Acne typically occurs on the face, but it can sometimes appear on the stomach. However, a pimple on the stomach may be the result of an ingrown hair or folliculitis as well.
In this article, we discuss what else a pimple on the stomach could be and how to treat it.
According to a 2020 article, acne can affect the:
- upper arms
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) say acne affects the back, neck, chest, arms, and buttocks.
If a person notices a pimple-like bump on their stomach, it may be something other than acne.
According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, ingrown hairs can look similar to pimples.
Ingrown hairs can cause itchy, pimple-like bumps where a hair has met a blocked pore. It has then grown back on itself, curling under the skin or growing sideways. Pus may also appear.
An ingrowing hair is common in areas where people remove their body hair. They can occur naturally or from shaving or other hair removal techniques.
Ingrown hairs are typical in areas with coarse and curly hair, such as the beard and neck areas or pubic areas.
Shaving typically cuts the hair at an angle, which can enable the strand to curve inwards.
Ingrown hairs can turn into ingrown hair cysts. A cyst is a large bump that extends between the skin’s surface and deep underneath it.
The AAD suggest that acne-like breakouts of pimples could be folliculitis.
Folliculitis is a common skin infection that occurs in the hair follicles. This distinction means the condition can develop anywhere on the body where a person has hair follicles.
Folliculitis can resemble acne, but each spot may have a darker ring surrounding it, which is a sign of infection.
Most people will see these breakouts about 12–48 hours after using the hot tub.
Treatment for a pimple on the stomach can depend on the cause:
Other bacteria may also enter an open wound that results from trying to burst a pimple, which can lead to infection.
A person will typically need antibiotics if an ingrown hair is infected.
Over-the-counter topical antibiotics may be useful at the first signs of infection, for example:
Starting the topical treatment at the first signs of infection, along with keeping the area clean and dry, can reduce the need for oral antibiotics. If the pimple worsens, a person can consult a doctor for further medication.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS), a doctor may be able to free an ingrown hair with a sterile blade or needle.
Symptoms of folliculitis often go away by themselves if someone has a healthy immune system and stops whatever caused the pimples.
One treatment for the symptoms of folliculitis is to use a warm compress.
The AAD recommend applying a warm compress at least three to four times a day for 15–20 minutes at a time.
Treatment may vary, depending on whether the cause is bacteria, yeasts, or viruses.
It is not always possible to prevent pimples on the stomach, but there are steps a person can take to minimize the chances of developing one.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS) say that doctors do not know exactly what causes acne. However, it is probably the result of more than one factor. This means that a person cannot prevent acne easily.
However, the NIAMS also suggest that pressure from sports helmets, tight clothes, or backpacks may make acne worse, as can oil from skin care products.
A person can try the following skin-care tips:
- washing twice a day and after sweating
- using the fingertips to apply a gentle cleanser
- using skin sensitive products
- not scrubbing acne
- avoiding touching the face
- shampooing regularly
- letting the skin heal naturally
The following may help prevent ingrown hairs:
- wetting the skin with warm water and using shaving gel
- shaving in the direction the hairs are growing
- using an exfoliating scrub to release trapped hairs and prevent blocked pores
- trying a different hair removal method, such as hair removal cream
- trying a long term way of removing hair, such as laser treatment
- avoiding shaving too close to the skin
The AAD suggest that people can sometimes prevent folliculitis occurring. They recommend:
- wearing loose clothing when hot and humid, as constant rubbing can damage hair follicles
- washing and drying a bathing suit after each use to avoid exposure to bacteria
- shaving the correct way and with care
- only using properly maintained hot tubs
According to a 2018 article, a boil is similar to a pimple but deeper in the skin and more painful. Boils develop when a hair follicle becomes infected along with the surrounding tissue.
Boils can feel warm to the touch and appear inflamed. Yellow pus may also show through the skin.
Typically, they occur due to the Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
A person should see a doctor if an ingrown hair on their stomach has become hot or swollen.
If a person thinks they have folliculitis, a healthcare provider or specialist dermatologist can suggest treatment options.
Although some boils may clear up on their own, they often need medical treatment to prevent the infection from spreading, leaving scars, recurring, or causing serious systemic illness.
What appears to be a pimple on the stomach may be an ingrown hair or folliculitis.
A person can usually treat the cause at home. However, it may be useful to see a dermatologist for advice.
Why are people less likely to experience acne on the stomach?
Since clogged oil glands are a more common cause of acne, we don’t often see acne on the skin that covers the abdominal area because there are fewer oil glands, and we tend to not sweat from our abdominal area. Pimples on the abdominal (a.k.a. stomach) area more often are caused by infected hair follicles or infected ingrown hairs, especially in areas that may be shaved, like the lower abdomen.
— Cynthia Taylor Chavoustie, PA-C, MPAS
Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.