Spots aren’t generally thought of as a taboo topic. If I’ve got a spot 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 (see also: “Hosting a stonker”, “Nurturing a total champion”, “Building a high-rise” and “I have a spot”).
So why do we get them and what the F 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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Why do I get bum spots?
“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 bum, either. Anywhere with hair follicles is at risk of developing folliculitis. It’s just more embarrassing to discuss when it’s on your bum.
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But why has this happened on my bum? Why not my face?
The skin on your face is exactly the same as on your bum but, to put it frankly, you don’t often sit on your own face. Your bum, 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 fibre to give your arse a chance.
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How can I stop myself getting bum spots?
If you want to avoid the itchy, bumpy chaos then it can be prevented by showering with a mild cleanser. Go for something as natural and perfume-free as possible, 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 oils back there either, as these can trap bacteria in the pores. Leading to more spot issues.
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How can I get rid of bum spots if I've already got them?
Buy an antiseptic wash to get rid of all that bacteria. If you’re itching and don’t want to be, because it’s socially unacceptable, then try a warm compress – it will help with the itching, and draw out the pus in the bumps. (Hope you're not eating while reading this.)
“Topical acne treatments, e.g. 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, though, 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. No, nobody wants their doctor staring at their arse – but it's either that or having itchy bumps everywhere. The choice is yours.
Oh, and don’t do what I did, and exfoliate it. 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 bum. It’s just trying to help you expel waste (sorry, but it's true) and, in return, you spend all day squashing it against a chair. No wonder it gets annoyed.