Uncomfortable shallow tear in skin; how to prevent?
January 9, 2013 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I keep getting a small, shallow tear at the top of my butt. How can I prevent it from reoccurring?

The tear is not near my anus (so it's not an anal fissure), it's at the very top of my butt crack - several inches away from my anus. It hurts some and is a bit raw, but isn't bleeding now. It bled a little bit the last time it tore, which was several weeks ago.

I found this previous question that seems similar, but most of the answers say to see a doctor ASAP. I will see a doctor if answers say to, but I really don't think this is an urgent situation; this has been occurring off and on for a while now. It's uncomfortable, but it's essentially a very shallow tear in my skin that happens to be in my butt crack.

I have been treating it by drying it off very thoroughly after showering and putting vaseline (or lanolin) on it to protect 1-2 times a day. This seems to work, it heals in a couple of days - but then it will come back several weeks later.

Possibly relevant details:
- I am female, there is no hair on my butt, so I don't think it's a pilonidal cyst (plus, there is no bump or cyst).
- I am at a normal weight or possibly very slightly overweight, but I have a rather large / round butt, I have no idea if this could influence anything.
- I usually wear cotton underwear, but occasionally wear some random synthetic cheap underwear. I never wear thong underwear.
- I shower every other day-ish, I don't specifically dry off my butt crack. Perhaps I should.

I know that you are not my doctor. If you all think I need to see a doctor, I will go see my doctor. I do have decent insurance, but I'd rather not go to the doctor if this is something I can take care of on my own.

Does anyone know what this is, why it keeps happening, and how I can prevent it?

If you'd like to email me, you can contact me at [redacted at poster's request]. Thank you so much.
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have been treating it by drying it off very thoroughly after showering and putting vaseline (or lanolin) on it to protect 1-2 times a day.

I don't know from medical urgency, but having to smear vaseline on my ass twice a day for a baseline of comfort is enough to send me to the doctor for a more permanent solution.
posted by griphus at 11:35 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am female, there is no hair on my butt

As an adult human you are almost entirely covered with hairs, no matter what your gender. In some places it is more visible than others.

I would go to the doctor because butt problems are just the worst.
posted by elizardbits at 11:37 AM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

ALSO if you wear thong underwear you can have a chafing problem, especially if you wear them to the gym or are a generally sweaty person.
posted by elizardbits at 11:39 AM on January 9, 2013

My guess (and it's only a guess, based on what's true for me when the same thing happens) is that it's a matter of dry skin which cracks when it's pulled when toweling off or using toilet paper. This makes it a "skin" problem rather than a "butt" problem, which can be treated like other skin problems. Regular moisturizing, especially in the winter, and A&D Ointment or the like on the spot when it flares up, should take care of it.
posted by DrGail at 11:42 AM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

You might consider some tinactin. If the area keeps getting damp for whatever reason, you may have a small fungal infection. I'd use it if things feel a bit raw and then for a few days after and not, like, everyday. Otherwise, yeah, ask a doc. They can see it a bit better than you and may have suggestions as to why it keeps happening.
posted by amanda at 11:44 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

As far as I know, women are more likely to get pilonoidal cysts. We all have hair.

But, yeah, sometimes it's just butt configuration (the worst run I had of this was associated with gaining weight) or weird chairs or an environmental situation you'll need to identify and curb (sitting on floors or hard benches more often than usual). If you have a partner who is cheek-grabby during personal recreation, you may need to tell them to settle down for a while.

Moisturizer on the regular, and neosporin a couple of times a day until it heals plus avoidance of awkward sitting, clothes that rub, etc. I have only gone to the doctor for this when it was an actual pilonoidal cyst.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:46 AM on January 9, 2013

Could it be environmental in origin? Is it scarring? If it occurs sporadically, heals well and you've other no hx of similar instances on other body regions, considering checking for zippers, rough edges on chairs, etc.
posted by beaning at 11:47 AM on January 9, 2013

I had a similar wound a few years ago right below my tailbone. It was a mechanical issue caused by lots of bicycling and other exercise in a hot, humid climate with ambient blown sand and dust, and it persisted for a few weeks once I had returned to the northeastern US. A surgeon with significant experience in remedying problems in that region of the body recommended that I apply hydrogen peroxide to the area twice a day. I did so and I was totally healed within a week. I've never had a recurrence or any other problem in the area.

The TL;DR answer is that you should absolutely go to a doctor in case you have some complicating factor such as a minor infection, and to rule out any factor which might turn this into a more chronic situation, but you should go without any expectation that this will be a Big Deal.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 11:50 AM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm a fellow round-assed girl and am somewhat embarrassed to admit I've had the same problem, but not for years, and had actually forgotten about it until I read your question. The only thing I can think of is that I've been using a moisturizing body wash (like this Nivea, but I use all different kinds) and/or regular or sensitive Dove soap in recent years in the shower. Both body wash and Dove keep me more moisturized all over that the other crap I used to use (Ivory, other cheap soaps). Might be worth a try.
posted by jabes at 11:52 AM on January 9, 2013

In the interest of helping my fellow woman, I'll embarrassingly fess up to having had this as well. For me, drying everything out was actually more helpful than keeping it moisturized. Try cornstarch.
posted by cecic at 12:04 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Another woman chiming in to say I briefly had this. Moisturizing fixed it. Do you keep moisturizing even after it heals? If not, I would say just keep it moisturized, especially through the dry winter months.
posted by yasaman at 12:25 PM on January 9, 2013

This sounds like what happens to a lot of folks under their ear lobes. I had it on my ears all the time as a kid.

