Unlike your face, which is on full display 365 days a year, your butt gets to go into hiding — until it’s time to wear a bathing suit, that is. Butt acne (or any acne on your body, for that matter) is unsightly and uncomfortable though, and just because you can more easily hide it, doesn’t make it any less frustrating or embarrassing. And let’s be honest: Your tush will be seen on special occasions, and in those moments, a bump-free behind will be on your mind. So what causes pimples to flare up on your bottom’s cheeks? Surprisingly, butt acne is more common than you’d think, but the reasons it happens aren’t what you think.
Is butt acne like facial acne?
The short answer: No.
To begin with, butt acne (sometimes referred to as “buttne”) isn’t really acne, per se. Here’s why: While facial acne forms due to blocked pores, the zits that take up residence on your behind develop because of folliculitis, which typically results from irritation or blockage of hair follicles, staph bacteria, fungus, or yeast infecting your hair follicles. These pesky red bumps typically occur on the skin’s surface, and can be rather itchy. Now, here’s where it gets a little dicey: If left untreated, an infected hair follicle can swell to a large, painful, puss-filled carbuncle (boil) — and since that boil’s on your behind, it can be a literal pain in the you-know-what.
But why do butt breakouts happen? I swear I clean my behind!
In a nutshell, buttne results from a multitude of factors — namely, bad hygiene, sweat, and tight-fitting clothes. The good news: These are all easily preventable causes.
Since folliculitis can result from bacterial infections, start using a quality antibacterial body wash — preferably, one that contains benzoyl peroxide — and make sure to clean your cheeks thoroughly and regularly. Go a step further with a formula that also includes a gentle exfoliator, like salicylic acid or lactic acid, to help open up pores and banish dead skin buildup so that follicles remain happy. Don’t go overboard on how you buff your bum, however; though you may think that manually exfoliating with harsh scrubs or loofahs will smooth your rear end, this can actually exacerbate the problem, increasing irritation and inflammation that could lead to hyperpigmentation (those pesky dark spots) and scarring.
Not surprisingly, sweat can play a role in buttne, so be sure to change out of your sweat-soaked clothing post-workout and, if you can, take a shower right away. Even if you’re not hitting the gym, any sweat that builds up on your behind during the warmer months can be a no-no. Opt for more breathable clothes, day and night (even when you sleep!), to help thwart the sweat-buttne continuum.
Speaking of clothes: If you’re a slave to skinny jeans and yoga pants, you may want to loosen up — your bottoms, that is. Tight clothing often exacerbates the buttne problem; the tighter the clothing, the more it can push the bacteria that resides on top of your skin into any pores or breaks in the skin. Then, voila!, folliculitis. Even your underwear (think: skin-tight thongs) can be the culprit. Choose breathable cotton undies if bumps begin to appear.
Last, but not least: Waxing your bum can lead to folliculitis as well, so upon the first sight of bumps, take a break from hair removal until you’re all cleared up.
So, how do I treat buttne?
If your tush flares up, don’t freak out — buttne is very treatable. In the event you’re suffering from folliculitis, know that these small bumps tend to disappear on their own. But be forewarned: Picking at them will only lead to long-term hyperpigmentation and potential scarring that will likely see the light of day on your next water adventure.
Finding products that specifically treat body acne is the first place to start. They’re typically formulated with a higher level of active ingredients, which the skin on your body is more equipped to handle. The SLMD Skincare Body Acne System includes a Salicylic Acid Body Wash and a Salicylic Acid Body Spray, both of which use maximum strength (2%) of your favorite BHA (that’s Salicylic Acid!) to treat body acne.
If these eruptions don’t clear up, visit your dermatologist to see what topical or oral treatments she can prescribe to help clear up the problem.
Carbuncles, those bigger boils, on the other hand, tend to stick around — and they can be extremely painful to sit on. If the boils don’t budge, visit your dermatologist; she might prescribe an oral antibiotic to fight the infection. And don’t even think about popping a carbuncle on your own; it’s unsanitary and can lead to further damage. Instead, your dermatologist can safely drain the boil in a sterile setting — and then send you, and your beautiful bum, on your way.