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Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is chronic inflammatory skin disease where small lumps that look like pimples or boils develop. It’s most common under the breasts, in the armpits, and in the groan area. It can be incredibly painful. It can also lead to abscesses and scarring.

If you have HS, keeping your skin clean is very important, but it’s also critical to avoid further irritating inflamed areas. You’ll likely need an extremely gentle cleanser with antibacterial properties.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with HS or have never found a cleanser that works well, you may be wondering where to turn. Don’t worry, we’ve gathered a list of some of the best cleansers for those with HS.

There are a variety of soap and cleansing options available for those with HS. A few of these include:

  • Medicated cleansers: A doctor or dermatologist often prescribes these cleansers. They include medications for treating skin wounds, killing germs, and alleviating painful symptoms. These cleansers may be prescribed for only a specific use or amount of time.
  • Nonsoap cleansers: These are either partially or completely composed of synthetic ingredients. It might seem odd to want synthetic ingredients, but these cleansers have been found to be milder and less irritating than traditional soaps. They also do not have the chemical that causes soap to foam. This is beneficial as that chemical can often be harsh on skin, causing it to dry out.
  • Antibacterial cleansers: When a cyst bursts, the puss that oozes out contains bacteria and fragments of tissue cells. Not only can this puss lead to bacterial issues, but it can also cause odor issues. The antibacterial agents in these types of cleansers help those with HS kill germs and prevent strange odors.
  • Antimicrobial or antiseptic cleansers: Research on the effect of these types of cleansers on HS is limited, but at least one study indicates that they may help reduce bacterial resistance to some HS treatments.
  • Tea tree oil cleansers: Tea tree oil is an essential oil that has anti-inflammatory properties and is considered particularly gentle. It’s also believed to be antibacterial. While tea tree oil cleansers may help with HS, it’s important to keep in mind that tea tree oil can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. It should also only ever be used topically. Tea tree oil should not be ingested.

Not all cleansers are created equal. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has identified that dyes, fragrances, and synthetic ingredients can cause allergic reactions and further irritate skin. Those with HS may not be able to tolerate cleansers with these ingredients.

Parabens are another example of a substance added to cleansers that individuals with HS may wish to avoid. Parabens are included as preservatives in some products, but they may cause skin reactions and irritations.

Individuals with HS will likely want to look for hypoallergenic, fragrance-free options instead.

When considering which cleansers should make the cut, we considered the ingredients, price, and reviews that individuals with a confirmed diagnosis of HS provided.

We strove to include a variety of different types of cleansers at a wide range of price points since we know that needs and budgets can vary.

Additionally, all products on our list have also undergone Healthline’s vetting process. (If you’re interested in additional information, you learn more here.)

Pricing guide

Pricing guidance for HS cleansers in this roundup is an estimate based on the price ranges below. Each product is a different size, and some products have multiple products in one bunch. Please refer to each product and how it is bundled before looking at the price.

  • $: under $10
  • $$: $11–17
  • $$$: $18 and over

Best splurge

CLn Body Wash

  • Price: $$$
  • Key ingredients: cocamidopropyl betaine and sodium hypochlorite

Although this product has a higher price tag, CLn’s Body Wash is free of steroids, antibiotics, parabens, triclosan, and fragrances. It’s also hypoallergenic, has antibacterial properties, and is not tested on animals.

With only 6 ingredients, this body wash is made specifically for sensitive skin and those with conditions like acne, eczema, and folliculitis. It was even awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance. It can be used head to toe daily and is safe for individuals ages 6 months and older.

Best hospital grade

Hibiclens Antiseptic Skin Cleanser

  • Price: $$
  • Key ingredients: chlorhexidine gluconate

If bacteria are causing your HS to flare up, a cleanser that’s known to kill germs may be needed. Used by hospitals and care centers for over 40 years, Hibiclens Antiseptic Skin Cleanser is a strong enough germ killer that it has been trusted for pre-operative patient bathing and reducing the risk of surgical site infections.

This cleanser is antibacterial, antiseptic, and antimicrobial. It kills a variety of germs, bacteria, and fungi on contact and continues to work even after being washed off.

Best for children

Honest Shampoo and Body Wash

  • Price: $$
  • Key ingredients: chamomile extract and aloe

HS is rare in children, but it and other similar skin conditions can require a gentle bath time cleanser. Honest Shampoo and Body Wash is made without parabens and phthalates. It is dye-, sulfate-, and formaldehyde-free.

The 2-in-1 formula is hypoallergenic and tear-free to make bath time a little easier. One thing to keep in mind is that this product does many of its formulas have a strong scent. Although it’s not made with synthetic fragrances, those with HS may prefer a scentless version.

Best bar soap

Dial Antibacterial Soap

  • Price: $$
  • Key ingredients: Benzalkonium chloride

This bar soap is paraben-free and budget-friendly. It lathers up quickly and rinses off easily. Its antibacterial properties kill a wide range of bacteria and can help prevent infections in those with HS. It also gets good reviews from individuals with HS.

While it offers long lasting odor protection, it’s worth noting that this is not an unscented product. Some individuals with HS may prefer a more organic or unscented soap bar even if it comes with a higher price tag.

Best deal

Vanicream Gentle Body Wash

  • Price: $$
  • Key ingredients: coco-glucoside and sodium cocoyl glycinate

Gentle cleansers don’t need to break your bank account. Vanicream Gentle Body Wash comes in well under $1 per fluid ounce.

In addition to its low price, this product is unscented. It’s gluten-, soap-, and sulfate-free. It’s also free of dyes, lanolin, parabens, and formaldehyde releasers. It’s been awarded the National Eczema Association Seal of Acceptance.

