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When the weather starts to heat up, some people may get stressed over showing more skin — especially if one’s prone to body breakouts or butt acne. Stress and sedentary lifestyles (so basically, the past year and a half of everyone’s lives) can also lead to all-over breakouts, so it’s no surprise that body acne is on the rise. And well, while it may sound embarrassing, just know that it’s completely normal and you’re far from alone.
So, if you’re looking for a way to avoid the kind of lumps Fergie wasn’t talking about, we’ve got you. We spoke to cosmetic dermatologists to learn how to get rid of butt acne once and for all.
What is butt acne?
Most importantly you should know that, typically, breakouts on your butt aren’t actually acne. “Acne on the buttocks is typically not considered to be true acne, but another form of skin irritation called folliculitis,” says board-certified dermatologist Michele Green, M.D., who is based in New York City. “Folliculitis occurs when there is irritation of the hair follicles of the skin, creating red bumps that closely resemble acne lesions.”
That irritation likely comes from repeated friction in one area, and any number of everyday activities may be the culprit — wearing tight-fitting underwear or bottoms, skipping the post-exercise shower, shaving or waxing, or even sitting in a hot tub.
An easy way to tell if it’s folliculitis, which is truly an infection of the hair follicle, is how it feels, along with its placement on the body, says Joshua Zeichner, M.D., the director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. These bumps usually appear as small, shallow lumps, which tend to be itchy or painful. When irritated, they can develop into larger, cyst-like clusters.
How can you prevent a butt breakout?
For starters, make sure to hop in the shower after your sweat session. “Always showering immediately after exercise and using antibacterial soap [like classic Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Face Wash, which can be used all over the body] to eliminate bacteria, sweat, and debris is an important part of preventing butt acne,” says Dr. Green. Throw those workout clothes in the laundry, too! Even if you’re not breaking a major sweat, be sure to shower regularly, as dirt and bacteria that stays on your skin is, as she describes, “a recipe for developing but acne and folliculitis.”
If tight-fitting clothes are causing you irritation, switch to looser, more breathable clothing that helps avoid the father of folliculitis — friction. You might even consider swapping out your fabrics, opting for clothes and sheets made from more breathable cotton. Don’t forget to “wash clothes, towels, and sheets regularly, as bacteria can be transferred to your skin as well,” says Dr. Green.
If all else fails, speak with your dermatologist who can better find a treatment for your specific breakout concern.
How do you treat butt breakouts?
First and foremost, clean up the area. “Washing regularly with benzoyl peroxide helps keep pesky bacteria at bay, decreasing your chances of developing a bacterial folliculitis,” says Shereene Idriss, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. Look for cleansers with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid, which helps to unclog pores and eliminate dead skin.
Board-certified dermatologist Marisa Garshick, M.D.,’s go-to products are cleansers, meant to keep the behind (and the rest of the body) smooth as a baby’s you-know-what. She recommends Panoxyl 4% Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser, which is “safe to use on the face, back, and chest to help kill acne-causing bacteria.” It treats existing breakouts and prevents new ones, says Dr. Garshick.
If you’re more of a salicylic acid fan, her pick is CeraVe Renewing SA Cleanser, which works to “unclog pores and reduce excess oil without dryness or irritation, thanks to ceramides, hyaluronic acid, and niacinamide.” For a physical exfoliant option, try the classic Dove Gentle Exfoliating Body Wash, which she recommends especially if you’re dealing with acne scarring on the body.
Cleansers will help with traditional folliculitis and breakout, but as Idriss points out, “folliculitis, however, is not always due to bacteria alone; it can also be caused by a fungus.” So, what should you do if a fungus is the culprit? According to Dr. Zeichner, you’ll need to get your hands on an anti-fungal medication, as folliculitis caused by a fungus will not improve or clear up if you use an acne treatment.
He also has another potentially easy fix. “If you suspect fungal folliculitis, you can even try your dandruff shampoo as a liquid cleanser to the affected area,” says Dr. Zeichner. “Apply, let it sit while you sing the alphabet, and then rinse off. It needs enough contact time with the skin for it to exert its job.”
What is the best butt acne spot treatment?
Just as with facial acne, it’s best to treat the whole booty to prevent breakouts from the beginning. But if you’re in need of an emergency fix — beach vacation in Rio de Janeiro and you’re not not wearing the thong bikini you brought, for example — Dr. Garshick does have some recommendations.
She suggests La Roche-Posay Effaclar Duo Dual Acne Treatment, a former Best of Beauty Award winner that contains benzoyl peroxide, along with Vichy Normaderm S.O.S Acne Rescue Spot Corrector, a 2021 Best of Beauty winner that uses 10 percent sulfur to dry up inflamed papules or postules.
What shouldn’t you do when treating pimples on your butt?
Scrubbing the inflamed area is a no-no, says Dr. Idriss. “Please stop scrubbing, whether with a scrub or a loofah,” she tells Allure. “People often think they are doing themselves a favor by doing this because it makes their rear end feel — key word — smoother. In reality, they are just worsening the inflammation, which could lead to potential scarring and hyperpigmentation.”
Your SoulCycle sweat sessions aren’t helping either, says Dr. Idriss. “A sweaty environment and chronic rubbing due to cycling is a recipe for disaster,” she says. After a workout, be sure to hop out of your drenched duds, wipe yourself off, and change into a more breathable outfit.
“Waxing should also be avoided as it can lead to further obstruction of hair follicles, worsening of inflammation, and subsequent pigmentation,” says Dr. Idriss. Instead, consider investing in a more durable razor or consider another form of hair removal, like sugaring.
What can you do to ensure that you don’t get hyperpigmentation on your behind?
Once you stop scrubbing, you reduce the risk of developing dark spots. “Hyperpigmentation can be avoided with less manipulation and more therapeutic treatment,” Dr. Idriss says.
That being said, be sure to moisturize your backside with gentle cream exfoliators with lactic acid, such as AmLactin Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion, or a urea-based cream, such as PurSources Urea 40% Healing Cream.