What Is Anal Bleaching— and How Does It Work?

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If you've ever taken a mirror down there, you may notice darker skin around your anus. This difference in pigmentation might bother some people, and some people decide to get anal bleaching to lighten the area. 

Anal bleaching is a cosmetic treatment that uses chemical creams or lasers to lighten the skin around your anus. However, it’s normal for the skin around your anus to look darker, and it’s usually not a cause for concern. "This can be due to genetics, everyday friction, sweat, diet, irritation, hormonal changes, among other reasons," Georges Kaado, MD, who offers anal bleaching at his Virginia Beach medspa, told Health

Here’s everything to know about the process and safety of anal bleaching.

A marble statue male's buttocks

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How Does Anal Bleaching Work?

Despite what the name implies, bleach is not involved in anal bleaching. You should never put bleach on your skin — let alone the sensitive area between your butt cheeks. Actual bleach can irritate your skin and cause burns. The term “bleaching” refers to using chemical lightening or brightening agents on the skin. 

Anal bleaching is often provided at cosmetic surgery centers, medspas, and dermatologist offices. During the anal bleaching procedure, Dr. Kaado said providers typically apply topical lightening agents, like:

  • Hydroquinone
  • Kojic acid
  • Azelaic acid 
  • Niacinamide

Hydroquinone is considered a standard depigmentation or skin-lightening agent. It helps brighten darker skin by inhibiting the enzyme that produces melanin (aka the natural pigment in your skin).  Azelaic acid and kojic acid work similarly to lighten the skin, while niacinamide prevents the transport of the part of a cell that creates skin pigment. 

Some providers may offer different anal bleaching treatments, like:

  • Cryosurgery: Applying liquid nitrogen to get rid of pigmentation
  • Chemical peels: Exfoliating dark areas with chemicals to make the skin appear lighter
  • Lasers: Using lasers that break down melanin (pigment) in the skin to lighten dark pigment

What to Expect During Anal Bleaching

Hydroquinone is often a top choice for anal bleaching. According to Zuri A. Murrell, MD, a colorectal and general surgeon who also performs anal bleaching, the procedure typically goes as follows:  

  • Hydroquinone cream is applied to your perianal skin in the office.
  • You leave the cream on for 10 hours. 
  • You have a follow-up one week later to ensure there’s no irritation or reaction. 
  • If there’s no reaction, you’re given hydroquinone cream to apply twice a day.
  • You return for another visit a month later to see if the tone is right. 

Anal bleaching treatments using azelaic acid, kojic acid, or niacinamide would be applied similarly. Anal bleaching practices will vary by provider and the lightening agent of choice. 

Before and After Treatments

Before you get anal bleaching, the area should be cleaned and shaved with no cuts, and products need to be applied evenly, said Dr. Kaado. If you have hemorrhoids, you’ll also want to address those before treatment. 

After the procedure, you should also avoid sex for two to five days after anal bleaching and stay out of the bath or hot tub for 72 hours. Dr. Kaado also noted that heat and friction can cause hyperpigmentation after anal bleaching. So, you may want to avoid wearing thongs or high-heat exercises like hot yoga.

Is Anal Bleaching Safe?

Anal bleaching is likely safe if you visit a skilled provider who knows how to look for and treat any reactions. 

According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), you can also use over-the-counter (OTC) skin bleaching creams safely if you’re under the supervision of a board-certified dermatologist. However, this statement focuses on treating other skin conditions that affect pigment, like melasma or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, not anal bleaching. There is no official AAD approval for anal bleaching itself, and the treatment isn't without risks.  

Risks of Anal Bleaching

Even if you see a professional for anal bleaching, the ingredients used and improper application can cause side effects. Severe side effects of anal bleaching can include:

  • Scarring 
  • Burning
  • Thinning skin
  • Skin ulcers 
  • Permanent discoloration

You’re more likely to have side effects if you purchase foreign or online skin-bleaching products. These products may not be regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and contain dangerous amounts of hydroquinone and topical steroids. Ingredients may also not be listed on the product. While rare, mercury and arsenic have been found in unregulated skin-bleaching products.

Using skin bleaching products that contain hydroquinone for long periods can also cause exogenous ochronosis — a rare condition where skin pigment permanently turns blue or purple. The FDA has also banned hydroquinone in OTC products due to serious side effects like swelling, rashes, and skin discoloration. So, an OTC anal bleaching product shouldn’t contain hydroquinone. 

How Much Does Anal Bleaching Cost? 

The cost of anal bleaching varies depending on the number of follow-up visits you need, but expect about $350 to $450, said Dr. Kaado. If you're opting for laser treatments, those each run $300 to $400.

How Long Does Anal Bleaching Last?

"Anal bleaching is a semi-permanent treatment," said Dr. Kaado. This means the process is temporary. Melanin in the skin will eventually build back up, and the skin around your anus will likely darken again.

Results aren't immediate either, said Dr. Kaado. If you're using topical products, you can expect full results in three to four months, and the brightening effect can last for six months. Chemical peels or laser treatments require a few sessions (though you'll see skin lightening after the first), and cryosurgery results stick around for a few months. 

Can You Do It at Home?

You can anal bleach at home, but it’s not recommended. Many OTC skin-lightening products are not well-regulated, especially products from overseas or sold online. This makes it hard to tell how much, or what, active ingredients a product contains.

For this reason, the AAD recommends only using OTC lightening agents under the supervision of a board-certified dermatologist.

A Quick Review

While it's perfectly normal for the skin around your anus to look darker and this is not typically a cause for concern, some people may be interested in lightening the skin in this area. 

Just make sure you seek the help or guidance of a healthcare provider before getting started. Anal bleaching isn’t without risks, and even seeing a professional can lead to a skin reaction.

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  3. American Academy of Dermatology. Board-certified dermatologist warns consumers about the dangers of skin bleaching to achieve a lighter complexion.

  4. Schwartz C, Jan A, Zito PM. Hydroquinone. StatPearls. 2022. 

  5. Topical skin-lightening agents used for the treatment of melasma. UpToDate. 2022.

  6. Bhattar PA, Zawar VP, Godse KV, Patil SP, Nadkarni NJ, Gautam MM. Exogenous ochronosis. Indian J Dermatol. 2015;60(6):537-543. doi:10.4103/0019-5154.169122

  7. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. FDA works to protect consumers from potentially harmful OTC skin lightening products

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