Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) and shaving do not get along well at all. But does that mean you can never shave?
While hair removal may not seem like a life-or-death issue, it can be irritating and demoralizing to have to work around HS to look your best.
Here are some tips on how to deal with hair removal and make your time in the shower more HS-friendly.
HS breakouts usually occur in folds of skin, like the armpits and the groin area. Removing the Bob Ross under your arms can be tricky if you’re experiencing a flare-up.
There’s no easy way to remove hair from an area that’s having a breakout. Skin with HS symptoms is highly sensitive, and anything that removes hair is… well, not all that considerate to your skin.
Shaving can cut your skin, waxing pulls at your skin, depilatory creams are incredibly irritating, and all of these are bad news for a breakout.
Still, there are ways to remove hair with HS. You deserve the option of feeling great about how you look. So here’s how to strike the balance between managing your condition and keeping your body hair on fleek.
Ding ding ding — we have a winner! Trimming is the best way to reduce hair length during an HS flare-up. Using scissors or electric trimmers, you can trim the hair so it’s less noticeable. Voila! Less hair.
Does this get rid of the hair entirely? No. But it does make the hair less noticeable and can help you stay at peak confidence without causing pain and irritation.
When you trim, be careful not to cut yourself. Electric trimmers may be the best option, since they have guards to keep the blade a safe distance from the skin.
Once again: Do not shave when you have an HS breakout.
Shaving hair from irritated skin will only make things worse. If you have a flare-up under your arms, you can still shave your legs. But you want to keep the razor far away from any inflamed areas.
Even if you shave other parts of your body, be careful. Nicks and cuts can sometimes cause new breakouts. Be sure to always use a clean, sharp razor; apply a thick, moisturizing shave gel; and take your time.
Shaving an inflamed area will hurt terribly and extend the flare-up. It’s best to avoid it.
Waxing is pretty much off the table. Some people claim that waxing (especially the bikini line) leads to more HS flare-ups. While no studies have actually confirmed that claim, it’s still best to avoid waxing, since it can cause more irritation.
If you love wax, you may be able to wax your lower legs or other areas that are free of folds and never have breakouts. Still, it’s not likely worth the risk.
Hair removal creams like Nair may work for some people, but they’re not a good idea if you have HS. They’re incredibly harsh on your skin and would be extremely painful if used anywhere near a breakout.
Again, they could work on your legs, but it’s best to steer clear.
Laser hair removal
So far, there hasn’t been much good news for hair removal and HS. The only way to totally get rid of hair is to try laser hair removal. Though it still isn’t guaranteed to work, there’s some evidence it could get rid of hair and help your HS.
A 2011 study of 18 people with HS found that laser treatments (the same kind used for laser hair removal) improved HS overall. People reported that symptoms looked and felt better after receiving laser treatment.
That’s just a small study — a lot more research is necessary before you rush out and point the nearest laser at your legs. But it does seem to suggest that using lasers to remove hair may not aggravate the skin as much as other methods.
Laser treatment, whether for HS or just for getting rid of hair, takes multiple sessions and isn’t cheap. And it doesn’t work for everyone, since the lasers target dark hair on a light surface. If you have darker skin or lighter hair, laser treatment may not work at all.
Also, laser treatment can be painful for people with HS. While limited evidence suggests that lasers can treat HS-affected areas, the process will hurt.
It’s important to weigh the potential risks of laser hair removal if you have HS. But if you have the money and body hair is affecting your confidence, it might be worth a try.
You may have to come to terms with having a little more body hair during an HS breakout. You might feel embarrassment about hair under your arms or around your bikini line.
It’s OK if you can’t accept your new hair overnight. This can be a big adjustment if you’re used to regular hair removal.
Remember, though — there’s no medical or hygienic reason to shave. It’s not cleaner. Many men never shave, and society doesn’t view them as monsters. So if people do seem judgy, they need to get over it and move on.
Try to make peace with your flare-ups and slightly hairier moments, and feel free to start removing hair your usual way once your flare-up resolves.
You can still have soft, sooth skin, even if there’s a little extra hair. Plus, bathing is a great way to reduce HS symptoms.
Here are some tips to make your time in the shower happier for your skin:
There’s a slight risk of infection with HS, and using antibacterial soap can help you reduce that risk. You can use it all over your body, but be sure to use it wherever you typically have breakouts.
Avoid steaming-hot baths or showers, since the excess heat can irritate your skin. Keep the water warm and comfortable and your skin will give you a high-five.
Even during a shower, it can be great to apply a warm compress to breakouts. Just get a washcloth wet and place it over an irritated area. The extra warmth and hydration will ease pain and discomfort.
If you’re feeling a little deluxe, you could also do this in the bathtub.
As soon as you’re out of the shower, use a gentle moisturizer. It’s best to avoid any products with a fragrance, as the perfumes might irritate your skin.
If you have a breakout that feels tender, you don’t need to put lotion on the affected area, but be sure to moisturize the rest of your skin. This will keep everything nice and soft (even if there is a little extra hair).
After a shower, wear comfortable clothes. Choose gentle fabrics like cotton and silk to avoid friction that could irritate your skin.
Some people prefer to wear really loose clothes that don’t touch the skin much, while others prefer tighter options like yoga pants. It’s up to you. If breathable yoga pants are more comfortable and provide less friction, go for it.
Loose or form-fitting, just make sure the fabric is breathable and feels good on your skin.
There aren’t many safe, effective options for hair removal during an HS breakout. But you’re not completely out of options.
Trimming hair without removing it could work for you. Laser hair removal might help get rid of hair and improve your symptoms — but it can be painful and expensive, and it isn’t always effective.
Otherwise, take a little time in the shower to pamper your skin. And remember that you look great even if there’s a little hair under your arms.