Skin Journal
What causes butt acne? How to treat these annoying breakouts
Author:
Gemma Kaczerepa
Reviewed by:

There’s no getting around it: pimples can appear absolutely anywhere on your body. Yep, your back, your ear, your arms, your neck your elbow… even on your butt.

Even though you can’t necessarily see butt pimples as easily as the ones on your face, you definitely know they’re there — especially during swimsuit season. Butt acne is annoying, but you’ll be glad to know it’s very much treatable.

If you've been endlessly and fruitlessly Googling 'butt bumps', 'pimples on bum' or 'butt pimples', here’s the 411 on what causes them and how you can get rid of them.

What is butt acne?

First things first: butt acne isn’t really the same thing as facial acne. While it’s certainly possible for pimples to crop up on your bum, it’s not really a common place for acne to appear. This is because there aren’t many oil glands across your bum. Instead, pimples on your butt are most probably boils, or a condition such as folliculitis or keratosis pilaris.

Folliculitis occurs when your hair follicles become irritated, causing inflammation, swelling and, often, red pimple-looking things [1]. In many cases, these red bumps will have white heads filled with pus, making them look even more like pimples. They’ll sometimes be itchy and tender, too.

If a hair follicle gets infected, it can turn into a boil. Boils are much bigger than folliculitis bumps and are sometimes painful or itchy. 

Keratosis pilaris is another condition that can materialise on your butt, leading to tiny little bumps that appear across your skin [2]. These bumps are actually protein build-ups that form into hard plugs.

They kind of look like goosebumps and can be red or colourless. Unlike folliculitis, though, you’re unlikely to see a white head on each bump.

Is it normal to have pimples on your bum?

The butt isn’t the most common site for acne, given the fact that there’s very little oil production going on there. Acne typically occurs in spots where there are more oil glands, such as the face, chest, shoulders and upper back.

But conditions like folliculitis and keratosis are quite normal. In fact, along with the face, breasts and neck, the bum is one of the most common places[3] for folliculitis to occur.

Buttock folliculitis is frequently seen in both men and women[4], and can be acute (only occurring for a brief period due to some kind of irritation) or chronic.

Keratosis pilaris is also very common and often crops up on the butt [5]. It’s usually seen in kids and teenagers and tends to disappear in early adulthood. However, it can affect people of all ages.

What causes butt acne?

Instead of examining what causes pimples on your butt, let’s look at how conditions like folliculitis and keratosis pilaris occur.

Folliculitis is often the result of some kind of physical irritation to your hair follicles, like tight clothing, synthetic fibres, sweat or excess moisture, shaving or waxing, sitting too much, or even spending a lot of time in the pool or spa [6].

Sometimes bacteria, yeast or fungus can get into your hair follicles too, leading to further skin irritation [7]. Keratosis pilaris doesn’t really have a single cause but is mostly seen during childhood and teenagehood. It also seems to be genetic. 

Should you squeeze pimples on your bum?

We know it’s super tempting — and not to mention satisfying — to pop a pimple. Heck, that’s why we wrote an entire guide on how to pop your pimples safely. But just like the blemishes on your face, it’s a big no-no to squeeze your butt pimples — whether they’re genuine bum acne, or the result of folliculitis or keratosis pilaris.

This is because squeezing, picking and scratching butt acne can actually make it much worse.

You risk causing an infection (like those nasty butt boils we mentioned earlier) as well as acne scarring. The former can be downright painful, while the latter can be pretty hard to get rid of.

How do you treat butt breakouts?

They’re frustrating, sure, but the good news about butt breakouts is you can treat them. You can go for over-the-counter (OTC) treatments or prescription ones, but either way, know that a pimple-free butt is on the horizon.

OTC cleansers

Cleansers are usually used to treat acne on your face, but they can also do wonders if you’ve got spots on your butt — even though those spots aren’t really acne in the traditional sense.

Look for products that contain benzoyl peroxide — this ingredient is absolutely fantastic when it comes to treating pimples. Benzoyl peroxide clears away bacteria, which we know can lead to conditions like folliculitis [8].

When applying a benzoyl peroxide cleanser to your bum, leave it on for a few minutes to let this powerful ingredient do its work.

Exfoliation

Salicylic acid is another ingredient that can treat butt acne. Similar to benzoyl peroxide, it’s found in numerous OTC products and is a great one for addressing pimples.

However, salicylic acid differs from benzoyl peroxide in that it’s a chemical exfoliant. This means it works to clear away dead skin cells, which may help with conditions like keratosis pilaris. 

