Hidradenitis suppurativa is a type of rare skin condition that causes painful, pus-filled bumps or lumps, abscesses, and scarring. It is a chronic and inflammatory condition in which these bumps or boils develop in the deeper layers of the skin. These bumps or lumps can be swollen, red, and are painful. They tend to develop at places where the skin rubs together, such as your underarms, between the buttocks, under the breasts, and the groin. Over a period of time, these bumps may break open, causing an unpleasant odor or tunnels to form under the skin. Hidradenitis suppurativa is not caused by poor personal hygiene or infections, but this condition does leave you more vulnerable to other bacterial infections. While there is no cure for Hidradenitis suppurativa, there are numerous effective treatments that your doctor can prescribe to help you manage the symptoms and prevent flare-ups. However, if you have mild hidradenitis suppurativa and you prefer to use natural home remedies instead, there are certain remedies that can help you manage this rare skin condition. Here are some ways in which you can treat hidradenitis suppurativa at home.
Overview of Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Hidradenitis suppurativa is a very rare type of chronic inflammatory skin condition. The condition may occur in different forms in different people, including small, pimple-like bumps, deeper acne-like nodules, or boils on parts of the body where the skin touches against the skin. Commonly affected parts include the armpits, buttocks, under the breasts, and thighs.(1,2,3,4) Although hidradenitis suppurativa is not a type of acne, but it is still sometimes called as acne inversa.(5,6) People living with this condition may find it very frustrating because the exact cause of hidradenitis suppurativa is not known. Nevertheless, researchers are of the opinion that there is a genetic link to the disease.(7,8)
Unlike what many people believe, hidradenitis suppurativa is not caused by poor personal hygiene.(9) Hidradenitis suppurativa is usually caused when a hair follicle gets blocked, causing a secondary infection of a sweat gland. Some other possible factors that may increase the risk of developing hidradenitis suppurativa include:
- Being overweight or obese
- Having a family history of hidradenitis suppurativa
- Hormonal changes during menstruation
It has been observed that digestive disorders like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease may also co-exist in people with hidradenitis suppurativa.(10)
The infection that is responsible for hidradenitis suppurativa lesions may also spread to a sinus tract. When this happens, there can be painful, pus-filled pockets of tissue or abscesses that develop within the tract.
While there is no cure for hidradenitis suppurativa, there are numerous treatments that can help you manage the condition. For people with a mild case of hidradenitis suppurativa, here are some natural home remedies to help manage the symptoms.
Treating Hidradenitis Suppurativa at Home
Applying a Warm Compress
Applying a warm compress to the affected area can immediately help reduce the pain. To get the best results, it is best to use a dry source of heat instead of a hot washcloth. For example, using a heating pad is the best idea. It is also recommended that you keep the area dry to help it heal faster.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, applying dry heat may help reduce pain and also bring down the inflammation. It also promotes the drainage in mild lesions of hidradenitis suppurativa.(11)
If you do not have an electric heating pad, you can make a warm compress by wetting a washcloth in warm water and applying it to the affected area. Still, you need to ensure that you dry the skin immediately after you remove the compress.
Turmeric has well-documented anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antimicrobial properties. Turmeric also helps prevent infections from developing while reducing swelling.(12)
To use turmeric on the areas of the skin affected by hidradenitis suppurativa lesions, mix one tablespoon of turmeric with half a teaspoon of any carrier oil like coconut or olive oil. Now apply this mixture directly to the lesions and leave for 15 to 20 minutes. If you find it to be irritating or too warm, you can rinse the area well with cool water and allow the site to dry before trying again.
Similar to turmeric, honey has also been used as a home remedy for thousands of years for its healing, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.(13) Honey also has rich antibacterial properties that help prevent infections. In cases of hidradenitis suppurativa, you can mix honey with turmeric for added effectiveness and apply this paste directly to the affected skin. Leave the paste on for 15 to 20 minutes and wash it off gently with lukewarm water.
Use Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an essential oil that is derived from the leaves of the melaleuca alternifolia shrub. Tea tree oil has been used as a home remedy for hundreds of years now for treating various skin conditions including hidradenitis suppurativa.
A 2013 study states that doctors can go ahead and recommend the use of tea tree oil as a temporary treatment to keep the affected skin clean and free from further infections.(14) This is because tea tree oil has potent antimicrobial properties. In 2015, researchers found that tea tree oil boosted the effects of a traditional antifungal medication known as fluconazole.(15) The study tested a combination of tea tree oil and fluconazole against 32 fluconazole-resistant strains of Candida albicans. Out of these fluconazole-resistant 32 strains, 87.5 percent we vulnerable to the combination treatment.
Nevertheless, a 2018 study found that not all commercially available brands of tea tree oils are effective. The researchers tested ten brands of tea tree oils against various microbes like Staphylococcus aureus, herpes simplex virus type 1, and Candida glabrata. Out of the ten brands tested, only five of them showed significant antimicrobial properties and were effective against these microbes.
It is important to dilute tea tree oil in a base or carrier oil before applying it to your skin.
One of the lesser-known home remedies for hidradenitis suppurativa is rubbing alcohol. Rubbing alcohol is a powerful disinfectant and helps eliminate dirt and other impurities from your clogged pores. Since clogged pores are one of the causes of hidradenitis suppurativa, it is a good idea to use rubbing alcohol to remove impurities that clog your pores. Rubbing alcohol can also help soothe the irritation and pain you experience during a flare-up.
