6 Common Hidradenitis Suppurativa Triggers

  • Young Caucasian woman looking at self in mirror in home bathroom
    How to Reduce the Risk of Having a Flare-Up
    Hidradenitis suppurativa, also known as acne inversa, is a condition that affects your sweat glands, causing painful bumps and sores to form in high-friction areas of the body, like the armpit, the groin, and—for women—the area underneath the breasts. During a flare-up, the bumps can develop into boils, which can rupture and leak a smelly pus on your clothes. If that sounds like something you want to avoid experiencing when possible, you might be willing to try some strategies to help reduce those flare-ups. 

  • Aerobic Dance Class at the Gym
    1. Tight-fitting clothes
    Fashionistas will tell you the most stylish outfit you can wear is one that flatters your specific shape and size. But if that outfit is tight-fitting, it might be time to look for an equally flattering but looser silhouette instead. Snug clothes—especially if they’re made from synthetic fibers that don’t “breathe” well—can cause friction on those areas of your skin affected by the hidradenitis suppurativa, which can cause painful flare-ups to occur. 

  • Close-up of a man standing on a scale
    2. Those extra pounds
    We’re not talking about those pesky five pounds that people always try to shed every year in January. Many experts believe that carrying around some extra weight can trigger episodes of acne inversa to occur—but losing some weight can reduce them. A combination of regular exercise and eating a healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy can help you shed a few pounds. Even a 10% overall weight reduction can make a difference. 

  • sun
    3. Heat
    Getting overheated can trigger a hidradenitis suppurativa flare-up. So can sweating. Try to keep your skin as cool and dry as possible—or if you do get hot and sweaty, try to dry off as soon as possible. You may want to discuss with your doctor the best type of antiperspirant to use if you tend to develop boils and pustules in your armpits, since some brands may be too harsh for sensitive skin. 

  • razor-dipped-in-water
    4. Razors
    Acne inversa often occurs in areas rich in sweat glands and hair follicles. Think: underarms and groin. That means you might reconsider reaching for your razor. Shaving can irritate already irritated skin, causing more breakouts. If you favor a smooth, hairless look, you may want to consider alternative hair removal methods.

  • smoking
    5. Cigarettes
    Smoking is a problem for so many reasons, including its role as a potential trigger for hidradenitis suppurativa flare-ups. Quitting won’t cure it, but it can at least reduce the likelihood of smoking-related flare-ups. Plus, it will improve your overall health.

  • Stressed woman
    6. Stress
    Stress can make a lot of bad things worse, directly or indirectly. Although there is not a directly established link between stress and acne inversa flare-ups, experts suggest that reducing your stress levels may still help. What helps you feel calmer and more centered? It might be a daily bike ride or a brisk walk after dinner. It might be yoga, meditation, or deep breathing exercises. You might also try identifying the sources of stress in your life and working to reduce them and their impact on your health and well-being. 

  • unidentified woman washing hair with shampoo in shower
    What’s NOT a trigger?
    You can’t blame some of the usual suspects for hidradenitis suppurativa flare-ups. For example, you can’t pin them on an infection. Acne inversa is not contagious, so no one can give it to or get it from someone else. It’s also not caused or triggered by poor hygiene.

6 Common Hidradenitis Suppurativa Triggers

About The Author

Jennifer Larson has more than 15 years of professional writing experience with a specialization in healthcare. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland and memberships in the Association of Health Care Journalists, the Society of Professional Journalists, and the Education Writers Association.
  1. Jovanovic M. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. Medscape. http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1073117-overview
  2. Hidradenitis Suppurativa: Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hidradenitis-suppurativa/symptoms-causes/dxc-20200019
  3. Hidradenitis suppurativa. American Academy of Dermatology. https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/painful-skin-joints/hidradenitis-suppurativa
  4. Hidradenitis Suppurativa. American Academy of Family Physicians. http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/hidradenitis-suppurativa.html

Was this helpful?
Last Review Date: 2020 Sep 3
Explore Hidradenitis Suppurativa
Recommended Reading
Next Up
  • Learn more about acne inversa.
  • Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), also known as acne inversa, is a chronic skin condition whose hallmarks are acne-like small lumps or cysts that develop in creases of the body or where skin touches skin. When aggravated, the cysts can leak pus and emit an unpleasant odor. Often, severe HS cysts can leave scars. Emotional stress, hormonal changes, sweating, and heat and humidity can trigger HS flare-ups. There’s no cure for HS, but there are several home remedies available. While these aren’t proven to prevent or end flare-ups, they can provide temporary relief to improve your quality of life.
  • HS starts in areas of the body where the skin tends to rub up against other skin—and that includes the groin.
Answers to Your Health Questions
Trending Videos