The occasional ingrown hair is nothing out of the ordinary. Usually, they’re fairly easy to get rid of, and rarely require having to seek out professional help. For those with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), however, that’s anything but the case. And while experts do, in fact, have an overall understanding of the condition, it still remains a mystery in many other ways.
“Hidradenitis suppurativa is intense inflammation of the hair follicles,” says Mona Gohara, a board-certified dermatologist in Connecticut. “It creates acne-like, draining eruptions called sinus tracts, usually appearing in the flaps of the body; think under the breast, the groin, and under the armpit.” Gohara says that while it’s unclear as to why, the disease is more common in women and frequent smokers.
It’s important to note that the symptoms of HS are much more dire than the traditional ingrown hair. “We still don’t know what causes it,” says Robert Finney, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City. “That said, it’s not something that we have a cure for at this point, and it does require a doctor during flare-ups. It can be very mild in some cases, and in others, it can be debilitating, painful, and devastating. All we know is that the hair follicles are not maturing appropriately.”
If you suffer from HS, there are steps that you can take to help prevent flare-ups from happening, and it starts with a proper and gentle cleanse. “While ingredients like beta hydroxy acids aren’t really going to do a whole lot for HS specifically, they can dry out and irritate the skin, so I would avoid ingredients like that,” Finney says. “I would stick with a benzoyl peroxide or chlorhexidine cleanser several times a week and then use a good moisturizer to repair the barrier of the skin so that less bacteria gets in.”
Gohara suggests that how you apply your cleanser is equally as important as the cleanser itself. “There should be no scrubbing or using loofahs,” she says.
Ahead, some dermatologist-approved cleansers that clean deep without creating further irritating skin prone to hidradenitis suppurativa flare-ups.
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