Q: I have bumps that look like blemishes on my upper arms, buttocks, and backs of my thighs, but they aren't going away even though I'm applying acne products on them. WTF?
A: Most likely they're not blemishes. What you're probably dealing with is folliculitis, tiny red, inflammed hair follicles that produce pustules that look very similar to a whitehead or pimple, and usually show up on areas where you wouldn't normally get acne, like the backs of your thighs.
So, what causes them? "Folliculitis can occur from friction—when your upper arms rub against your clothing, or your legs rub against the fabric of your jeans or shorts, or your tight bathing suit bottoms shift back and forth against your butt and bikini line," Dr. Kate Lowenthal, M.D., a dermatologist in New York City, says. "Your hair follicles can also get infected when you wear workout gear (the fabric traps moisture, which mixes with the bacteria that lays naturally on your skin), as can nicking yourself with a razor, which also invites bacteria into the skin easier."
If the description of these annoying bumps sound familiar, to prevent more from forming, Lowenthal suggests showering three times a week using an antibacterial wash, which will help eliminate the bacteria on your body that's causing these unsightly blemish-like bumps. And, if you work out a lot and are prone to folliculitis, she said that it's also a good idea to rinse off right after you work out using one of these washes. That way the bacteria, sweat, and dirt on your skin don't have time to mix together, brew, and infect your hair follicles.
To get rid of any folliculitis you may already have, Lowenthal says to dab on an over-the-counter antibiotic cream or ointment (ask your derma to recommend a good one for you) which will help clear away the infection inside the hair follicle.
"If the bumps don't go away after a few weeks, start to deepen in their red color, spread to other areas, or the pustules get larger in size, make sure you make an appointment with your dermatologist, as you might need an prescription-strength oral antibiotic," Lowenthal says.
Here's to having clear body skin when you're half-naked in your bikini!
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.