Your Ultimate Guide to Getting Rid of Butt Acne Fast

·16 min read

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You’d think that after more than a decade of dealing with hormonal acne, I’d have figured it out by now, but alas, those painful, throbbing bumps still continue to pop up all over my body. I’m talking chest acne, bacne, mask acne—and yup, even butt acne. And while butt breakouts (and acne in general) are v normal and extremely common, I still felt like I was missing something. Like, no matter how many spot treatments and acne body washes I diligently layered on my butt, the bumps persisted. And that’s when I learned that butt acne isn’t as straightforward as it may look—in fact, it may not be acne at all.

While, yes, you can still get “classic” acne on your butt (think: clogged pores, blackheads, and whiteheads), these breakouts are often other skin conditions masquerading as acne, like folliculitis, hidradenitis suppurativa, or keratosis pilaris, (dw, I’ll explain all of these below). And to make it even more fun, all of these conditions have different causes and treatment requirements, which means in order to get rid of your butt acne, you’ll actually need to know what you’re working with first.

But that’s where I come in. I chatted with four board-certified dermatologists—Neda Mehr, MD; Shereene Idriss, MD; Tiffany Libby, MD; and Morgan Rabach, MD—to break down every type of “butt acne” and how to treat each of them. Keep reading for 10 of the biggest causes of bumps on your butt, both acne and non-acne, along with the best products and formulas to try at home.

What causes butt acne?

True butt acne is caused by an overproduction of oil, like all acne everywhere else. Hormones, stress, genetics, and your favorite foods can all send your oil glands into overdrive, which then causes your pores to get bigger (yup, even the pores on your butt), says Dr. Mehr. Once the pore expands, bacteria settles in, creates inflammation, clogs the pore, and boom—you’ve got butt acne. And since you’re always sitting on your butt, it’s especially easy for these pores to clog, which is why butt bumps are so common on virtually every human, says Dr. Rabach.

But—surprise, surprise—butt acne is rarely, in fact, real acne. Because your butt does encounter so much friction from clothing, sitting, walking, and exercising, along with sweat and bacteria, it’s also a ~breeding ground~ for all types of skin bumps, which brings us to…

Most common types of butt acne and butt bumps

Before you buy a bunch of lotions and potions that promise to cure your butt acne, you’ll need to first figure out what kind of bumps you’re working with. Here’s a very brief and basic breakdown of the most typical butt bumps (though, again, you should definitely head to your dermatologist for true confirmation).

Clogged pores

Clogged pores are basically the vague, all-inclusive term for the generic acne you’re most familiar with—and yes, it’s very possible to have true zits on your butt. When oil, dirt, and dead skin cells get trapped in your skin, it clogs your pores to create bumps (what we know to look like acne). “Acne is defined by having comedones, whether that’s open comedones, aka blackheads, or closed comedones, aka whiteheads,” says Dr. Rabach. Basically, acne looks like...acne: a mix of whiteheads, maybe some blackheads, maybe a cystic zit—you know the drill.


Folliculitis occurs when your hair follicles get infected and inflamed, resulting in bumps. It’s also the most common cause of “butt acne” that both patients and doctors deal with. Folliculitis usually looks like a smattering of tiny bumps that are red or pink (usually on lighter skin tones), or purple or brown (on deeper skin tones), and they often have a tiny whitehead-looking tip. But unlike regular pus-filled zits, folliculitis bumps are the result of an irritated hair follicle getting blocked by inflammation, resulting in a mild infection within the follicle, says Dr. Libby.

Folliculitis and acne may look similar to the untrained eye, but there are a few key distinctions that a dermatologist can easily spot: (1) Unlike a whitehead, which can trap a hair beneath the surface, “folliculitis has a hair in the center of an inflamed bump, and the white material associated with the bump is often dead skin and white blood cells,” says Dr. Rabach; and (2) while whiteheads often appear as a single bump, folliculitis results in a cluster of same-size, whitehead-looking bumps.