If you’re looking for a bum-friendly wash that contains salicylic acid, we’ve got one right here. Software’s Salicylic Acid Foaming Wash can be used on all parts of your body — including your butt — to help get rid of those pesky blemishes.

Thanks to the low-irritant formula that is designed for acne-prone and sensitive skin, you can use this wash two to three times a week and nip acne in the butt (pun intended).

Other exfoliant alternatives include glycolic acid and lactic acid, both of which are ideal for more mild butt acne [9]. While we’re on the topic of exfoliating, make sure to avoid physical exfoliants like abrasive scrubs, loofahs and brushes.

They’ll definitely get rid of dead skin cells, but they can also be quite irritating to your bum — thus making breakouts worse.

Warm compress

If your butt acne has turned into a full-blown boil, a warm compress can help soothe and drain it.

Soak a washcloth in warm water and hold it against your bum for up to 15 minutes, ideally a few times each day. This will help open up the hair follicle and allow it to empty the pus.

Natural solutions

There are several different natural home remedies said to help alleviate butt acne. These include tea tree oil (which is antibacterial), saltwater, witch hazel and apple cider vinegar.

Just note that studies and evidence around these solutions are either limited or non-existent, so you may not notice an improvement.

Prescription treatments

If at-home solutions don't work, or the red bumps on your butt are more severe, you can chat with a dermatologist or doctor for advice on prescription treatments. These could include topical creams, oral antibiotics or injections.

Alternatively, you can use Software's personalised acne treatment, which contains medical-grade ingredients like prescription retinoids, niacinamide and hyaluronic acid to target blemishes found across your body, including your butt.

Simply take our online quiz and pop in your skin concerns and a local Software doctor will create an acne treatment just for you.

The best part? Because it’s delivered right to your door, you don’t have to leave the comfort of your home to get your hands on it.

What is the best butt acne spot treatment?

If you only need to treat a single blemish, you can use a product that’s more targeted, like a spot treatment.

Once again, look for something that contains benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Both are excellent for targeting individual spots and are found in numerous OTC spot treatments.

And if your butt pimple is more of a butt boil, try a warm compress to alleviate the discomfort and encourage the pus to flow out of the hair follicle. If it isn't getting better, be sure to see your doctor about it.

How can you prevent a butt breakout?

Once you’ve nipped butt bumps in the bud, how can you stop them from coming back? Here are some handy tips.

Shower regularly and quickly

Because folliculitis is often caused by sweat irritating your hair follicles, it’s best to try and wash it away as soon as you can post-sweat sesh. Get out of your sweaty clothes and hop in the shower immediately after a workout or sporting match, and try to avoid wearing the same workout clothes over and over.

Doing so can harbour bacteria and increase your risk of butt breakouts.

Keep using those treatments

Even if your butt acne fades to next to nothing, continue using cleansers and chemical exfoliators regularly to keep breakouts at bay. Products with active ingredients like benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid are always best.

Wear the right clothes

Avoid tight-fitting clothes, as these can cause friction that leads to folliculitis. Instead, loose, breezy bottoms give your skin lots of breathing room. And if you can, stick to natural fibres like cotton and linen. Synthetic ones can generate sweat and acne-causing bacteria.

Be gentle

Even though logic would tell you that scrubbing your butt with a physical exfoliant or loofah will get it nice and smooth, you’ll likely find the end result is the exact opposite: more inflammation and further breakouts. Steer clear of these and treat your butt gently, and avoid picking and popping, too.

How to remove bum acne scars

Like any kind of blemish, butt acne can and does lead to scarring. Scrubbing too much, picking, popping and squeezing pimples on your butt can result in patches of hyperpigmentation — that is, darkened spots where those pimples used to be.

And even if you don’t do anything to aggravate the condition, you can sometimes still end up with a few pesky scars. If you’ve got bum acne scars, there are several different ways you can tackle them, ranging from at-home solutions to more aggressive dermatological treatments [10]. 

If the hyperpigmentation is mild, you could use an at-home chemical exfoliant like salicylic acid or glycolic acid to slough away the top layer of skin, thus improving the appearance of hyperpigmentation. 

But for more serious discolouration, it's best to chat to a doctor or dermatologist for advice. There are plenty of treatments available including chemical peels and laser, but your derm will be able to recommend the best one for your case.

Ready to read more on getting rid of hyperpigmentation? Here’s our guide to dealing with acne scars. Happy reading!

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