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When you think about hyperpigmentation, you probably think of your face. But this form of discoloration doesn’t just occur above the neck. It can show up anywhere on the body — even your buttocks.
If you’ve noticed patches of hyperpigmentation on or around your butt, here’s why they might’ve appeared and what you can do to treat them.
The term “hyperpigmentation” basically describes any area of skin that has become darker due to excess melanin production. (Melanin is the natural pigment that gives skin its color.)
As hyperpigmentation can have a long list of causes, it’s often split into a number of categories. Some common ones:
- Melasma. This one is thought to have a
hormonal cause, such as pregnancy or birth control pills.
- Sunspots. These tend to appear after excessive sun exposure.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is common after the skin experiences trauma or inflammation (most often from acne).
People with darker skin are also more prone to hyperpigmentation, as they have
While you’ll often hear hyperpigmentation discussed in relation to the face, patches can appear anywhere. And yes, it’s completely common for patches to appear on your buttocks — whether they’ve arisen as a result of a condition, like butt acne, or seemingly come from nowhere.
Facial hyperpigmentation can be caused by an array of factors, from sun exposure to skin trauma, and butt hyperpigmentation is often no different.
One reason: “The skin in the folds of our buttocks, armpits, elbows, and backs of our knees all have a higher concentration of melanocytes — the cells that produce melanin, which is responsible for our skin pigment,” says Dr. Kristina Semkova, a consultant dermatologist at the Cadogan Clinic.
These areas also experience more friction, which could lead to skin irritation and eventual hyperpigmentation.
However, one of the most common causes of hyperpigmentation on your butt is acne — sort of. According to Semkova, most of the time, “buttne” isn’t technically acne.
Instead, it’s a condition called folliculitis. It “causes the hair follicle to become inflamed or infected. It has an acne-like appearance characterized by tiny white-headed pimples around the hair follicle or small red bumps,” she says.
Folliculitis can be caused by the likes of tight clothing and sweaty skin.
Tight clothes “can trap dirt, sweat, dead skin cells, and bacteria in the skin, preventing it from breathing. This results in inflammation of the hair follicle,” Semkova says.
And, if you work out and keep your sweaty clothes on for a while, you could be increasing your buttne risk. “Sweat traps dust and dirt… and the longer you wear the clothing, the longer the skin remains exposed to irritants,” Semkova says.
“Sweaty and warm skin from exercising also creates an ideal environment for bacteria and fungi to thrive. Add the usual micro-chafing from sports clothes and you get the perfect storm for skin infections and irritation to brew.”
Although hyperpigmentation on your buttocks is common and doesn’t need “fixing,” there are ways to lighten the patches if you want to treat them.
But, when it comes to skin discoloration, “the course of treatment is very much dependent on the cause and should be overseen by a medical professional in every case,” Semkova says.
“DIY remedies, such as skin bleaching or off-label products, should be avoided as these can cause side effects, exacerbate the condition, and cause scarring or irreversible damage,” she adds.
One other note of caution from Semkova: Be aware that “treating hyperpigmentation in people with darker skin is tricky, as one of the side effects of all available treatments is hypopigmentation (i.e., loss of pigment).” She recommends reaching out to your doctor before trying any of the tips below.
So, what steps can you take?
Clean the area regularly
If you have folliculitis, the cycle will continue if you’re not washing the area and gently exfoliating 1 to 2 times per week, Semkova notes. “Prevention of new spots is the best way to break the cycle and enable hyperpigmentation to clear.”
She advises showering daily with a mild cleanser, drying the area thoroughly, and wearing loose-fitting, natural fabrics that reduce friction and allow the skin to breathe.
Hit the gym regularly? Remember to shower and change out of your sweaty clothes as soon as possible after your sweat sesh.
Try a skin care product
When it comes to cleansers, you can try the Murad Clarifying Cleanser, which features salicylic acid and green tea extract to help keep skin clear and calm.
Another good option is the La Roche Posay Effaclar Medicated Gel Cleanser, which also contains salicylic acid and helps to remove dirt from the skin’s surface.
For gentle exfoliation, consider the Nip + Fab Glycolic Fix Daily Cleansing Pads. The glycolic acid inside the pads works to remove dead skin and unclog pores.
If you already have post-inflammatory or other forms of hyperpigmentation, you may need stronger treatment. “The more pigmented the skin, the longer it’ll take to clear,” Semkova points out. This can range between 6 months and 2 years.
Mild forms of hyperpigmentation can be treated with over-the-counter products. For mild forms, Semkova advises using azelaic acid and alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs).
“Azelaic acid reduces inflammation and redness, gently exfoliates the surface layers of the skin, and has some antibacterial and antioxidant properties,” she says.
AHAs, she adds, “exfoliate and also hydrate the skin, increase the cell turnover, and promote the renewal of the skin.”
For example, the AmLactin Alpha-Hydroxy Therapy Daily Moisturizing Body Lotion helps lock in moisture and soothe skin.
Medium forms of hyperpigmentation, meanwhile, require more intensive treatments, like hydroquinone. This works by temporarily deactivating the number of melanocytes in the skin.
“Retinoids can also be effective by increasing the cell turnover,” she adds, “However, both of these treatments may trigger a different type of hyperpigmentation due to irritation, therefore [they] must be used with caution.”
Ask an expert
Severe hyperpigmentation likely requires a trip to the dermatologist’s office.
According to Semkova, the treatment options include chemical peels, which “use stronger acids to remove the epidermis (outer layer of the skin).”
Lasers can also be effective, as they’ll work to directly break down the pigment.
Hyperpigmentation may take a while to disappear. But, with the right routine, treatment, and professional help, it’s possible to have a more even skin tone across your face and body.
And remember: Discoloration on your butt is 100 percent common. So, if you’re not bothered by it, embrace it.
Lauren Sharkey is a U.K.-based journalist and author specializing in women’s issues. When she isn’t trying to discover a way to banish migraines, she can be found uncovering the answers to your lurking health questions. She has also written a book profiling young female activists across the globe and is currently building a community of such resisters. Catch her on Twitter.