Let’s just get straight to the point: Butt acne is real, and it’s not comfortable. Breakouts that occur on unlikely parts of your body can be especially distressing because we often have no idea how—or why—they got there.
Technically called “folliculitis,” acne on your butt isn’t quite the same as the flare-ups that happen on your face. It’s often due to clogged hair follicles rather than clogged pores and can occur from a combination of occlusion (i.e., blockage), friction, sweat, and bacteria, according to Susan Bard, M.D., of New York’s Sadick Dermatology. Basically, if you leave your sweaty yoga pants on for hours after class or wear skintight jeans or leather pants when its balmy out, you could be upping your chances of getting butt acne.
For me, it happens every time I “forget” to shower between a Spin class and brunch, or when I want to leave my cute workout outfit on all day instead of putting on real clothes. Needless to say, it makes all subsequent Spin classes seriously awkward, both in front of other women in the locker room (even though I know I shouldn’t care) and on the bike. (Let’s just say it’s not a time you want to do tap backs.)
Determined to put an end to this cycle, and help out anyone else who might need it, I grilled Dr. Bard for her best advice on how to get rid of butt acne. Here, the four tips she swears by, because I know we’ve all been there.
1. Give the tight clothes a rest.
In case you needed another excuse to embrace the sweats-and-stilettos trend, loose pants are your best bet for avoiding breakouts. “To prevent folliculitis, I encourage patients not to wear tight, friction-inducing clothing such as tight jeans and to change out of your sweaty gym clothes as soon as possible,” says Dr. Bard. Opt for cotton underwear over nylon or Spandex to give the skin on your butt a chance to breathe.
2. Wash up after workouts.
Not only should you always shower after working out, but it’s important you actually pay attention to your skin back there while you do it. To cleanse, skip the basic body wash and reach for an antibacterial soap or benzoyl peroxide wash like Neutrogena’s Clear Stubborn Acne Cleanser. Some other tips: Make sure you wash your hair first and body last so the dirty suds from your scalp won’t drip down and clog your follicles. And after you shower, steer clear of thick, heavy body lotions that may do more harm than good. A good option to try? Curél’s Fragrance Free Comforting Body Lotion, which goes on light and is formulated for sensitive skin.
Also, when your skin is clear (so before any zits arise), remember to exfoliate regularly to remove dirt and bacteria, the same way you would for your face. You can use a gritty body scrub like one of these editor favorites. Or you can use a product with glycolic acid, like Glycolix 18% Extremity Cream which will help exfoliating skin more gently.
3. Don’t try to pop or pick at butt acne.
Not that you can reach them easily, anyway. But just in case you have bionically long arms, or have managed to find a way to get a hand on them, it’s important you resist the temptation to squeeze or pick at butt acne, which—according to Dr. Bard—will only make it worse. Doing so risks the chance that the spots will become more prone to infection, and it also might cause scarring.
4. Don’t be embarrassed to see a dermatologist.
We know. There’s nothing more cringeworthy than having to lie on your stomach while a doctor examines your bare ass, but here’s something to keep in mind: Derms have seen it all and they’re there to help. If you feel as if your acne isn’t improving, is getting worse, or is too painful to get about your day to day, it’s time to visit a pro. They’ll be able to help custom tailor a skin care plan that works best for you and/or recommend prescription medication you can take.