Butt acne is a surprisingly common skin issue but what causes it might not be what you expect. Learn which simple lifestyle changes can minimise breakouts on your bum + which treatments keep butt acne at bay.
What Causes Butt Acne?
As it turns out, buttock breakouts are often caused by conditions that aren’t directly related to acne. What you believe to be butt acne may actually be caused by the following:
- Folliculitis, a condition where the area in and around the hair follicle becomes irritated, triggering an acne-like bump. (In some cases, the folliculitis is also itchy and painful.)
- Ingrown hairs/razor burn bumps from waxing and shaving.
- Keratosis pilaris (KP), a condition where small hard clogged bumps form on the buttocks (as well as other areas, such as sides of arms and thighs).
- Friction from tight-fitting, damp, hot clothes (hello, yoga pants), which can make bumps flare up.
- That’s not to say what you’re experiencing couldn’t be true acne. While acne tends to be more prevalent in areas of the skin that are densely populated with sebaceous glands, such as the face and scalp, it can occur in other areas, including the bum (1,2).
What Are the Best Butt Acne Treatments?
Which butt acne treatment will be the most effective for you depends on exactly what condition is truly triggering the issue. Regardless of the cause, it’s smart to shower with a fragrance-free body wash that doesn’t leave residue on the skin. Use a water-soluble formula instead of bar soap, which can leave a pore-clogging film and irritate the skin. From there, pick treatments that correspond to what you’re experiencing.
If you’re unsure what the true cause of your butt acne is, start by applying a salicylic acid body treatment to the affected area one to two times a day. Salicylic acid (also known as BHA) has the ability to unclog pores, tone down redness and reduce irritated bumps (2,3).
If you suspect that your butt pimples are true acne, experiment with applying a benzoyl peroxide treatment to the area (2). This is also suitable for certain types of folliculitis.
Other types of folliculitis may be caused by fungus, in which case washing the area with an antifungal dandruff shampoo may help (4). You can also chat with your dermatologist about experimenting with a leave-on anti-fungal cream.
If the folliculitis has enlarged, applying a warm compress can help alleviate it (5). When in doubt, see a doctor to formally diagnose the issue. In some cases, prescription medication may be necessary.
How Can You Prevent Butt Acne?
Salicylic acid is your first line of defence in preventing butt acne.
If waxing or shaving appears to be the cause, use the same salicylic acid treatment mentioned above as an after-shave/post-wax treatment. This will help calm skin and reduce the likelihood of bumps forming (6). Bonus: It helps exfoliate built-up, dull, rough skin, so your bum looks and feels smoother.
The American Academy of Dermatology also points out buttocks folliculitis is common after hot tub use. They suggest washing your swimsuit after each use and letting it dry completely to reduce exposure to the bacteria that can cause folliculitis (5). This condition can appear several days after using a hot tub. The bumps look like acne, but unlike acne, this type of folliculitis is typically itchy.
If you’re regularly using an anti-acne routine for your face, consider extending those same products as butt acne treatments to prevent the problem before it starts.
What Shouldn’t You Do When Treating Butt Pimples?
Avoid tight clothing, and whatever you do, don’t try to scrub the butt pimples away.
Tight-fitting clothing can play a role in exacerbating bumpy skin on the booty. This is especially true of garments left on the skin after a sweaty workout (5). Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman adds, “I recommend that my patients wear workout clothes made of natural fibres like cotton. Another good choice is polypropylene, a synthetic fibre that wicks away the moisture , so it doesn’t stay close to the skin. Always shower immediately after a workout.”
Resist the urge to scrub—all that will do is make the bumps more agitated, potentially resulting in butt acne scars.
How to Avoid Hyperpigmentation on Your Butt
If you do end up with hyperpigmented scarring on your bum, spot treat the area with azelaic acid to reduce the discolouration. Azelaic acid is backed by research for its ability to help fade post-breakout marks and can also help smooth bumpy texture (7). Win-win.
Learn more about acne breakouts.
References for this information:
Principals of Dermatology (Sixth Edition), 2019, pages 2-10
Molecules, July 2016, pages 1-20
The Journal of Clinical Aesthetic Dermatology, May 2012, pages 32–40
Drugs & Therapy Perspectives, August 2012, pages 10-13
American Academy of Dermatology, Accessed July 2021, ePublication
Clinical Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, April 2019, pages 241–247
American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, November 2013, pages 7–16