- Hyperpigmentation refers to patches or spots of skin that are darker than the surrounding skin
- Causes of hyperpigmentation on buttocks include acne, folliculitis and lifestyle habits
- Topical products, skin resurfacing treatments, lifestyle changes and home remedies are all effective treatments
Hyperpigmentation on the buttocks is characterized by spots or irregular patches of dark skin. It occurs when the skin produces an excess of melanin, the pigment responsible for skin’s color.
Treating this condition is a matter of identifying the underlying issue and then choosing an appropriate remedy to clear up the dark spots.
Causes of Hyperpigmentation on Buttocks
Hyperpigmentation on the buttocks can develop due to several factors such as sun exposure, or inflammation caused by trauma such as cuts, burns and scrapes.
In addition, the skin in the folds of the buttocks has a higher concentration of melanocytes—the cells that produce melanin—making this area of the body particularly prone to developing this condition.
Acne and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation
Once an acne blemish heals, it commonly leaves behind a dark mark called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). This is due to an overproduction of melanin, and is a result of the body’s response to inflammation and the natural healing process.
This outcome affects men and women equally but has a greater impact on people with darker skin tones as their skin has a greater amount of melanin.
Another form of acne that often affects the buttocks is acne mechanica, which produces the same type of lesions as acne but is caused by tight-fitting clothing or equipment that chafes and irritates the skin.
Folliculitis is an inflammation of the hair follicles caused by a bacterial or fungal infection. The most common fungus associated with this inflammation is Malassezia (also known as Pityrosporum), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
This condition is characterized by small red bumps or pus-filled lesions that can develop into crusty sores. While folliculitis rarely develops into a serious condition, it can be itchy and painful.
As with acne lesions, once healed, folliculitis lesions can leave behind postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Certain lifestyle habits elevate the risk of hyperpigmentation-causing acne or folliculitis. Some of these habits create an ideal environment for bacteria to grow in; others irritate the skin, increasing the likelihood of bacterial infection. They include:
- Not showering after working out
- Wearing tight, nonbreathable clothing
- Prolonged sitting
- Repetitive rubbing or scratching of the skin
- Shaving or waxing
- Using a poorly maintained hot tub
Pregnancy and hormonal imbalances
People who have fluctuating hormones due to pregnancy or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are at a higher risk of developing dark inner thighs or dark skin at the folds of the buttocks. This hyperpigmentation is caused by fluctuating estrogen levels, which stimulate melanin production.
Hyperpigmentation on Thighs
Hyperpigmentation on the thighs has many of the same causes as hyperpigmentation on the buttocks. The backs of the thighs and inner thighs can become chafed or irritated after sitting for long periods, and tight leggings or pants can trap bacteria on the legs, causing acne.
Hyperpigmentation on thighs can also occur after excessive sun exposure. When the skin absorbs too much sunlight, it overproduces melanin to protect against ultraviolet rays.
Topical Treatments for Hyperpigmentation on Buttocks
In most cases, topical products are an effective treatment for this condition. These products work to lighten dark spots by inhibiting melanin production, exfoliating damaged cells or addressing the underlying cause to prevent recurrence.
These products may require consistent use over weeks or months to see results.
Antibiotics and antifungals creams
Bacterial folliculitis can be resolved with a topical antibiotic; fungal folliculitis with an antifungal such as selenium sulfide or an oral antifungal. In severe cases of folliculitis, oral medication may be necessary.
Once the infection has cleared, a topical product can be used to target the hyperpigmentation.
Glycolic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is known for its exfoliative qualities and as such, is ideal for hyperpigmentation. It breaks the bonds that hold the topmost layer of dead skin cells together, allowing hyperpigmented cells to slough off and reveal healthier skin.
Hydroquinone is a first-line treatment for any type of hyperpigmentation, regardless of the cause. It lightens skin by inhibiting the activity of tyrosinase, an enzyme that triggers melanin production. Hydroquinone can be safely combined with a retinoid for greater results.
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives with established skin health benefits. Well tolerated by all skin tones, they block tyrosinase activity, induce desquamation (the shedding of dead skin cells), break up hyperpigmented cells and encourage skin cell turnover.
Retinoids are available in a range of strengths, over the counter and prescription only, and are available in gel, serum or cream formats.
Salicylic acid is a chemical exfoliative that effectively treats and prevents both hyperpigmentation and acne. It is a desmolytic agent, and can break the bonds that hold skin cells together to deeply exfoliate and remove damaged cells. It’s also oil-soluble for deeper penetration.
In low concentrations (1%–2%), this acid can be used safely in an everyday cleanser or leave-on topical product to gradually lighten hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation caused by sun exposure can be prevented by regularly wearing sunscreen. Choose a product with an SPF of 30 or higher and reapply it regularly to protect skin from the sun’s damaging rays.
Skin Resurfacing Treatments
As an alternative to topical products, professional treatment options resurface the skin to more rapidly address hyperpigmentation.
Chemical peels use alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) such as glycolic or lactic acid; and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) such as salicylic acid to remove the top layers of skin to improve the appearance of hyperpigmented areas on the buttocks.
Glycolic acid is commonly used as a superficial or medium peel, is effective in treating hyperpigmented skin and has been found to be safe for Fitzpatrick skin types I–IV. It can also be combined with other peeling agents such as salicylic acid for greater results.
Multiple types of lasers can effectively treat hyperpigmentation; they vary in terms of recovery time and number of sessions needed.
Nonablative fractional lasers scatter light across the skin to destroy hyperpigmented cells. They allow for a fast recovery and are safe for all skin tones, including skin of color.
Q-switched, picosecond and nanosecond lasers release energy in short bursts, targeting hyperpigmentation deep within the skin without compromising the surrounding area.
In a comparative study, these lasers were all found to be effective in pigmentation with temporary side effects and no long-term complications
Natural Remedies to Reduce Hyperpigmentation on Buttocks
Several at-home remedies have demonstrated efficacy as natural treatments for hyperpigmentation.
Although evidence is limited, at least one clinical trial has demonstrated that rosewater reduces tyrosinase activity and can significantly lighten skin.
How to Prevent Hyperpigmentation from Occurring on Buttocks
By making a few lifestyle changes, it’s possible to prevent hyperpigmentation from occurring on the buttocks. Consider the following:
- Use a salicylic acid, glycolic acid or benzoyl peroxide body wash
- Shower change clothes immediately after exercising
- Wear loose-fitting clothing
- Avoid sitting for long periods of time
- Abstain from hair removal on the affected area
- Avoid hot tubs
Hyperpigmentation on the buttocks commonly occurs as a result of acne, folliculitis or certain lifestyle habits such as wearing tight clothing and not showering after exercise.
Hyperpigmentation is typically treated with topical products containing active ingredients such as glycolic acid, hydroquinone, salicylic acid and retinoids. In the case of folliculitis, the root cause should first be addressed with an antifungal or antibiotic.
Skin resurfacing treatments such as chemical peels and laser therapies have been shown to produce faster results. At-home treatments consist of lemon juice, turmeric or rosewater; however these remedies will be less effective than professional treatments or over-the-counter products.
To prevent this condition from recurring, treat any skin injury promptly to reduce the damaging effects of inflammation and protect your skin from the sun. Incorporate some lifestyle changes to ensure the health of your skin.
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