You can use rubbing alcohol by adding a little to a cotton pad and applying it directly to the affected skin. However, rubbing alcohol should never be used on open wounds as it will cause a burning and searing pain.
Zinc is also known to reduce inflammation in the body. You should take zinc supplements or increase the intake of zinc-rich foods like oysters and spinach. You can also make a cream to apply on the skin with one tablespoon of beeswax, one teaspoon of zinc oxide powder, and half a cup of coconut oil.(16) If you want to take zinc supplements, do not start taking them without consulting your doctor.
Taking a Bleach Bath
Many people say that taking bleach baths helps treat chronic skin infections. They also claim that it helps boost recovery time.(17) However, due to the strong and harsh nature of bleach, it is always recommended that you consult your dermatologist before using it.
If you want to use a bleach bath as a treatment for hidradenitis suppurativa, you can add roughly 1/3 of a teaspoon of household bleach per quart of lukewarm water. You should keep your head above the water at all times during the bath. Soak in this bath for at least ten minutes and then shower with clean water to wash off the bleach. Dry your skin thoroughly afterward.(18)
While trying out home remedies to treat hidradenitis suppurativa, it is essential to keep in mind that this is a chronic and progressive condition. There is no cure for hidradenitis suppurativa, but early treatment can help you reduce the severity of your symptoms, prevent new lesions from forming, and also prevent infections.
If you find that these home remedies are not working for you, you should consult your doctor. If you believe that you have hidradenitis suppurativa but have not received a diagnosis or have been misdiagnosed, it is necessary to find a dermatologist who has experience dealing with patients who have this condition. Your doctor can prescribe you pain and anti-inflammatory medications, oral or topical retinoids, and immunosuppressant drugs if these home remedies are not enough in managing your condition.
- Jemec, G.B., 2012. Hidradenitis suppurativa. New England Journal of Medicine, 366(2), pp.158-164.
- Revuz, J., 2009. Hidradenitis suppurativa. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, 23(9), pp.985-998.
- Alikhan, A., Lynch, P.J. and Eisen, D.B., 2009. Hidradenitis suppurativa: a comprehensive review. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 60(4), pp.539-561.
- Slade, D.E.M., Powell, B.W. and Mortimer, P.S., 2003. Hidradenitis suppurativa: pathogenesis and management. British journal of plastic surgery, 56(5), pp.451-461.
- Zouboulis, C.C., Del Marmol, V., Mrowietz, U., Prens, E.P., Tzellos, T. and Jemec, G.B., 2015. Hidradenitis suppurativa/acne inversa: criteria for diagnosis, severity assessment, classification and disease evaluation. Dermatology, 231(2), pp.184-190.
- Boer, J. and Weltevreden, E.F., 1996. Hidradenitis suppurativa or acne inversa. A clinicopathological study of early lesions. British Journal of Dermatology, 135(5), pp.721-725.
- Von Der Werth, J.M., Williams, H.C. and Raeburn, J.A., 2000. The clinical genetics of hidradenitis suppurativa revisited. British Journal of Dermatology, 142(5), pp.947-953. Ingram, J.R., 2016. The genetics of hidradenitis suppurativa. Dermatologic clinics, 34(1), pp.23-28.
- Aad.org. 2020. Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Overview. [online] Available at: <https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/hidradenitis-suppurativa-overview> [Accessed 22 December 2020].
- Phan, K., Tatian, A., Woods, J., Cains, G. and Frew, J.W., 2020. Prevalence of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) in hidradenitis suppurativa (HS): systematic review and adjusted meta‐analysis. International Journal of Dermatology, 59(2), pp.221-228.
- Aad.org. 2020. Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Tips For Managing. [online] Available at: <https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/a-z/hidradenitis-suppurativa-self-care> [Accessed 22 December 2020].
- Zorofchian Moghadamtousi, S., Abdul Kadir, H., Hassandarvish, P., Tajik, H., Abubakar, S. and Zandi, K., 2014. A review on antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal activity of curcumin. BioMed research international, 2014.
- Mandal, M.D. and Mandal, S., 2011. Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine, 1(2), pp.154-160.
- Witmanowski, H., Szychta, P., Stępniewski, S., Mackiewicz-Wysocka, M., Czyżewska-Majchrzak, Ł. and Wasilewska, A., 2013. Acne inversa goes an extra mile than hidradenitis suppurativa. Advances in Dermatology and Allergology/Postȩpy Dermatologii I Alergologii, 30(4), p.255.
- Brun, P., Bernabè, G., Filippini, R. and Piovan, A., 2019. In vitro antimicrobial activities of commercially available tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oils. Current microbiology, 76(1), pp.108-116.
- Dhaliwal, S., Nguyen, M., Vaughn, A.R., Notay, M., Chambers, C.J. and Sivamani, R.K., 2020. Effects of Zinc Supplementation on Inflammatory Skin Diseases: A Systematic Review of the Clinical Evidence. American journal of clinical dermatology, pp.1-19.
- Gonzalez, M.E., Schaffer, J.V., Orlow, S.J., Gao, Z., Li, H., Alekseyenko, A.V. and Blaser, M.J., 2016. Cutaneous microbiome effects of fluticasone propionate cream and adjunctive bleach baths in childhood atopic dermatitis. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 75(3), pp.481-493.
- Dermnetnz.org. 2020. Bleach Baths In Patients With Skin Infections | Dermnet NZ. [online] Available at: <https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/bleach-baths-in-patients-with-skin-infections> [Accessed 23 December 2020].