At-Home Treatment Options for Hidradenitis Suppurativa
What is hidradenitis suppurativa?
Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), or acne inversa, is a chronic skin condition characterized by painful, boil-like lumps that form in blocked hair follicles under the skin. The lumps may eventually rupture and leak pus and blood. As the ruptures heal, hard, rope-like scars and sinus tracts (tunnels under the skin) often form, which can restrict movement.
In addition to conventional medical treatments for hidradenitis suppurativa, several at-home treatments may also help prevent flare-ups, reduce symptoms, or prevent complications. These treatments include the following:
- Taking over-the-counter pain medications
If HS lumps are painful, taking acetaminophen, ibuprofen or aspirin may help. It’s important to note that a medical professional should always be consulted before taking any new medication.
- Keeping the area dry
To reduce flare-ups, the affected area should be kept as dry as possible. Keeping the area dry can also prevent bacteria and fungus from growing, as they prefer moist locations.
- Using temperature therapy
Applying heat to the affected area may help reduce pain. Warm, dry compresses, such as heating pads or gel packs, are the best choice. However, cold compresses can temporarily reduce pain and inflammation as well.
- Taking weak bleach baths
Taking weak bleach (2.2% concentration) baths may help with chronic skin infections. However, a dermatologist or other medical professional should be consulted before trying this treatment due to the harsh nature of bleach. The ratio of bleach to water should be ⅓ teaspoon bleach to one quart of warm water. Soaking time should be limited to 10 minutes. The bath should be followed by a shower, after which the skin should be thoroughly dried.
- Quitting smoking Individuals who smoke are more likely to experience HS and more likely to experience severe symptoms. Therefore, quitting the habit of smoking can prevent HS or help reduce symptom severity.
- Following an anti-inflammatory diet
Prioritizing fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can help reduce inflammation in the body. This may reduce the effects of HS.
- Avoiding certain foods
Avoiding foods and beverages that cause oxidative stress and contribute to inflammation may be beneficial for individuals with HS. Foods and beverages to avoid include sugary foods, processed meats, dairy products, fried foods, brewer’s yeast (commonly found in fermented foods and beverages, such as beer, wine, soy sauce, and some breads).
- Losing weight, if necessary
Weight loss, if necessary, may help reduce symptoms of HS.
- Eliminating shaving of affected areas
If HS affects areas of the body that are commonly shaved, the use of razor blades can make symptoms worse. A dermatologist can suggest gentler hair removal options.
- Gently cleansing the skin
Cleansing with washcloths or loofahs should be avoided. Using clean hands to wash the area with non-soap cleanser or antiseptic wash is the best option. Freshly cleansed skin should be gently patted dry with a clean towel.
- Using mild or natural skincare and laundry products
Using skincare and laundry products with added fragrances or dyes can irritate the skin. Using products that are “free” of irritants can help. Skincare products that will not clog pores and deodorant that does not contain aluminum may also help.
- Wearing loose-fitting clothes
Tight-fitting clothes can rub against the skin and make HS worse. Wearing loose-fitting clothing made with natural fibers is best.