Acne In Private Areas: Reasons, Prevention, and Treatment

Chatting about the blackheads on your nose is one thing, but asking a friend for advice on a pimple on your butt can feel taboo and uncomfortable if not straight up impossible. Butt acne, vaginal acne, and ingrowns in your most sacred crevices aren’t as embarassing as they may seem. Acne, regardless of where it is, is incredibly common — it affects about 85 percent of Americans between the ages of 12 to 24, but can occur at any age. It’s becoming increasingly common in adults too.

The statistics when it comes down to body acne are potentially underreported, but according to New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Hadley King, MD, “more than half of people with facial acne have some body acne, too.”

It’s normal to experience acne on private areas like your vulva, butt, and armpits even if it can seem embarrassing to talk about. As much as we’d like to de-stigmatize skin care for these particular areas, it’s probably still not a topic you’ll be able to bring up with ease at the dinner table. So, in that spirit keep reading for a comprehensive investigation into what causes, how to prevent and how to treat acne in your private areas.

First, a quick note: Dr. King says that skin tags and sexually transmitted infections can be mistaken for body acne in the groin region. The difference she says is that something like a “herpes outbreak is usually preceded by pain, burning, or sensitivity. This sensation will be followed by fluid-filled bumps that will eventually crust over.” If you suspect or are concerned that you may have an STI, or if you want more clarity about a skin issue, always seek guidance from a medical professional.

What Causes Body Acne in These Areas?

Generally speaking, “acne in these areas can result from clogged pores, oil production, bacteria and inflammation” as well as “sweating, shaving-related issues, and friction on the skin,” says Marisa Garshick, MD, a New York area-based board-certified dermatologist. Other contributing factors to acne in your private areas are “genetics and hormones,” as well as your diet and potentially even your weight, Dr. King adds.

Hair removal, folliculitis, and razor burn are some of the most common causes of acne-like bumps in bikini and armpit areas.

“The most common cause of acne-like bumps in the bikini area or armpit area is folliculitis, which is an inflammation and sometimes infection around the hair follicles,” Dr. King says. These tend to look like red bumps, puss-filled bumps, and sometimes even larger boil-like nodules.

Another cause is razor burn which is the “irritated red bumps in the bikini or armpit areas that usually show up after shaving,” Dr. King says. Razor burn can occur after you shave against the grain, with a dull or subpar razor, or without the use of a shaving gel.

Ingrown hairs are prevalent in these areas, too.

Ingrown hairs are not acne, but they will often look like it. They are painful bumps or cysts sometimes filled with pus that contain trapped hair growing under the surface of the skin. The pain is usually relieved once the trapped hair breaches through the skin though “it may take longer for the inflammation to resolve,” according to Dr. King.

Hormonal fluctuations can cause vulvar bumps.

If you are the type of person whose periods are preceded by an explosion of acne, then you know that hormonal fluctuations can determine the health of your skin. Dr. King says that many women have “vulvar bumps that flare up with hormonal fluctuations similar to traditional acne.”

How Can You Prevent Acne in the Armpits, Groin, and Butt?

First, remember, as Dr. Garshick says, that “breakouts [in these areas] can be normal.” If your acne issues in these areas persist or get worse, however, see a dermatologist. That being said, there are certain steps you can take to help minimize body acne in your armpits, bikini area, and butt.

Avoid remaining in sweaty clothing for too long.

If you stay in your sweaty clothes after a workout, you’ll probably notice that your skin is subsequently bumpy and possibly broken out. Dr. Garshick says that an important and easy way of minimizing acne all over your body is to “showering after exercise or at least changing out of sweaty clothing” as soon as possible.

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