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Clothing for Hidradenitis Suppurativa: What Helps With Comfort and Confidence?

Posted on October 11, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Manuel Penton, M.D.
Article written by
Megan Cawley

The type of clothing you wear can impact your experience with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS). Some myHSteam members have expressed disappointment with uncomfortable clothes or found their condition resulted in hard-to-remove stains, leaving some wishing they could forgo clothing altogether.

HS, also referred to as acne inversa, is a chronic inflammatory skin disease that can leave individuals with painful, recurring bumps and lesions in the armpits, the groin, and other areas of the body where skin rubs together, like underneath the breasts. These lesions can sometimes burst and leak pus.

Selecting the right clothing can help mitigate flare-ups, irritation, and discomfort. Here, we’ll explore how you can find clothing that makes you feel comfortable and confident in your skin while helping to ultimately improve your quality of life.

What myHSteam Members Have To Say About Clothing and HS

Many myHSteam members have shared their experiences trying to find the right clothing for their condition.

One member said that while their HS flares usually aren’t painful, they can hurt if clothes rub against affected parts of their skin. They suggested loose-fitting clothing as an alternative for other members in similar situations.

Another member explained that they wear “cotton or soft dresses or a nightgown with nothing underneath,” which “eliminates the rubbing that causes pain.” The same member shared that they don’t wear jeans since doing so causes more flare-ups.

Weather patterns and climate also seem to play a role in how people feel about their clothing options and how they affect their HS. Two members in Florida and California, for instance, found that recent cooler weather in their states positively impacted their symptoms. One said, “Everyone is in jackets or sweaters. Me in summer clothes. Plus hardly any pain.” The other attributed their good day to the milder climate.

A member from New York said that as a welder, they’re required to wear jeans almost every day. “Winter months are better for me, but during the summer, it’s so hard to control with the heat,” they shared.

Fabrics: What To Look For and Avoid

Hidradenitis suppurativa tends to affect warm, damp areas of the body where the skin rubs together, such as the buttocks, underarms, groin, inner thighs, and undersides of the breasts. Because of this, it’s beneficial for people living with HS to choose clothing and underwear that can reduce humidity, heat, irritation, and the overgrowth of bacteria.

The general consensus among myHSteam members and dermatologists includes switching to more breathable fabrics, such as cotton, and avoiding tight clothing that will rub and irritate your skin.

There are many ways to include more aerated, loose-fitting items into your closet while still choosing clothing that helps you look and feel your best.

Look For Breathable Fabrics

Humidity can contribute to the overgrowth of bacteria, leading to recurrent skin irritation, odors, and secondary infections, as noted in a dermatological study of selecting undergarments and fabrics for managing HS symptoms. Choosing clothing made with absorbent, breathable fabrics can help mitigate these symptoms and absorb any seepage from HS lesions or abscesses.

Although cotton is known for its breathability, this study recommended people with HS look for clothing made from bamboo fibers as an alternative. These fibers are absorbent and hypoallergenic (unlikely to cause an allergic reaction), and they’re also less irritating to the skin.

The study also recommended clothes made with cellulose-based rayon fibers (like Lyocell or Tencel), due to their “high degree of inherent whiteness.” This means that when these materials absorb any seepage from lesions, they don’t need as much bleaching in the wash. This can make doing laundry a little easier for people living with HS.

One member from the Tampa Bay area recommended Dri-Fit running shorts, cotton underwear, and skirts, as they are more breathable and encourage greater airflow.

Seek Out Moisture-Wicking Clothing

If you’re living with HS and tend to sweat a lot, moisture-wicking garments may provide a better alternative than absorbent ones. While the latter absorb and hold on to perspiration, moisture-wicking fabrics help draw wetness away from the body and allow it to evaporate quickly. This can help those with HS both stay comfortable and reduce any potentially aggravating humidity.

Embrace Looseness and Breathability

The kind of clothes you wear can be just as important as the material they are made of. Consider soft fabrics and loose-fitting garments that can keep the pressure off of your skin, such as:

  • Skirts
  • Dresses
  • Lightweight yoga pants
  • Leggings
  • Joggers

These looser-fitting clothing items breathe better than more restrictive clothing like jeans or tight slacks.

Choose the Right Underwear

Tight, restrictive undergarments and bras with wires or thin straps can pinch and aggravate HS symptoms. Wearing looser or more comfortable options can help mitigate any potential irritation.

Finding a comfortable bra in the right size can help reduce irritation and discomfort — as well as friction in lesion-prone areas. If you have HS under your breasts, you may find bralettes or wireless bras to be more comfortable than ones with underwire. Camisoles or sports bras with wide straps offer similar comfort with reduced restriction.

Certain styles of underwear — such as briefs or boy shorts — can also provide more comfort and reduce friction. A company called HidraWear makes specialty garments for people with HS, including underwear. The undergarments are designed to hold wound dressings in place and to be comfortable for people who have HS symptoms in the groin area. “I’ve started using HidraWear for the dressings and I can say it’s much more comfortable!” one member wrote.

Dealing With Stains

Leaking lesions can sometimes stain clothing. One myHSteam member shared a photo of stained clothing with the comment, “I hate when the boils burst and it stains clothing. It looks awful.” Other members suggest using commercial stain removers like OxiClean and rinsing clothes in vinegar.

Some members look for fabrics that don’t show stains: “I just got the cutest dress, it is in various spring colors. It gives me confidence, so that if something drains, other people would have to be far too close to notice.”

Other members recommend darker colors to limit the visibility of stains.

Dressing Confidently With HS

Many myHSteam members struggle with clothing and confidence. “I would love to be able to wear the clothes I used to and not feel dumpy. I would do almost anything to have my self-esteem and confidence back,” one member commented.

Several members shared that they dress differently with HS than they did before developing the skin condition.“I can’t wear short pants and dresses either as the scarring is quite bad and really dented my self-esteem,” a member shared. “I have been really struggling to make peace with my legs. It hurts every day when I can’t seem to wear my favorite clothes.”

Members encourage each other with practical tips — like choosing a patterned fabric that won’t show stains — and with emotional support. One myHSteam member encouraged a future bride worried about finding a gown that met their needs: “I know dressing up for a special day can be a little stressful. But be confident in yourself and always try to remember you are beautiful.”

Another member followed up, suggesting a shrug or shawl to conceal any underarm scarring.

For many members, finding confidence in clothing is part shopping for the right fabrics and cuts and part focusing on their emotional well-being. “I don’t feel as pretty with my scars or open wounds,” one member wrote. “I’m working and trying to love all of me even with this flaw — we got this.”❤️

Another member shared, “As much as I may be embarrassed by my skin, I am not gonna let someone else take my confidence and courage from me.”

Find Your Team

If you or a loved one is living with HS, consider joining myHSteam today. Here, more than 28,000 members from around the world come together to ask questions, offer support and advice, and connect with others who understand life with hidradenitis suppurativa.

What clothes do you find work best with HS? Share your tips in the comments below or by posting on myHSteam.

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Manuel Penton, M.D. is a medical editor at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about him here.
Megan Cawley is a writer at MyHealthTeam. She has written previously on health news and topics, including new preventative treatment programs. Learn more about her here.

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