Inner Thigh Blackheads: Causes, Treatments, and When to See a Doctor

Blackheads on the inner thigh are common and nothing to be ashamed of. They can often be treated with the same methods as facial blackheads. However, if a condition called hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is to blame, you may need to talk to a doctor.

Blackheads on your nose are bad enough. But blackheads on your thighs? It just feels cruel. Thankfully, there are lots of ways to treat them.

So if you’re wearing shorts in yoga class and you happen to find pesky pore pustules during your next butterfly pose, fear not! We’ll walk you through some ways to help tame those inner thigh blackheads. 

What causes blackheads on inner thighs?

Zits are totally normal. They occur when dead skin cells mix with oils, sweat, and debris and clog the pores. When this gunk oxidizes (makes contact with air) it can turn black. And voilà! Blackheads (aka open comedones).

While inner thigh blackheads can happen to anyone, there are some ways in increase your chances of a breakout. This includes:

  • Genetics. Though scientists don’t know exactly which genes control your likelihood of having acne, studies show your genetics can up your chances of acne.
  • Hormones. Specific hormones are involved in the development of acne. This includes estrogen, androgens, and progesterone. This is why pimple probs are common during puberty or during PMS.
  • Sweat. Heat-related activities like exercise lead to sweat. Sweat leads to a higher chance of getting clogged pores and developing blackheads.
  • Friction. Some of us have a thigh gap and some of us have a negative-thigh-gap. For those of us in the latter category, walking might cause enough friction to cause chafing and irritation. This can clog up your inner thigh pores.
  • Dirt. Any little particles on your skin can get swept into your open pores. It’s sort of like a sink. If too much stuff goes down that drain, you might need to call the plumber.
  • Oil. Those little glands in your skin that produce oil are called sebaceous glands. Some people have active ones, some people have less active ones. Like the skin on your face, your inner thigh skin might be oily, dry, or a combo of both. Oilier skin has a higher likelihood of getting clogged.
  • Dead skin. Your skin constantly grows and sloughs off the dead skin that it doesn’t need. If those dead skin cells don’t get properly cleared away, they’ll add to the mixture of oil and sweat that clogs your pores.

Hidradenitis suppurativa

Blackheads on your inner thigh might also be caused by a skin condition known as hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). Often appearing during puberty, HS is more common in women than in men.

HS can cause blackheads to appear in places where the most friction happens. Common areas include the:

  • groin
  • armpits
  • butt crack
  • inner thighs
  • knee crevices
  • under the breasts

In addition to blackheads, HS can also cause painful hard bumps on the skin. These bumps can spread and become connected via tunnels under the skin.

How to treat inner thigh blackheads

Getting rid of blackheads on your inner thighs is similar to treating the blackheads you might get on your chin, nose or back. Remember:

  • Don’t pop them!
  • Don’t extract them with a tool!
  • Don’t rely on “some dude told me to use glue” hacks that you see on the interwebs!

These methods could add bacteria to your blackheads or cause trauma to your skin, increasing your chances of irritating your pores even more. Instead, try these options:

Wash up

Make sure to keep your thighs nice and clean by using gentle soap that won’t clog your skin. Every. Single. Day. It’s especially important to clean with cool or tepid water as soon as possible after exercise or before you go to sleep on extra-sweat-inducing hot days.

Find a water-based, water-soluble soap that won’t add more oil to the equation. Opt for non-comedogenic products that don’t contain pore-clogging oils.

Exfoliate

Exfoliation is a great way to remove excess skin cells from the top layer of your skin. You can exfoliate your thighs with a soft brush, sponge, or physical exfoliant.

You can also go with a chemical exfoliant that removes the top layer of dead skin. Alpha-Hydroxy acid or Beta-Hydroxy acid peels are popular options. AHAs are water-soluble and tend to be gentle on the skin. BHAs are oil-based and penetrate deeper into the skin to clear out some of that oily buildup.

Whatever exfoliation process you choose, make sure to go easy on your inner thighs. The last thing you want is to irritate those pores even more.

Dress for success

Keeping your inner thighs dry and cool is uber important. So, stick to loose-fitting clothes that don’t cause a lot of friction. Avoid synthetic fabrics like polyester which traps heat and will aggravate those pores. Instead, go for soft and breathable materials like cotton.

Bonus points: Add a water-based moisturizer to your inner thighs for lubrication and hydration before you get dressed. Just be sure to pat any excess moisture off with a clean paper towel.

Hidradenitis suppurativa treatment

Although scientists haven’t yet figured out a cure for HS, your doctor will guide you through some helpful ways to manage the condition.

Medication

These medications have shown to be effective in treating HS:

  1. Tumor necrosis inhibitor (TNF) blockers such as adalimumab (Humira). BTW, these are injections.
  2. Antibiotic topical creams like gentamicin (Gentak) and clindamycin (Cleocin).
  3. Oral antibiotics such as clindamycin, doxycycline (Doryx), and rifampin (Rifadin).

Surgery

If treatment with medication doesn’t seem to budge the painful HS symptoms, your health care provider might suggest surgery. These surgical procedures could drain or remove the blockages deep in your pores or even under the top layers of your skin:

  • Radiation and laser therapy to remove skin lesions.
  • Electrosurgical peeling, which removes damaged skin tissue.
  • Unroofing, which cuts away the skin covering the interconnected pustules.

PSA: Surgical treatment for HS doesn’t guarantee that symptoms won’t return. In some cases, skin grafting is required.

When to see a doctor

If you notice that your blackheads appear in pairs or that small, painful pea sized lumps have formed in your inner thighs, you might have hidradenitis suppurativa. If these blackheads or bumps are left untreated, they may form into tunnels or lesions that leak pus. This is definitely a sign that you should visit your doctor.

If your acne is persistent and you’ve ruled out HS, this might be a sign that you have a hormonal imbalance. Certain hormones control how much oil the glands beneath your pores create, so knowing your hormone levels might help ease the blackhead woes. Consult with your doctor to find out what’s what with your hormone levels.

Takeaway

Inner thigh blackheads are blockages in your pores caused by various factors including:

  • heat
  • friction
  • genetics
  • oil buildup
  • hormonal imbalance

Your instinct might be to just pop ‘em or pull ‘em and move on with your life. Bad idea! Instead of going all aggro on a blackhead extraction mission, choose a gentler and more effective way to make those pustules fade away. Use a water soluble cleanser or a gentle chemical peel to clean and exfoliate the affected skin areas, especially when you’re super sweaty.

Also, be sure to moisturize the inner thigh skin with a water based moisturizer and dress for success by choosing loose fitting clothes made from breathable fabrics.

P.S. If your inner thigh blackheads persist, this may be a sign that you have an underlying hormonal imbalance or a painful skin condition known as hidradenitis suppurativa. Be sure to check in with your doctor to plan out your best course of action.

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