Acne on your butt is so common that folks have come up with the term “buttne.” But what about pimples on your nipples? Unfortunately, this is not a phenomenon. Acne appearing on your nipple and the surrounding areola is common, but why does it happen and how do we get rid of...nipne?
What causes nipple pimples?
While our nipples and areolas look and feel much different than the rest of our skin, we get pimples there for similar reasons. The buildup of sweat, oil, and dirt is a big culprit. This buildup can block Montgomery glands, located on the nipple and surrounding areola. These glandular secretions are a waxy sebaceous substance believed to help kickstart breastfeeding. When blocked, they can form white spots or yellowish bumps resembling a pimple.
Sometimes, however, Montgomery glands will become more pronounced than usual, mimicking the look of acne. But no need to worry, there are benign explanations for this. They could simply be reacting to cooler temperatures the same way your nipples do in air conditioning, for example. Alternatively, they often become more noticeable and whiter in color with pregnancy and hormone changes.
Ingrown hair is another common cause of nipple acne. While not everyone has hair growing around their areolas, those who do might experience a hair that curls around, growing back into the skin causing a zit-like bump that can also be painful and itchy.
How do I get rid of bumps on my nipples?
Clean your cans: First, foremost, and just like your face, you’ll want to keep a good skin care routine. This means washing your nipples and breasts daily with a gentle cleanser, making sure they’re completely dry before dressing. Be sure to pay attention to any dry skin on the nipple as you might need to also use a mild exfoliator to slough away the dead skin cells. You’ll also want to follow up with a protective, fragrance-free moisturizer like BAWDY’s Nipple & Areola Stick.
Apply heat: blocked Montgomery glands and ingrown hair respond well when a warm compress is applied to the affected area. Since nipples and areolas are extremely sensitive areas, pinching, popping, and picking are big no-no’s and can exacerbate the issue.
Do be wise about what you wear: wearing clothes made with all-natural or moisture-wicking fibers is a good choice. Giving your skin a chance to breathe while controlling moisture will help reduce the chance of excess oils and dirt building up.
Don’t be a dirt-ball: lounging around or running errands in workout gear after a run or class might be convenient. And you might look super cute in your new coordinating set but do you know what’s not cute? The pimples these sweaty, moist clothes are causing. Be sure to change out of your gear as soon as the sweat sesh is over.
When it looks like acne, but might not be
Sometimes we encounter conditions on our nipples, areolas, and breasts that look a lot like acne. But, with a proper skin care routine and treatment, it doesn’t seem to clear up - what gives? Chances are it could be something else and here we’ve outlined what it might be. If you believe your bumps could be symptoms of breast cancer or you're subject to risk factors that contribute to a higher risk of breast cancer, we encourage you to seek medical advice from your dermatologist or OB/GYN right away.
Milk blisters: similar to blocked Montgomery glands, breast ducts can become blocked, but with milk. However, these painful but harmless bumps are actually blisters; the trapped breast milk causes your milk ducts to look more like pimples. This is common in breastfeeding women during lactation.
Subareolar abscesses are infections in the tissue under the nipples and areolae can present like a pimple in that you’ll notice a lump under the skin. However, it’s usually accompanied by redness, swelling, breast pain, and discharge. Sub-areolar abscesses should be addressed by a healthcare professional as, if left untreated, they can cause inverted nipples or the formation of a fistula.
Complications from nipple piercings like hematomas and keloids can often be mistaken for pimples. Hematomas are caused when there’s a collection of fluid or blood beneath the skin at the site of the piercing. Keloids, however, emerge when scar tissue forms a smooth hard, pimple-like small bump.
Blocked sweat glands under the breasts, also called Hidradenitis Suppurativa, can lead to small painful lumps forming under the skin which persist for weeks or months.
The bottom line
Most bumps you encounter on your nipples and areolas are not only common, but nothing to be concerned about. And while nipne (nipple acne) is easily treated, you shouldn’t ignore conditions that are more bumpy, lumpy, painful, and non-responsive to a proactive skin care routine.