Look, I’m sorry to unsolicitedly bestow my terrible dad joke humor on you this early in the day, but goddamn butt acne is a real pain in my backside. On the one hand, I’m able to see the silver lining when it comes to my 15-year-strong streak with butt-ne. My derrière is obscured from the general public’s view by clothing the majority of the time, and so the constellation of pimples that often decorate it don’t possess the same self-esteem crushing powers that facial acne does.
But there’s a few big caveats to that: being in a bikini at the beach, especially now that high-cut styles are #trending; R18+ situations that call for no clothes; and getting changed in front of the boujee women in the boujee bathroom of the boujee reformer pilates studio I attend. On all three accounts, a real mood killer.
They say to keep your friends close and the advice of leading dermatologists closer. If this applies to you, then read on!
So what are these mysterious butt pimples, and how can I get rid of them?
As it turns out, despite being endearingly referred to as ‘butt-ne’, those blemishes on your bottom aren’t actually acne at all. The most common culprit behind the red and inflamed pimples on your booty is a little thing science likes to call folliculitis, and which I like to call inflamed hair follicles. The big F occurs due to irritation, infection (by bacteria, yeast, fungus), or blockage of the hair follicles, and results in a red and swollen bumpy rash which can develop little white heads not dissimilar in appearance to a regular acne pimple (hence the acne confusion).
Folliculitis can occur anywhere on the body, although butts are more prone to it because they are typically hairier than the face and other parts of the body, and are an area that feels a lot of pressure (for the most part, humans are a fairly sedentary bunch who spend a lot of time sitting our butts). Clothing choices, sweat, and bacteria like Staph or Pseudomonas (from improperly maintained pools and hot tubs) can all cause the follicles to become irritated.
So, how do I bid folliculitis adieu?
Reassess your clothing choices.
Dermatologists believe that butt pimples are becoming more common, and that is most likely because of our clothing choices. The friction caused by tight-fitting clothing can be enough to irritate your follicles, so if you’re partial to a tight jean or slim-fit pant, you may be unwittingly contributing to your butt pimples. If you like to get sweaty, eschew synthetic leggings in favor of workout leggings made of moisture-wicking, breathable fiber. The former will trap your sweat and irritate your hair follicles, while the latter will give your butt and the follicles that call it home room to breathe.
Shower straight after you sweat.
“Ensure you shower straight or soon after exercise as heat and sweat can contribute to flare ups,” advises Dr. Anjali Mahto of the British Association of Dermatologists. “Avoid sharing towels or other personal care items, and do not shave over the bumps, as this can cause further irritation.”
Try a warm compress and/or topical treatments.
If the itchiness is bothering you, a warm compress will help to relieve it and draw out any pus in the pimples. “Topical acne treatments, like those containing benzoyl peroxide, can help reduce inflammation,” says Dr. Mahto. “For severe cases, dermatologists use oral medications, including courses of antibiotics or isotretinoin.”
For the love of all things holy, do not use a physical exfoliator.
According to Shereene Idriss, a board-certified dermatologist at Union Square Laser Dermatology in New York City, you really need to back away from your exfoliator. "Please stop scrubbing, whether with a scrub or a loofah," she says. "People often think they are doing themselves a favor by doing this because it makes their rear end feel—keyword—smoother. In reality, they are just worsening the inflammation, which could lead to potential scarring and hyperpigmentation." Gentle exfoliators like salicylic or lactic acid, however, come highly recommended—they keep your skin surface smooth and free from buildup.
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