Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic inflammatory condition that causes painful, fluid-filled lesions to form on areas of the body where skin touches skin. If you’re living with HS, chances are you’re currently taking some form of treatment for your condition, such as anti-inflammatory medication including biologics, antibiotics, or hormone therapy.
However, HS symptoms can be unpredictable, and you’ve likely experienced periods when you could use some extra relief during a flare. The following natural therapies are generally safe to use in combination with other HS treatments and can help to manage breakout-related discomfort.
Talk to your doctor before starting any of these therapies to make sure it’s right for you.
Switching to an anti-inflammatory diet could make a difference in the frequency and severity of your breakouts. Red meat, sugar, and nightshade vegetables can all contribute to flare-ups. Try to eliminate them in favor of anti-inflammatory options like oily fish, nuts, and leafy greens.
Dairy products and foods containing brewer’s yeast (pizza dough, cake, beer) have also been known to exacerbate HS symptoms. More research is needed to determine whether brewer’s yeast affects all people with HS or just those with a wheat intolerance. Either way, you may want to consider phasing dairy and brewer’s yeast out of your diet.
Tea tree oil contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. When applied to an HS lesion, it can help to reduce swelling and dry out the wound. Be careful — tea tree oil is toxic if swallowed. It should only be used topically to treat HS.
Turmeric is a plant similar to ginger that contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities, much like tea tree oil. Unlike tea tree oil, however, turmeric is nontoxic and can be applied topically or ingested as a supplement to help prevent infection and reduce inflammation.
Applying a warm compress directly to an HS lesion can help to reduce swelling and inflammation, while using a cold compress may temporarily relieve localized pain.
Keeping your lesions dry allows them to heal more quickly. It’s better to use a dry compress, such as a heating pad or gel pack, rather than a damp one like a washcloth.
Aloe vera is one of the most commonly known anti-inflammatory skin treatments. Although there isn’t evidence to suggest it will heal your lesions, its cooling properties may help soothe some of the pain associated with HS.
Apply topical aloe vera lotion directly to the area of your breakout and let it absorb into your skin. Make sure to use pure aloe vera that’s free from chemical additives, as some additives can cause irritation.
Switching to a natural, aluminum-free deodorant might also help you avoid irritation around lesions on your underarms. Look for deodorants made with baking soda, since it contains antibacterial properties that can help prevent new lesions from forming. You can also try making your own baking soda deodorant at home by mixing it with a few drops of essential oil and applying it with a damp washcloth.
Adjusting your wardrobe may alleviate some of the discomfort caused by an HS flare-up. Avoid wearing tight synthetic fabrics. Instead, opt for looser, more breathable clothing.
If your lesions are mostly around your breasts or upper thighs, try switching to bras without an underwire or underwear that’s made without tight elastics.
Adding a small amount of bleach to a warm bath can help treat bacterial infections and may reduce the severity and duration of your lesions.
DermNet NZ recommends that you add 1/3 teaspoon of 2.2 percent household bleach for every 4 cups of bathwater. Soak for 10–15 minutes.
Be careful not to submerge your head or get any of the water in your mouth or eyes. After your bleach bath, rinse off in the shower and pat the sensitive areas dry with a soft towel.
It’s important to note that if you’re living with HS and you smoke, you should highly consider quitting. If you continue to experience discomfort from HS after trying these complementary therapies, it might be time to talk to your doctor about exploring more long-term solutions, such as biologic injections or surgical treatment.