trapped in follicles, leading to inflammation and an overgrowth of bacteria,” says Jessie Cheung, MD, a board-certified dermatologist who practices in Chicago and New York.
As with other types of body or facial acne, stress is a major factor. According to the Pew Research Center, at least four in ten adults in the U.S. are more stressed than ever since the pandemic. “And those stress hormones contribute to acne flares,” says Dr. Cheung.
Remote work might also be a surprising link to butt acne: “With the increased number of people working from home and perhaps spending a significant part of their day at their desk, we’re seeing an increase in cases of butt acne from sweat and dirt pooling in that area while sitting for extensive periods,” says Nkem Ugonabo, MD, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City.
Even when we are active while working remotely, being at home has its other temptations. “We all love the comfort of ‘athleisure’ wear, but non-breathable materials like spandex can also lead to acne,” says Dr. Cheung. Plus, when you’re working out at home, it’s more convenient to sit in sweaty clothes in the comfort of your home when you’re not rushing to get to the next place. With all these lifestyle changes, it’s not surprising butt acne has become more widespread.
Is It Really Acne?
Chances are, if you have butt acne, you also have acne elsewhere on your body. If it’s isolated to your butt, however, it might not be acne. Instead, it could be a common skin condition called hot tub folliculitis. “Hot tub folliculitis is a type of acne caused by specific bacteria that grow in warm, moist environments,” says Dr. Cheung. “It usually appears in 12 to 48 hours after being in a hot tub or whirlpool and is usually very red and itchy, with pus bumps.”
Folliculitis on your butt can also occur when sweat, dirt, and oil build up after a workout. Another potential skin condition that might be mistaken for butt acne is keratosis pilaris (KP). “KP is an acne-mimicker characterized by acne-like little red bumps on the skin, caused by your skin producing too much keratin — which blocks your hair follicles and causes irritation,” says Dr. Ugonabo.
Finally, if you have bumps very close to your anus, “it might be a skin tag, hemorrhoids, or a wart instead of acne,” says Dr. Cheung.
How to Treat Butt Acne
It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that acne is specific to your butt area. Either way, if you’re sure it’s not folliculitis, KP, or another skin condition (your trusty derm can help you determine that), then the game plan for treating butt acne isn’t much different than how you would treat acne elsewhere.
Start with your in-shower bodycare with ingredients that focus on encouraging skin cell turnover. “I recommend patients look for body washes containing benzoyl peroxide and salicylic acid ingredients,” says Dr. Ugonabo. Other key ingredients to look for include glycolic acid and retinol, which are increasingly available in body washes.” For example, Murad Acne Control Body Wash uses salicylic and glycolic acids to smooth skin and unclog pores.
If you have a hand mirror nearby, topical spot treatments like Peter Thomas Roth Goodbye Acne Complete Acne Treatment Gel with salicylic acid can work, too. “However, if you’re in a rush, topicals won’t work since it’ll just rub off right away,” advises Dr. Cheung. If your lifestyle allows, consider focusing on your butt acne routine at night, when you can presumably apply a topical treatment and let it completely dry while lying on your stomach in bed (cue up the Netflix). A word of caution: One ingredient that’s best left for your in-shower routine is benzoyl peroxide. “It’s safer as a body wash because, as a topical, it can bleach your clothes,” adds Dr. Cheung.
If over-the-counter products aren’t working for you, it’s time to level up: “A dermatologist may be able to prescribe stronger ingredients, such as topical clindamycin cream,” says Dr. Ugonabo. It’s an antibiotic that helps ward off the bacteria. And if it turns out folliculitis is causing your issue, your derm will likely prescribe an anti-fungal medication instead.
It’s important to be patient and consistent when clearing butt acne. “It could take up to six weeks or more with over-the-counter products,” says Dr. Ugonabo. And while you’re waiting for your skin to heal, resist the urge to poke at your pimples. “The butt heals slower than the face, since your clothes rub against the area and cause friction and irritation” adds Dr. Cheung. So, avoid picking, which may only result in scars and dark spots.
How to Prevent Butt Acne
If you’ve got your butt acne under control and you want to keep it that way, there are a key ways to make sure it doesn’t become a recurring issue:
Get out of sweaty workout clothes, stat
We get it: You just did a tough workout, and all you want to do afterward is laze around. However, sweaty, tight clothes are a prime opportunity for butt acne to brew. “If you’re not near a shower and can’t wash off right away, wipe your body down with baby wipes in your gym bag,” says Dr. Cheung. Change out of your dirty workout clothes as soon as possible. And don’t re-wear workout clothes even if they seem clean. They could still be harboring invisible bacteria from your bike, gym floor, and beyond.
Switch to breathable, loose clothing
Your everyday clothes (especially those leggings you live in) can still attract dirt, debris, and old skin cells even when you’re not sweating. Try airy fabrics like cotton for your underwear and looser styles for your outerwear to reduce friction and irritation on your backside.
Take breaks from your desk
Give your butt a break, particularly if you work from home and are less incentivized to move around. Set an alarm on your watch to get up and walk at least once an hour to help reduce friction from sitting on your office chair all day.
Maintain your skincare routine
Once your butt acne has healed, don’t ditch your regimen. You can reduce the number of times you use your acne-fighting body products, but make it a point to keep up with it at least once or twice a week to prevent butt acne from coming back.
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