Bothered by a Rash Around Your Belly Button?

Bactroban or Centany

If an itchy navel is causing discomfort, you might have one of several skin conditions. Here, find out what could be causing your belly-button rash.

Q: My belly button is itchy and crusty and sometimes oozes. Should I be worried?

A: Whether you have an innie or an outie, there are several skin conditions that can give you a rash around your belly button (otherwise known as your umbilicus). Because it’s a dark, moist environment, this area is prone to bacterial infections, and I often see infections in people who have belly button piercings. In addition, if you’ve recently had a staph infection elsewhere on your body, the bacteria can hide out in your belly button and you can become a carrier, which means that you can spread the infection to other parts of your body (and to other people). Staph typically causes yellowish oozing and crusting, so if there’s any discharge or pus, don’t touch it, and be sure to see a doctor, who can swab the area and check for infection. If it is staph, it usually responds to prescription mupirocin cream (Bactroban or Centany).

Psoriasis and eczema can also affect the belly button. These usually produce red, scaly, itchy patches. Most often there are patches elsewhere on the body, although this can be the only location. Mild cases will respond to over-the-counter cortisone cream (Cortizone 10 or Cortaid), although thicker patches may require prescription creams containing vitamin D, cortisone, or anti-inflammatories; cortisone tape (Cordran); or even cortisone injections.

Contact dermatitis can develop around the belly button as well. A common cause is an allergic reaction to metal, typically nickel, which can be a component of belly button rings, metal buttons or snaps on jeans and pants, or metal in a zipper. If a particular piece of clothing seems to trigger your rash, try wearing a bandage where the metal touches your skin, or cover the metal with a piece of tape. A dermatologist or allergist can also do a test to see if you’re allergic to metals.