Most butt bumps are caused by a buildup of bacteria due to sweat and moisture which gets lodged in the hair follicles. “Butt acne is typically more noticeable in warmer summer months,” says Los Angeles-based dermatologist Michael Kassardjian, DO, when things can get swampy. But it can happen year round and you don’t have to be especially active to get it. Some dermatologists, like Dr. Finney, have noticed an increase in patients complaining about butt acne due to pandemic-related lockdowns and work-from-home orders. “I think sometimes people don’t shower as much” when they don’t have to leave the house, he theorizes.
Exfoliate the Area
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“I like to have guys use a benzoyl peroxide wash or soap on the buttocks and back if they are experiencing breakouts,” says Dr. Rossi. Benzoyl peroxide, a common acne-fighting ingredient, is antibacterial and will help clear acne and folliculitis-causing bacteria away from pores and the surface of the skin.
Other proven acne-fighting acids can help as well. “Glycolic acid is good because it’s a strong exfoliator,” says Dr. Finney. “When there is sweat and clothes rubbing against skin, it can lead to the follicle getting blocked and bacteria getting trapped in there. Glycolic acid keeps the channels open.” Salicylic acid, another exfoliator found in Neutrogena Body Clear Body Wash, can help as well. He recommends steering clear from harsh scrubs, however. “Scrubs can help with some of the clogs, but can be irritating,” he says. “Alpha and beta hydroxy acids [like glycolic and salicylic acids] can do it in a gentler and more controlled manner.” Look for body washes that contain either and use them a few times a week till the bumps clear up.
Use a Spot Treatment
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Just like on your face, a spot treatment isn’t a magic bullet, but it does help. That’s because the same ingredients used to fight acne on your face, like glycolic and salicylic acids or benzoyl peroxide, can help with folliculitis as well, says Dr. Finney. Apply these spot treatments to specific pimples a couple of times a day just like you would to pimples on your face.
Sometimes, the bumps on your butt can get a little painful, especially if they’re deeply rooted beneath the surface. “If it’s a deep red nodule coming up from underneath the skin, you can try using warm compresses for 15 minutes several times a day to try to reduce the inflammation,” says Rajani Katta, MD, author of Glow: The Dermatologist’s Guide to a Whole Foods Younger Skin Diet. If it’s coming to a head, a warm compress can also help alleviate the pressure and help “get it to start to work it’s way out,” says Dr. Finney.
There’s another reason to not mess with a butt pimple: it could be something else. “A furuncle, which is usually caused from staph, is an infection of a bunch of follicles next to one another,” says Dr. Finney. And unlike pimples, these stick around. “If you have a pimple that pops out, but is not resolving and is very painful and red,” it could be a more serious infection that a dermatologist would have to prescribe oral antibiotics to clear up. When in doubt, see a doctor.
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It’s possible to have sensitive or dry skin and butt acne since most butt pimples are caused by inflammation of the hair follicles and not excess oil. If you have bumps on your butt, you can (and should) continue to moisturize. “Stay away from heavier stuff and instead look for products that are non-comedogenic and oil-free,” says Dr. Finney. This means they won’t run the risk of clogging pores and making matters worse.
Most body acne will clear up in a matter of a week or so, says Dr Finney, but if zits stay around and continue to be “juicy, angry and irritated, it’s more likely a component of a bacteria like staph.” Dr. Kassardjian recommends heading to a professional who can “possibly start you on some prescription medications to prevent infection,” he says. “A dermatologist may also extract, drain and inject larger lesions to help improve them quicker.”
Prevention is always better than a cure and the best way to prevent butt acne is to “make sure you maintain good hygiene daily, specifically after aerobic activities or after any sweating,” says Dr. Kassardjian. Make sure to always shower as soon after a workout as possible. “The combination of your sweat, heat and friction [from exercise] increases your risk of recurrent stubborn folliculitis and allows potential bacteria to brew in your clothes,” he says.
Tight clothing can keep sweat and moisture close to the skin, leading to bacteria growth and making pimples on your butt and other parts of your body more likely. Wearing looser, lightweight clothing or clothing with moisture-wicking properties, especially during exercise, can help keep butt acne away. When in doubt, “choose cotton underwear over nylon or spandex,” says Dr. Kassardjian.
Persistent body acne could be a sign of hormonal imbalances inside your body. While hormone-related breakouts are much more common in women than men, hormonal acne on the buttocks does affect some men, usually when outside testosterone sources are to blame. “Whey protein and workout supplements that are really, really high in B vitamins could cause acne or folliculitis,” says Dr. Finney. It shouldn’t be your first attempt at controlling body acne, but if it’s resistant to the other steps on this list, consider looking at your protein sources, particularly if they’re soy based, and switch them up, he says.
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Like pimples on your face, butt pimples could leave behind dark marks and scars, especially if you try to pop or pick them yourself. The best way to prevent these marks from happening in the first place is with proper treatment of the acne. “These spots will fade, but if you continue breaking out you’re just going to create new ones,” says Dr. Finney. “If you’re not targeting the bacterial component, you’re not going to get very far.” Once the breakouts are under control, ingredients like retinol can help fade any marks left behind. Apply a retinol gel or cream periodically and if it makes your skin dry, make sure to bust out the non-comedogenic lotion.
Garrett Munce writes about men’s style and grooming.
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