Butt Acne: How to Get Rid of Folliculitis and Pimples on Your Butt Fast
Everyone always says not to Google your skin issues and ~ailments~ (it's always the worst-case scenario, and it's rarely ever correct), but guess what I do every single time I discover something new on my skin? Google it. Can't help myself. And on one of those occasions, I was searching the internet for answers about the butt acne I could feel behind me but couldn't really see. And naturally, the internet told me the bumps on my butt might not actually be "classic" acne at all, but something called folliculitis.
Here's the thing: "Butt acne," or folliculitis, is super common (we're all in this together), but it’s not always the same type of bump as the acne on your face. It's complicated, I know, so I turned to board-certified dermatologists to help break down all things butt acne and help clear up the pimples. So if you're very much done with dealing with your breakouts, keep reading to get rid of those breakouts and prevent them from coming right back on your butt.
Meet the experts
Neda Mehr, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and medical director at Pure Dermatology Cosmetic & Hair Center. Dr. Mehr is also a Mohs surgeon, media expert, and the founder of DermBx skincare products.
Shereene Idriss, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and founder of Idriss Dermatology. Dr. Idriss, aka Pillowtalk Derm, is a clinical instructor in dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Tiffany Libby, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and Mohs surgeon based in Rhode Island.
Morgan Rabach, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist and cofounder of LM Medical NYC. Dr. Rabach is also a clinical assistant professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
What causes acne on the butt?
The short version? Acne is the result of an overproduction of oil. The long version? Board-certified dermatologist Neda Mehr, MD, breaks it down: Our oil glands are mainly triggered by one of four factors, which are hormones, stress, genetics, and diet. These four triggers send a signal to the oil glands to get bigger, and when the oil gland gets bigger, the channel that delivers the oil does, too.
Once the pore is opened up, the bacteria on the skin can now get inside and clog the pore. And when you’re talking about your butt, it’s so easy for the pore to get clogged because, well, you’re sitting on it. And when the pore gets clogged, there’s no exit, so it implodes, and there you have it—acne on your butt.
Is it normal to get acne on your bum?
Board-certified dermatologist Morgan Rabach, MD, says “butt acne” is super common (and, yes, normal!), but—surprise, surprise—butt acne is rarely real, traditional acne. If you want to get technical, and we do, what you’re probably experiencing is something called folliculitis, which is an inflammation of the hair follicles. “The term ‘butt acne’ usually refers to folliculitis, which presents similarly to acne elsewhere and basically results from blocked follicles and mild infection of the hair follicles, leading to acne-like bumps on the buttocks,” board-certified dermatologist Tiffany Libby, MD explains.
All that to say, even though folliculitis can look like acne (fungal acne, anyone?), they're not exactly the same skin condition. Although there might be a little overlap in how you treat and prevent body acne and folliculitis, recognizing the difference is key to your treatment and prevention approach.
So how can you tell if what you’re dealing with is folliculitis or acne? Glad you asked:
What does folliculitis look like?
Folliculitis and acne really do look similar to the untrained eye, which is why they're easily confused, but there are a few key distinctions a dermatologist can easily spot. Here's how they differ on closer inspection:
Acne vs. folliculitis
What acne looks like: “Acne is defined by having comedones, which are blackheads and whiteheads,” says Dr. Rabach. Basically, acne looks like...acne. A mix of little whiteheads, maybe some blackheads, maybe a cystic zit, maybe some painful, inflamed bumps.
What folliculitis looks like: “Folliculitis has a hair in the center of a red bump, and the white material associated with the bump is often dead skin and white blood cells,” says Dr. Rabach. It might look like a small whitehead, but usually, it won't be just a single bump—you'll likely have a smattering of same-size, whitehead-looking bumps (and no blackheads).
That said, there are instances where patients do get real zits on their butts (Dr. Mehr says this is usually in patients that have a history of facial acne, too), which is why both Dr. Rabach and board-certified dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD, agree that you should see a derm to find out exactly what’s really going on and properly treat it.
Should I pop folliculitis bumps?
You already know the answer to this: That's a big ol' no, nope, never. You should never pop, pick, or prod anything yourself, really, and doing any of the above to your butt acne can not only make your breakout worse, but can also lead to scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation afterward. Oh, and one more thing to add to the list of things to avoid: heavy oils. “Avoid using thicker oils, like coconut oil, to moisturize as these can clog pores and lead to [the] formation of ‘butt acne,’” Dr. Libby warns.
Why do I get pimples on my bum cheeks?
In short, anything that causes friction can cause these butt bumps. “Common culprits are irritation from clothes rubbing against the buttocks, like tight gym clothes that can trap in sweat, oil, and bacteria, and friction or occlusion from sitting for prolonged periods,” Dr. Libby explains. For folliculitis, specifically, Dr. Mehr says things that inflame the hair follicle, like harsh skincare products, an allergic reaction (for instance, an allergy to the nickel in a shaving razor), or bacterial overgrowth could be the reason.
If you feel like your butt acne is more prevalent in the summer—exactly when you might be choosing to show off your butt—you’re right. Wet clothes, like a bathing suit or sweaty workout leggings, are two main offenders that lead to folliculitis. But don't stress! You don't have to swear off swimming and yoga forever. You just gotta know the right ways to go about your everyday life.
How to get rid of butt acne fast:
First, take the word "overnight" out of your vocabulary, because clear skin takes time. The next step in clearing up your butt acne for good is with a proper diagnosis from a derm, because can you only correctly treat your butt once you know what you're working with.
With that said, small changes to your regular routine might work wonders for improving your breakouts, fading the post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that follows, and preventing them from popping back up, whether they actually are butt acne or folliculitis. So once you've made that appointment to see your derm, get started on the below.