Talk about a (literal) pain in the butt—those zits popping up on your booty are anything but cute.
Even more annoying: “Buttne” isn’t quite the same as the pimples that pop up on your face—making the acne tough to treat even if you’ve figured out how to deal with normal breakouts.
“Butt acne is usually not true acne, but rather folliculitis, which is a mild infection of the hair follicle that leads to red bumps and pus pimples,” explains Joshua Zeichner, M.D., director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai in New York City.
Okay, so what causes butt acne?
It’s usually a combo of blockage of hair follicles and a bacterial infection—but mostly blocked hair follicles, says Gary Goldenberg, M.D., assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital. There are a few reasons why you may notice butt zits popping up—and they can range from the gross to the “wait, seriously?”:
1. Keeping wet, sweaty clothes on after you hit the gym: Your sweat can dry over your pores and leave bumps in their wake. If you can, change your clothes (and your underwear) ASAP after you work out.
2. Sitting too much: This one can be hard to avoid, depending on your day job, but even more incentive to spend more time standing and walking around.
3. Wearing undies past their prime: Changing your undies regularly is crucial, since old underwear puts acne-promoting dirt, sweat, and oil up close and personal with your skin.
4. Wearing tight-fitting clothes: Yup, your choice of clothing can actually influence whether you get butt acne. Tight-fitting clothes can trap sweat and oil against your backside and make it more likely to block those hair follicles, leading to bumps on your butt.
Luckily, if you have a history of buttne, you’re not doomed to live with it forever.
You can do a few things to treat and prevent butt acne.
1. Hop in the shower right after exercising
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Every. Single. Time. “Showering immediately after a workout can help remove sweat, oil, and dirt that accumulate on the surface of the skin,” says Zeichner. “Sitting in your wet workout clothes can increase your risk of developing butt acne. Stick to gentle cleansers (like Dove Sensitive Skin Beauty Bar) that effectively remove dirt without disrupting the outer skin layer.”
2. Suds up with benzoyl peroxide
Clean and Clear
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In the shower, try targeting your booty with a benzoyl peroxide cleanser. “Benzoyl peroxide can be effective in treating both true acne and folliculitis because it has antimicrobial (a.k.a. bacteria-fighting) properties to help disinfect the area,” Zeichner says. “Use your cleanser (like Clean & Clear Continuous Control Acne Cleanser) as a short contact therapy. Taking the time to apply it by singing the alphabet will allow the product to sit on the skin long enough for it to do its job, and then rinse off.” (FYI: BP can bleach colored fabrics, so be sure to rinse thoroughly and use white towels!)
3. Unclog pores with salicylic acid
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You can also combat your buttne with a salicylic acid cleanser or treatment (like Aveeno Clear Complexion Daily Cleansing Pads). Zeichner says this beta hydroxy acid can help remove excess oils and exfoliate dead skin cells so they don’t get trapped in your pores and follicles (which is how buttne starts).
4. Exfoliate and brighten with glycolic acid
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This is another buttne-fighting ingredient. “Similar to salicylic acid and lactic acid, glycolic acid is extremely helpful at keeping the pores clear and improving butt acne,” Zeichner says. “It also has the benefit of brightening dark spots, which may develop after pimples or folliculitis go away.” Try Neutrogena Pore Refining Exfoliating Cleanser. It was originally developed to keep the pores smaller and Zeichner finds it extremely effective when used on the bum.
5. Moisturize that peach
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While you might assume slathering on lotion will clog your pores even more, that’s not the case if you use a lactic-acid packed option like AmLactin Body Lotion. “Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that helps hydrate the skin and exfoliate dead cells,” Zeichner says. And when you get rid of dry skin cells, that helps prevent those bumps. (That’s why it also works for preventing keratosis pilaris, a.k.a. chicken skin.)
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