Keratosis pilaris

Keratosis pilaris (KP) is a condition in which excess keratin builds up in your hair follicles, resulting in rough little red or brown bumps (depending on your skin tone) usually found on the backs of your arms, thighs, or butt. KP boils down to genetics and is very common (hi to the 40 percent of adults who have it), and though there’s currently no way to “cure” keratosis pilaris, there are professional and at-home treatments to help soften it:

  • Chemical exfoliants, like glycolic and lactic acids, can help break down KP bumps over time. Gentle is better, so start with a lactic acid-based lotion every other night, and gently massage bumps with an acid-based scrub once a week.

  • Pulsed Dye Laser (PDL) treatments can help reduce the red or brown blotchiness from KP by constricting the red vessels in the skin. Treatments can cost up to $500 per session, and you’ll need 3 to 6 treatments spaced a month apart.

  • Laser hair removal can help destroy your hair follicle, which will prevent future hair from growing and/or getting trapped under your keratin (one current theory behind KP bumps). Prices and frequency vary, but they usually start at $300 a treatment, and you’ll need 4 to 6 monthly sessions.

Hidradenitis suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), aka acne inversa, is a condition in which your sweat glands get infected and can create big, painful bumps (in mild cases), or large, blood- and pus-filled boils (in severe cases). HS usually occurs in areas of sweaty friction, like your butt, armpits, groin, and beneath the breasts, and they often look like giant blind pimples or cystic zits under the skin. Although HS is the least common of all the possible butt bumps on this list, it’s definitely one to know about, since it will require a trip to your dermatologist or doctor.

One way to know if you’re dealing with hidradentis suppurativa is if your bump(s) seem larger and more painful than a classic small zit, and/or if the bump keeps coming back in the exact same spot (very common for HS). And even if you’re not sure, definitely make an appointment with a dermatologist ASAP who can identify HS and intervene before it progresses. Treatments can range from topical antibiotics and oral medications to steroid injections and injectable medications in severe cases.

Why do I get pimples on my butt cheeks?

The reason you get pimples on your butt cheeks depends on what exactly the bumps are. Folliculitis on your butt is most often caused by friction irritating the hair follicle, while true acne is caused by clogged pores on your butt from oil, sweat, dead skin, and dirt. “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 says.

Dr. Mehr also notes that harsh skincare products, an allergic reaction (like an allergy to the nickel in a bikini trimmer, for example), or bacterial overgrowth could also be the reason for your butt bumps, since they all inflame the hair follicle or irritate the skin.

How do you squeeze a butt pimple?

Ideally, you won’t be squeezing or popping your butt pimples. Not only can squeezing make inflammation worse (or even spread an infection to other parts of your skin), but it can also lead to scarring and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Plus, trying to squeeze a cyst or boil isn’t possible (they have no connection to your skin’s surface, so they’re truly un-poppable) and can also lead to severe inflammation that could require a swift trip to urgent care for antibiotics, injections, or draining. Not great.

How do you get rid of acne on your buttocks?

To get rid of acne on your butt, you’ll first need a proper diagnosis from a dermatologist, because can you only correctly treat your butt bumps once you know what you're working with. While more severe cases of butt bumps (re: HS and hormonal acne) will need a doctor’s intervention, folliculitis, classic zits, and keratosis pilaris can all be managed through a mix of products and a few lifestyle changes. So once you’ve made that appointment to see your derm, get started on the below.

1. Treat butt acne with benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid body wash

If you’re dealing with true butt acne, both Dr. Libby and dermatologist Shereene Idriss, MD, recommend trying an acne wash that’s formulated with benzoyl peroxide, which helps kill acne-causing bacteria. To give the benzoyl peroxide enough time to treat your skin before washing it off, Dr. Libby recommends massaging the body wash over your breakouts once a week in the shower and letting it sit for three minutes before rinsing (note: benzoyl peroxide can bleach fabrics, so make sure to rinse it well).