1) Wash well (but gently)
2) Dry thoroughly (but gently)
3) Moisturize!

I'd recommend working in a small drop of creamy lotion (personal preference is Aveeno) rather than Vaseline. Reapply as necessary.
posted by phunniemee at 12:33 PM on January 9, 2013

My upper butt/lower back area tends to be particularly sensitive to clothing tags and seams; I've gotten raw spots in the same area when I've done a considerable amount of moving around in pants with inconveniently-placed labels. If you do a lot of walking, climbing, or anything where you move around while lying on your back (ab exercises, yoga, fixing cars?), examine the pants you do those activities in. Even if you're not doing any butt-scraping activities, it couldn't hurt to remove any scratchy tags.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:14 PM on January 9, 2013

Did you try diaper rash cream, or some other kind of white zinc ointment?
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:14 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

There are creams made specifically for this that you might look into, they're called barrier creams. Calmoseptine and Remedy Calazime skin paste are thicker and are supposed to protect small skin tears from chaffing, sweat, urine, stool (that even if on the skin for a brief while they seem to encourage more breakdown after a tear starts - the creams block that from happening and allow time needed for healing while protecting healthy skin that surrounds the tear). The dimethicone cream and the Remedy Clear-Aid are also very good (Clear Aid is similar to vasaline but not as thick - skin 'breathes' better under it IMHO). Just put a little on some toilet paper and apply.

I would be cautious about using any creams that are fragrant or for fungus or bacteria. This part of your body is delicate and if you're not having a specific problem with fungus or bacteria don't use a cream for that there because you can muck up the natural flora that live there and protect you already. Fragrances can cause a rash and compound the problem.

This is a very common. There's no shame in it. You're taking care of your skin just as you would a tear on your hand or face. You're probably helping others just by asking it. Thanks for that and good luck.
posted by dog food sugar at 1:15 PM on January 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Lots of good curative measures here. As far as preventative steps, are you spreading your cheeks too much when you sit on the toilet or wipe afterwards? You could be giving yourself a small tear this way without even realizing it.
posted by grog at 2:49 PM on January 9, 2013

Does it hurt to press on it? If there's more pain than just from the graze I would get to a doctor because it sounds a lot like a pilonidal cyst (so far I've been able to avoid surgery or reoccurence through changing my shower habit to rinse my butt just before I get out to avoid hair/soapiness lurking there through the day, not slouching, avoiding long periods on soft couches and not sitting so as to spread my butt cheeks too far apart).
posted by geek anachronism at 2:52 PM on January 9, 2013

I'm seconding the use of barrier creams -- I worked in a nursing home for a year, and whenever anyone's crack/coccyx needed some moisturizing and protection it was barrier cream all the way.
posted by mr. digits at 3:13 PM on January 9, 2013

I used to have this. I'd apply Vitamin E oil to the tear. It eventually healed completely, and I haven't had any problems for a couple years.
posted by Val_E_Yum at 4:30 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think you need to moisturise your butt.
posted by windykites at 4:56 PM on January 9, 2013

Petroleum products actually create a dependency situation for skin exposed to it regularly, so I'd go with a non-petroleum solution. Many people are surprised to find they are sensitive to lanolin. I know I was.

You can use other things like Burt's Bees Baby Bee Multi-Purpose Ointment or Nature Only Diaper Rash Cream or Healing Aid - with all of those, a little goes a loooong way.

Washing that area of your body with very mild cleansers might give you some relief.

You can also use a blow-dryer on cool to dry without abrasion. Might seem a little weird, but once you have it healed, you should only need to do it ever so often to keep it that way.

Getting up and moving around if you sit for long periods helps, too.
posted by batmonkey at 7:45 PM on January 9, 2013

I have a small butt and I even still get this. It's not a fungal infection or some kind of cyst and definitely doesn't warrant a trip to the doctor. Mine is a combination of dry skin plus what grog mentions.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:26 PM on January 9, 2013

I know this is very late, but offering in case it's useful for anyone in the future...after experiencing this recently (screw you, jeggings!), here is what worked for me: several days of applying doctor-prescribed Bactroban ointment and topical antifungal cream made the condition much worse and very painful. A little bit of zinc oxide barrier cream with a dusting of non-cornstarch powder on top cleared everything up in 48 hours. The excess moisture from the ointments seemed to prevent healing for me (my skin tear was caused by mechanical irritation/friction vs. a skin infection).
posted by tanuki.gao at 8:31 AM on March 26, 2013

(and thank you for sharing all of the prior suggestions and experiences. Without that advice, I would be in the doctor's office now, having expensive cultures taken, getting unnecessary rounds of antibiotics, etc.)
posted by tanuki.gao at 8:38 AM on March 26, 2013

Mod note: Final update from the OP:
I've been contacted many times about this by people who have a similar problem, so I wanted to add a final update. When I saw a doctor for an unrelated issue, I asked about the tear and the doctor confirmed that it wasn't fungal or infected and there didn't seem to be any underlying problem.

After reading the comments here, I started being extra careful to thoroughly dry the area after showering, and the tear went away and hasn't recurred in years. I am 99% sure that the problem was that water couldn't evaporate and the skin stayed wet which irritated the skin over time and made it vulnerable to splitting. I did try using diaper cream as a barrier (dry off then apply), and it helped the tear heal, but once it had fully healed just drying off has been sufficient.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:30 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

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