Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is often referred to as acne inversa — aka reverse acne — due to the cysts, lumps, and abscesses that occur in and under the skin. But contrary to the assumptions about the name, it’s not treatable with your typical zit-fighting concoction of salicylic acid and hydrocolloid patches. “People can think that it looks like acne, but acne is a disease of the sebaceous gland and (HS) is a disease of the sweat gland — it can be much more extensive than acne,” Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara explains. The often painful symptoms of hidradenitis suppurativa frequently occur near sweat-prone areas where friction occurs such as armpits, breasts, and groins.
“You can have these open oozing nodules that can get secondarily infected, and they can actually smell quite bad,” New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Michelle Henry adds. “I’ve even had patients who have them on the face. That’s very severe, but areas with excess frictions also tend to be areas where we have more sweat glands, as well.”
Even without secondary infections, these pus-filled lumps and bumps harden into inflamed lesions as they heal, ultimately lead to deep scarring. “The lesions not only drain malodorous pus, but they are also extremely painful and can take a deep psychological toll as well,” adds New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Shereene Idriss.
Because hidradenitis suppurativa is chronic and recurring without a cure so far, treatment and management of scarring often requires continuous support from your dermatologist and a gentle body-care routine to help restore the skin barrier. For some, making certain lifestyle changes—which include weight loss, exercise, and quitting smoking — may also prove beneficial for overall HS management. New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Robert Finney also suggests getting laser hair removal as soon as possible to “get rid of the follicle and thus the problem and prevent scarring.” Here, our recommendations for products with dermatologist-approved ingredients that may help reduce, manage, and fade scarring.
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