Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic (long-term) inflammatory condition that causes painful, fluid-filled lesions, often on areas of the body where skin touches skin. This occurs when bacteria gather in blocked hair follicles, resulting in inflammation.

If you’re living with HS, chances are you’re currently taking some form of treatment for your condition. This may include medications like:

  • biologics
  • antibiotics
  • hormone therapy

However, HS symptoms can be unpredictable, and you’ve likely experienced periods when you could use some extra relief during a flare-up. The following natural therapies are generally safe to use in combination with other HS treatments and may help you manage breakout-related discomfort.

Talk with a doctor before starting any of these therapies to make sure it’s right for you.

Tea tree oil has antibacterial properties and may help reduce the number of skin lesions in acne. While HS also features lesions, it’s not a form of acne, so tea tree oil may not have the same effect. Currently, there’s not enough research to confirm the benefits of tea tree oil for either acne or HS.

Be careful — tea tree oil is toxic if swallowed. It should only be used topically to treat HS.

Some tea tree oils can be applied directly from the bottle, while some need to be diluted in a carrier oil (like sweet almond oil) before use. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.

If you haven’t used tea tree oil before, make sure to first check for allergic reactions by placing a drop of the oil on your forearm for 12 to 24 hours. If you don’t have a reaction like skin irritation, you can apply it to other areas.

While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with a healthcare professional before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.

Research suggests that the foods you eat may affect HS, but the best diet to manage the condition is unclear.

Still, following an anti-inflammatory diet may make a difference in the frequency and severity of your breakouts. Some foods that may contribute to flare-ups include:

Try to eliminate them in favor of anti-inflammatory options, like:

  • oily fish
  • nuts
  • leafy greens

Foods containing brewer’s yeast (pizza dough, cake, beer) have also been found to possibly worsen HS symptoms. However, it’s unknown whether brewer’s yeast affects all people with HS or just those with a wheat intolerance.

More studies need to be done on diet and hidradenitis suppurativa. Until there’s more information, pay attention to foods that may be linked to HS symptoms and consider temporarily eliminating them from your diet to see if your symptoms improve.

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.

Turmeric is commonly used as a complementary remedy for HS. It may help with symptoms by reducing inflammation. However, more research needs to be done to confirm its effectiveness.

Applying a cold or warm compress directly to an HS lesion may temporarily relieve pain in the affected area. A 2020 study found that participants reported using warm compresses more than other forms of pain relief. However, they rated this therapy as less effective than using marijuana or opioids.

You can make a warm compress using a washcloth and hot water. After wringing out the water, place the washcloth on the affected area for 10 minutes.

Aloe vera is one of the most commonly known treatments for skin conditions and wound healing. 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 twice per day. Make sure to use pure aloe vera that’s free from chemical additives, as some additives can cause irritation.

As with tea tree oil, it’s important to apply a small amount of aloe vera to your forearm to test for allergies before using it for the first time. Wait 12 to 24 hours to check for a reaction before using it on other parts of your body.

In general, it may be best to avoid using deodorant entirely if you have HS.

If you choose to use deodorant, switching to a natural, aluminum-free deodorant might help you avoid irritation around lesions on your underarms. However, there isn’t much research on the effects of deodorant on people with HS.

Adjusting your wardrobe may relieve some of the discomfort caused by an HS flare-up and improve your quality of life.

Avoid wearing tight 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 elastic or seams. Loose boxers may be less irritating than briefs.

Adding a small amount of bleach to a warm bath may help treat bacterial infections and reduce inflammation.

To take a bleach bath, DermNet NZ recommends you add 1/3 teaspoon of 2.2 percent household bleach for every 4 cups of bathwater. Soak for 10 to 15 minutes.

Be careful to not put your head in the water 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.

More research needs to be done on the effectiveness of using bleach baths for HS.

HS doesn’t have a cure. Still, lifestyle changes and treatments may help improve your symptoms. It may take time to find treatments that are effective for you.

It’s important to note that there’s a twofold higher rate of HS in people who smoke. If you’re living with HS and you smoke, quitting may help your condition.

If you continue to experience discomfort from HS after trying complementary therapies and lifestyle changes, it may be time to talk with a doctor about exploring other treatments to help manage your HS. These may include injections or surgery.