Everything — Yes, Everything — You Need To Know About Butt Acne

Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Breakouts aren’t generally thought of as a taboo topic. For example, if I have a zit on my chin, I usually announce to friends, colleagues, and whoever happens to be standing next to me that I’m housing an absolute honker.
But nobody talks about butt acne. Probably because not only are butt breakouts embarrassing, but they tend to come in the form of a rash-like, bumpy patch that seems impossible to get rid of, no matter how many exfoliators you use.
So why do we get them — and WTF are they? We spoke to Dr. Anjali Mahto of the British Association of Dermatologists to get the lowdown on what’s going on back there.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
Why do I get butt acne?

"Spots affecting the buttocks are quite common, and usually caused by a skin condition known as folliculitis," explains Dr. Mahto. "It occurs due to irritation, infection (by bacteria, yeast, fungus), or blockage of the hair follicles, and looks like a red, bumpy rash on the skin." Apparently it occurs equally in men and women, and it’s not just limited to your butt, either. Anywhere with hair follicles is at risk of developing folliculitis. It’s just more embarrassing to discuss when it’s on your butt.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
But why is this happening on my butt, not on my face?

The skin on your face is exactly the same as on your butt but, to put it frankly, you don’t often sit on your own face. Your backside, however, does feel the pressure on a daily basis.

"Structurally the skin is the same on both sites, but the main difference is that the bottom can be a hairier site for some people, and it's also an area of pressure," says Dr. Mahto. "It’s an area you sit on a lot, so the hair follicles can be more inflamed and infected."

If you're working out, those tight synthetic leggings that trap all your sweat (lovely) could also be a culprit — so yoga pants all the way, or choose a breathable fiber to give your ass a chance.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
How can I stop myself from getting butt acne?

If you want to avoid the itchy, bumpy chaos in the first place, it can be prevented by using a mild cleanser with a touch of salicylic acid, like Peter Thomas Roth Blemish Buffing Beads for face and body, and make sure you always shower immediately after you've been doing your squats. "Ensure you shower straight or soon after exercise as heat, sweat, and synthetic clothing can contribute," advises Dr. Mahto. “Avoid sharing towels or other personal care items, and do not shave over the bumps, as this can cause further irritation.” And don’t use body oils back there, either — they can trap bacteria in the follicles and worsen the issue.
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Illustrated by Anna Sudit.
How can I get rid of butt acne if I already have it?

Start using that salicylic acid cleanser to cut down on pore-clogging bacteria ASAP, and if it's itchiness that's bothering you, try a warm compress — it'll help with the itching, 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.”

The good news is that folliculitis may get better on its own without treatment. If it persists for more than a few weeks, and isn't responding to over-the-counter medications, then go to your doctor. They’ll be able to work out what type of folliculitis you have, and the exact treatment you need. And definitely don't do what I did, which is use a harsh scrub to try and exfoliate the bumps away — because it'll get a lot worse.“Exfoliation is a bad idea,” Dr. Mahto tells me, after I explain that I scrubbed it and found it did nothing but make my butt cheeks sting. “If the skin is already irritated, and you’re irritating it further, you can actually make it worse.”

You heard her: Be nice to your butt. It’s just trying to do its job, and you spend all day squashing it against a chair in return. No wonder it gets annoyed...
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