Welcome to The Spot, a monthly column tackling acne and our relationships to it. Here, we ask women how they deal with blemishes at home—and consult with skincare experts to find out what really works.
Acne isn't exclusive to our faces, but we already knew that. We can get pimples on our back and chest, and we can also get butt-ne, aka butt acne. While it is definitely not something we would ever be ashamed of, it can be annoying to deal with red and irritated bumps on an area that we sit on often.
So what’s the deal? Is it a different type of acne than the one we deal with on our faces? What causes it? And, more importantly: How do we get rid of it? We spoke with New York City-based dermatologist Rachel Nazarian, M.D., for more information about butt acne. Scroll below to learn everything you ever wanted to know.
1. Butt acne is mainly caused by tight or sweaty clothing.
Yes, you might have to blame some fashion choices for causing acne on your butt. According to Dr. Nazarian, butt acne is caused by bacteria on the skin that colonizes our bodies, especially as a result of excessive sweating and the friction you get from wearing tight clothes. She explains that the friction and sweating can irritate the small hair follicles in the butt area, leading to a condition called folliculitis, which mimics acne and looks like little red bumps and whiteheads.
Dr. Nazarian says that having oily skin typically means your skin already produces an excess amount of oil and that sensitive skin is more prone to bumps and irritation. “It’s not an absolute, but the risk is there,” she says. So while anyone can get butt acne, you're more susceptible to getting it if you have oily skin.
2. Exfoliation is key to treating butt-ne.
Dr. Nazarian says to look for ingredients that gently exfoliate, like alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), and are antibacterial, like benzoyl peroxide. She recommends using a product with AHAs to give that chemical exfoliation and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs) to decrease oil production on the butt. You can also use retinoids to help with skin resurfacing and decreasing any inflammation, but she says to use those sparingly to avoid over-drying the skin.
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Two things you should never do: pick at butt acne and harshly scrub at it. “Picking at the little bumps will only increase inflammation and increase your risk of scarring and leaving marks behind,” she explains. While a scrub can help to gently buff away dead skin cells and excess buildup, scrubbing too aggressively can irritate the skin.
3. Be wary of acne scars and hyperpigmentation on your bottom.
Dr. Nazarian says that butt acne typically leaves behind little red or dark marks on the skin due to residual inflammation. For those, she says to look for products with AHAs and BHAs to help resurface skin tissue and decrease the appearance of any dark marks. You’ll also want to look for topical anti-inflammatory ingredients, like green tea, or topical retinoids (we love this gel from Differin) to remedy deeper damage and improve scarring. If the marks are severe, she recommends speaking to a dermatologist about laser and light treatments.
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Treatment for butt acne doesn’t differ too much from how you would treat acne on your face or the rest of your body. Just remember to regularly keep up your routine with the right products. Oh, and always change out of sweaty clothes.