What is anal bleaching – and why are people doing it?

Some people want to lighten the skin around the anus.
Some people want to lighten the skin around the anus.

Spas offer a lot of below-the-belt treatments: bikini waxes, laser hair removal, vaginal rejuvenation … and now, anal bleaching. Yes, anal bleaching, or as Graceanne Svendsen, the practice manager at Shafer Plastic Surgery and Laser Center in New York City, calls it: unisex intimate bleaching.

“Intimate bleaching is extremely popular right now,” says Svendsen, crediting porn for the trend. Svendsen says she receives up to four inquiries a day from both men and women and sees at least one intimate bleaching patient a week.

What is anal bleaching?

Anal bleaching is the process of applying chemicals to the skin around the anus (or vulva, or underarm, or areola) in order to lighten the naturally deeper pigmentation. A completely cosmetic procedure, anal bleaching products traditionally use hydroquinone or kojic acid to lighten the anus over time.

Read more: 10 things you need to know before trying anal for the first time

Is anal bleaching safe?

“Mice studies have shown that kojic acid and hydroquinone can be carcinogenic – cancer causing – in high doses,” says Dr Rabia de Latour, a clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone. To be fair, the bleaching you’d have done at a spa will involve much lower doses, she says, but there haven’t been any formal studies evaluating the dangers.

De Latour also warns that these bleaching agents can cause skin irritation, topical burns, and even anal strictures (scars that cause constipation). Because of these possible side effects, de Latour recommends seeking out a professional, like a licensed aesthetician, instead of attempting to do it on your own.

What’s the process like?

At Svendsen’s practice, “anal bleaching is a five step process using gentle, yet effective, chemical peel ingredients, followed by a finishing mask”. Svendsen says clients often see results after one session, but she recommends three or four sessions for optimal results, lasting up to six months. You’ll also apply an at-home cream in between sessions.

Read more: Is anal sex actually safe?

Does anal bleaching work?

It depends on the person. De Latour explains that since darker pigmentation in these areas is natural, and because skin cells constantly refresh, that bleach job won’t last forever. She also recommends immediately stopping treatment if you feel burning or tingling. Ouch.

How will it affect your sex life?

De Latour and Svendsen recommend abstaining from sex immediately after the procedure. Svendsen also encourages patients to avoid saunas, baths, and hot tubs for the next 72 hours. If you’re showing no signs of irritation after three days, then having sex should be totally fine.

The bottom line: Anal bleaching is a cosmetic procedure – not a necessary one. If you’re going to try it, make sure you visit a licensed professional, and watch out for negative side effects.

This article was originally published on

Image credit: iStock

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