Best body wash

CeraVe Hydrating Body Wash

  • Price: $$$
  • Key ingredients: cocamidopropyl betaine

CeraVe products have a reputation for being gentle on sensitive skin. This product is fragrance- and soap-free. It’s also free of sulfates and parabens. Additionally, it’s packed with ceramides to keep your skin barrier healthy.

One thing to keep in mind is that the price tag on this product is higher than other options on our list. If the price is outside your budget, you may consider keeping an eye out for sales.

Best moisturizing bar

Dove Beauty Bar

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: benzalkonium chloride

This bar soap is antibacterial and designed to kill 99% of bacteria. It’s also enriched with moisturizing cream to help prevent dry skin. As a bonus, it’s a cruelty-free product that’s not tested on animals.

This product does have a strong fragrance, which may not be ideal for individuals with HS. It also includes dyes. However, many individuals with HS found it to be effective and gentle enough for their skin.

Best oats body wash

Aveeno Skin Relief Body Wash

  • Price: $$
  • Key ingredients: cocamidopropyl betaine, oat flour, oat extract, and oat oil

Users loved that this was a budget-friendly, fragrance-free body wash. It’s also made without parabens, dyes, or soaps.

The fact that it includes a Triple Oat blend with oat flour, oat extract, and oat oil to help moisturize and nourish skin really set it apart from some of the other cleanser options. Dermatologists have recommended this brand for over 70 years, which may offer a sense of comfort for those using these products.

Best face wash

Cetaphil Cream to Foam Face Wash

  • Price: $
  • Key ingredients: hydrating glycerin, essential vitamin B3, pro vitamin B5, and prebiotic aloe

This face wash is free of fragrances and parabens. The hypoallergenic formula is designed to keep pores clear and maintain the skin’s natural pH. It includes a variety of ingredients like prebiotic aloe vera, hydrating glycerin, and vitamins B5 (panthenol) and B3 (niacinamide), which are gentle on skin and can soothe it. Users also loved that the foam was easy to wash away.

When applying cleansers to a sensitive area, it’s typically best to use your hand instead of a washcloth or loofa. Not only can a cloth hold bacteria but it can also irritate the skin when washing. Using your hands can be a good way to ensure that you don’t scrub too roughly.

When cleaning an infected area, it’s also important not to squeeze or irritate lesions. Razors and hair removal products should be avoided in affected areas. However, aloe vera or warm compresses can be used on particularly irritated skin.

Expert Insight: Dr. Amanda Marsh

We want patients with HS to wash gently without friction. The most common recommendations for use of flares are benzoyl peroxide, zinc pyrithione, and chlorhexidine as antiseptic cleansers. During flares, patients may often receive intralesional kenalog (steroid) injections to help minimize the symptoms and decrease the size of the flare. Diluted white vinegar can help decrease odor as well. We want to prevent infection, help minimize inflammation, and decrease pain. Some topicals (wash or medication) may require patients to perform a patch test as we do not want further irritation to these areas.

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Some general tips for decreasing HS flares include:

  • avoiding getting extremely hot or cold
  • wearing loose-fitting clothing
  • using gentle laundry detergents
  • quitting smoking if you smoke
  • considering laser hair removal
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • talking with your doctor about medications and other treatment options like bleach baths

Chronic conditions like HS can be physically and emotionally trying. Having a support system of trusted people in place is important. You may wish to include a local therapist or support group in your support system. If there is not a local support group or therapist you can connect with, there are a variety of virtual options like BetterHelp you can take advantage of.

Looking for a one-stop resource? Healthline has a support page for those with HS that can be found here. It includes articles on:

  • living with HS
  • treatment options
  • the most recent research
  • tips on managing this condition and finding support

What is the best way to prevent flares?

While the exact reason for HS flare-ups is unknown, it’s believed that wearing loose-fitting clothing, maintaining a moderate weight, not smoking (or considering quitting if you smoke), and staying cool can all help to prevent flares.

What is the best soap to use for HS?

Because every individual’s skin is different, the best soap to use for managing HS will vary. In general, soaps without fragrances, preservatives, and dyes tend to be tolerated better. It may take some trial and error to find a soap that doesn’t irritate your skin and keeps it clean.

Is antibacterial soap good to use if you have HS?

Antibacterial soap can be helpful for those with HS because extra bacteria from clogged follicles may be further irritating your skin. It’s important to check with your doctor about the skin care products they would suggest for your particular case.

Can you use lotion if you have HS?

Moisturizers with topical antibiotics, probiotics, and prebiotics may be helpful in treating HS. You’ll likely wish to avoid thicker cremes as they can potentially plug hair follicles making HS worse. It’s necessary that you always check with your doctor or dermatologist about the skin care products you plan to use if you have HS.

HS can leave your skin inflamed and you feeling uncomfortable. It’s important to see your doctor or a dermatologist if you have HS. They can help you create a treatment plan to help reduce pain.

Especially when you have HS, your doctor is likely to recommend cleaning your skin with a product that has no dyes, fragrances, or synthetic ingredients. There are many products you can use. It may take a bit of trial and error to find one that works well for you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed and unsure about where to start in searching for cleansers, some of the ones on our list might be worth a try!

Catherine Crider, CD/PCD(DONA), CLEC, CBE, JD, MEd, has worked with children for the past decade as a trained elementary and special education teacher, and finds special joy in supporting blossoming families and their infants. She enjoys educating new parents and parents-to-be about their different options as well as the current best practices in baby care. Catherine writes for various websites and teaches full-spectrum childbirth and postpartum education in several locations in California’s North Bay Area and Peninsula.