If you don’t react well to benzoyl peroxide, whether due to an allergy or skin irritation, you can also try salicylic acid, which will work to break down clogged pores on your butt, whether that’s in a body wash, spot treatment, or skin mist. While BP is better at preventing and treating bacteria-based acne, salicylic acid has the benefit of also being able to smooth bumps and fade dark spots and acne scars when used in leave-on products, like a toner or moisturizer.

2. Smooth butt bumps with an exfoliator

No, you can’t exfoliate your butt bumps away—and, in fact, trying to scrub at your folliculitis, acne, or KP with a harsh physical scrub will only increase inflammation and aggravate your breakouts. Instead, says Dr. Mehr, gently massage your butt in the shower with an acid-based body wash and a silicone scrubber (it’ll help slough away dead skin to help your treatments better penetrate), then swipe on a chemical exfoliant when your skin is dry, like an acid-based skin pad. Look for a formula with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs, such as lactic or glycolic acids) or beta-hydroxy acids (like salicylic acid) to help break down clogged pores.

3. Treat butt acne with prescription antibiotics

If you’ve tried everything (all the below body washes, scrubs, spot treatments, and lifestyle adjustments) for at least six consistent weeks and are still struggling with bumps, it’s past time to make an appointment with a dermatologist to talk about medications to calm inflammation and reduce bacteria that can lead to butt acne, folliculitis, and HS. Your dermatologist may start you off with topical antibiotics, like a lightweight clindamycin lotion or clindamycin and retinol-based serum, or they may suggest a short-term course of oral antibiotics, like broad-spectrum doxycycline or the new acne-specific antibiotic, Seysara.

4. Try hormonal acne treatments for butt bumps

If topical antibiotics or at-home products don’t help decrease your butt acne, your doctor may prescribe spironolactone or oral birth control, both of which help decrease and regulate your body’s production of androgens (i.e., “sex” hormones, like testosterone, that can make your skin overproduce oil).

Another super-effective treatment for persistent acne? Isotretinoin, aka Accutane, which permanently shrinks your oil glands. Though it’s definitely not as scary as you’ve been led to believe, it still requires regular blood testing and monitoring, so definitely chat through any concerns or questions with your doctor, as always.

5. Unclog pores with a chemical peel

If your butt acne is the result of clogged pores (see: you, consistently sweaty or with naturally oily skin), Dr. Rabach recommends trying an in-office chemical peel to encourage the shedding of dead skin. A chemical peel utilizes an acid-based solution (like glycolic, lactic, mandelic, and TCA) to remove the top layers of your skin, which can reduce hyperpigmentation, stimulate collagen production (when used in professional strengths), and smooth bumpy texture—even when you use it on your butt.

Chemical peels come in different strengths, with the strongest only being available in a dermatologist’s office or medspa, and can be done once every 4-6 weeks. But for a less intense treatment, you can also try an at-home chemical peel once every two weeks, which relies on lower strengths of the same chemical exfoliants to remove dead skin and smooth texture from butt acne.

Important note: A high-strength chemical peel will only help true acne lesions—not keratosis pilaris, hidradenitis suppurativa, or folliculitis ( and can actually make these conditions worse). So, as always, chat with your dermatologist first before risking it.

6. Wear light, dry fabrics to reduce irritation

Wearing non-breathable fabrics, like nylon and polyester, “form a cellophane-like barrier around your skin,” says Dr. Mehr, trapping sweat and bacteria against your butt. Not only does this barrier essentially push bacteria into your pores, notes Dr. Mehr, but the mix of sweat and friction can also lead to folliculitis-causing inflammation, acne-inducing clogged pores, and HS-aggravating chafing.

