Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic skin condition that causes small lumps under your skin. These lumps can be red, swollen, and very painful. They’re most likely to develop where your skin rubs together, such as your underarms, groin, or between the buttocks.
Over time, these lumps may break open, resulting in an unpleasant smell or tunnels under your skin.
This condition occurs when hair follicles become blocked and then inflamed. While scientists are unsure why this occurs, they believe it may be tied to:
- other underlying conditions
- family history
It’s not caused by infection or poor hygiene, though the condition can leave you more susceptible to bacterial infections.
While there are effective treatment options available through your doctor, you may prefer to utilize natural, alternative treatments instead. These treatments can be lower in cost, risks, and side effects.
There are a number of different natural treatments that you can try to reduce your symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa. It’s worth noting that many of these treatments have only strong anecdotal evidence, with little research available to definitively prove their effectiveness.
The FDA doesn’t monitor the purity or quality of supplements or essential oils. It’s important to talk with your doctor before you begin taking supplements or using essential oils.
A warm compress can immediately reduce pain in the affected area. For best results, use a dry source of heat, like a heating pad, instead of a hot wash cloth. Keeping the area dry can help it heal faster.
Turmeric has strong anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. It may help reduce inflammation and prevent infection from developing.
To use as a treatment, you can mix 1 tablespoon of turmeric with ½ tablespoon of carrier oil, like coconut oil. Apply the mixture directly to the affected area for 15 minutes. If this is irritating or too warm, rinse well with cool water and let the area rest before trying again.
Like turmeric, honey has long been used for its antimicrobial, healing, and anti-inflammatory properties. It also has antibacterial properties that may prevent infection.
You can mix honey with turmeric for added power and apply it to the affected area. Leave it on for 15 to 20 minutes before washing it off.
Tea tree oil
Tea tree oil has been used for thousands of years for its antimicrobial, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Mix a few drops of tea tree oil with 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil and apply it to the area directly.
Aloe vera is known for its strong anti-inflammatory and antiseptic benefits. It can soothe the inflammation and discomfort of flare-ups. Use pure aloe vera gel (with no additives) and apply it directly to the affected area. You can let it soak into your skin.
Rubbing alcohol is a strong disinfectant. It may help remove dirt and impurities from clogged pores. It might even soothe pain or irritation during a flare-up.
To use rubbing alcohol, add to a cotton pad and apply it to the affected area. This shouldn’t be used on open wounds, as it can cause a burning pain.
Zinc can help reduce inflammation and swelling in your body. You can take zinc supplements or find it in foods like spinach or oysters. You can also make a cream with 1 tablespoon of beeswax, 1 teaspoon of zinc oxide powder, and ½ cup of coconut oil.
Apply neem oil directly to the affected site with a cotton ball or pad. You can wash it off or let it soak into your skin. It can also be combined with other ingredients like aloe, honey, or turmeric.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar might not do much to treat flare-ups directly, but it may prevent bacterial infections from developing. Put a small amount of apple cider vinegar on a cotton pad and apply it to the affected area. You can leave it on and let it soak into your skin.
Some people claim bleach baths help chronic skin infections, with the thought that it may even aid in faster recovery. Because of the harsh nature of bleach, however, consult your dermatologist or primary care physician before use.
To try a bleach bath as a treatment, add around 1/3 of a teaspoon of household bleach (2.2 percent concentration) per quart of warm water. Keep your head completely above water at all times. Soak in the bath for 10 minutes before showering in clean water and drying your skin thoroughly.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
Foods with anti-inflammatory properties may help prevent and reduce swelling and inflammation. Following an anti-inflammatory diet may reduce flare-ups of hidradenitis suppurativa and possibly help current symptoms to resolve faster.
Anti-inflammatory foods include:
A well-balanced diet will often include a number of different anti-inflammatory foods, so long as it contains:
- oily fish
- fresh fruits and vegetables
- sources of healthy fats like nuts and seeds
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help prevent further flare-ups of hidradenitis suppurativa. If you can incorporate these into your daily life, they’ll be even more effective.
Wear loose cotton clothing
Loose cotton clothing is breathable, doesn’t hold moisture, and won’t rub against your skin and aggravate it. It will help keep your skin clean, dry, and bacteria-free.
Keep the area dry
Keeping the affected area dry can prevent further flare-ups. Moist areas allow bacteria and fungus to grow.
Maintain proper hygiene
Showering daily can help wash away dirt and bacteria from your skin. Use a noncomedogenic soap or body wash, which won’t clog pores. If needed, you can also choose a shampoo and conditioner that doesn’t contain aggravating ingredients.
Shave armpits and pubic hair
Shaving the hair on your underarms and pubic area may help prevent future flare-ups. However, don’t shave during a flare-up, as it can irritate the area further, intensifying symptoms.
Maintain a healthy weight
While the science on this is uncertain, some experts believe that maintaining a healthy weight can help reduce instances of hidradenitis suppurativa as it reduces the number of areas where your skin rubs together.
Smoking is unhealthy for many reasons but is strongly associated with hidradenitis suppurativa outbreaks. To support your plan to stop smoking, talk with your doctor, seek help from friends and family, and follow an effective method of smoking cessation.
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a chronic condition. There’s no cure, but early treatment can help to lessen your symptoms, prevent infection, and prevent new lumps from forming.
If home remedies aren’t working for you, or if you believe that you have hidradenitis suppurativa but haven’t received a diagnosis, make an appointment to see your doctor. They can also prescribe you anti-inflammatory and pain medications, topical or oral retinoids, and immunosuppressants if natural remedies aren’t enough.