When you absolutely have to wear tight-fitting workout clothes, opt for breathable cotton activewear to help prevent the sweat from getting trapped against your skin, take them off as soon as you get home, and ideally give your body a quick rinse, which brings us to…

7. Take a quick shower after sweating

Sitting in sweaty clothes keeps dirt, oil, sweat, and grime against your skin, which can irritate butt bumps. As soon as you’re done with your sweat session, hop in the shower and suds up with a body wash. If you can’t get to a shower right away—long commute home, working out on your lunch break, drinks after your Barry’s class, whatever—wipe the skin on your butt with a fragrance-free body wipe, then mist it with a salicylic acid spray before changing into your dry clothes.

8. Treat folliculitis with laser hair removal

Because folliculitis is caused by inflammation of the hair follicle, it can often be treated and prevented through laser hair removal. “The key with folliculitis is to destroy the root of the hair follicle,” says Dr. Mehr, adding that folliculitis-causing bacteria often enters your body “from a pore, tracking down a hair follicle.” When you destroy the hair, the opening of the follicle tightens, making it harder for bacteria to get inside and cause inflammation. Of course, laser hair removal isn’t a full-stop solution for folliculitis, but it can still be an excellent tool in preventing bumps in the future.

9. Avoid using too many active ingredients

Butt bumps can cause pain, inflammation, and itchiness, so even though you think the solution is to scrub and burn your bumps away, too many chemicals (aka actives) will only exacerbate and inflame your issues. The key for treating butt acne—or any butt bump—is to start slow and be gentle, even when you really don’t want to.

Example: If you shower daily, don’t use an intense acne wash and a high-strength acne pad every single day. Instead, space out your active ingredients and use just one per day. Skip the exfoliating pad on the days you use a benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid wash, then opt for a gentle cleanser with tea tree oil, niacinamide, glycerin, and panthenol to soothe skin and hold in moisture on your off days. And make sure that you always follow with a lightweight, oil-free moisturizer, especially on days where you’re using high-strength chemicals.

If you have overdone it and you’re now dealing with itchy, inflamed skin—or one of your zits is especially painful and throbbing—dab on 1 percent hydrocortisone cream twice a day for up to five days to help decrease redness and inflammation. If you’re finding you still need steroid cream after a week, that's your (millionth) cue to make an appointment with your dermatologist for a targeted product approach.

10. Change up your laundry products

Folliculitis and keratosis pilaris can be easily irritated by harsh chemicals, scrubs, and even innocent-seeming formulas, like fragrance and dyes. Surprisingly, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets can all leave an irritating residue on your skin that can aggravate butt acne or bumps, especially in those with sensitive skin. Switch to hypoallergenic laundry products that don’t contain any fragrance (see: “free and clear” on the label), rewash your sheets and clothes, and see if your skin starts to calm down after a few weeks.

The takeaway:

In summary, get your butt to the derm—literally. A board-certified dermatologist is the only person who can truly distinguish a a butt breakout from true acne, folliculitis, keratosis pilaris, or HS, and then game-plan the correct treatment approach for your skin. And if you feel weird about going to your dermatologist specifically for your butt acne, don’t worry—it’s so common, and everyone (hi, me!) experiences it at some point, so no need to be embarrassed giving your doc all the details. And hey, whatever I need to do for a few extra “🍑🍑🍑” comments in my next IG bikini pic, I’ll do it.

Meet the experts:

Why trust Cosmopolitan?

Beth Gillette is the beauty editor at Cosmopolitan with more than four years of experience researching, writing, and editing acne stories that range from hormonal acne to clogged pores on your nose. She’s an authority in all skincare categories but is an expert when it comes to body acne, thanks to dealing with back, chest, and butt acne for more than a decade. She regularly tests and analyzes skincare products for efficacy, while working with the industry’s top dermatologists to assess new formulas and brands.

Brooke Shunatona was the senior beauty editor at Cosmopolitan for nearly five years and has eight years of experience writing about beauty and lifestyle across print and digital, including what to do when you get a pimple in your nose and how to get rid of oily skin.

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