Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is an inflammatory skin condition in which painful, recurring bumps form under the skin. Because HS appears to involve inflammation of the hair follicles, some people with the condition wonder about removing body hair. Is shaving, waxing, or otherwise removing body hair safe, or could it risk causing further irritation?
Here, we will consider myHSteam members’ experiences with hair removal, including how it affects their condition and whether they would recommend alternative approaches to body hair grooming.
While shaving is a relatively quick, easy hair-removal method, many people with HS find that it is not the best solution for them. As one member wrote, “I, myself, haven’t shaved in years and don’t plan to. It’s too scary — makes my flare-ups worse.” Another member simply advised, “DO NOT SHAVE! ONLY TRIM!”
Some people may find that shaving doesn’t aggravate their HS symptoms. Still, many choose to avoid shaving because their dermatologist has advised against it or because they would rather avoid potential risks entirely. As one member explained, “I haven’t ever shaved. I’m too afraid I’ll cut something and that would not be good. Plus, my doctor said not to do it.”
Another wrote, “I have also stopped shaving, but I have read that it doesn’t necessarily help. I am honestly not sure if it helps, but I don’t shave anyway.”
Other people with HS choose not to shave because it may aggravate or cause infection in existing nodules or open sores. In these cases, the HS itself can make shaving too risky or nearly impossible. “Shaving is hard for me too,” shared one member. “I am broken out almost all the time.”
Some members decide to shave because they find that doing so is actually more beneficial than allowing their body hair to grow. “I shaved because the hairs seem to bother me more,” explained one member, admitting, “When I first do it, it’s a little irritated.”
Another member said, “I do have to shave often because if the hair gets too long anywhere, it starts pulling and causing boils. I try a sensitive shaving cream or soap and place my finger over the boils in order not to accidentally shave over them while in the shower.”
Not everyone responds the same way to shaving. Whether you decide to shave will likely depend on several factors, including the severity of your HS, your dermatologist’s advice, and your personal preference.
Some people with HS choose to wax their body hair off instead of shaving. One member shared, “Waxing has not bothered me and is the most affordable option for me,” while another asked a friend, “Have you ever tried waxing? It has helped me so much!” One member even stated, “Waxing seems to be my only salvation.”
Those who are nervous about waxing with HS may be able to find experts who can help them wax their hair without causing problems. As a member advised, “If you find a good wax company and do a consultation with them and explain your condition, they will avoid those areas. The waxing has helped my inflammation stay dormant longer, and some lesions seem to go away.”
Booking a consultation prior to a waxing appointment may also help ease anxieties for those who are nervous about showing their HS to others. This anxiety is a normal feeling: As one member explained, “I’m also scared of the person doing the waxing. I’m afraid of being judged.”
Some members find that waxing serves as part of a long-term solution for managing their HS without entirely disrupting their personal grooming routines. “I started using natural deodorant, as well as waxing instead of shaving,” wrote one member. “No sores since I started this about four months ago.”
As with shaving, however, waxing may not work for everyone diagnosed with HS — especially those with scar tissue. As one member shared, “The skin on my scars is so thin that waxing just tears the skin.” Another agreed, “Yes, shaving or waxing makes it much worse.” One more wrote, “Certain —100 percent — HS came from ingrown hairs after waxing.”
Waxing may be a viable hair-removal method for some people diagnosed with HS, but it’s not a solution for everyone. It is a particularly aggressive option that may prove more irritating than shaving for some. Also, hot wax may cause skin irritation and lead to a flare-up.
Ultimately, it is best for people with HS to consult a dermatologist before trying waxing for hair removal.
For some members, laser hair removal has proven helpful. As one member shared, “I am getting laser hair removal treatments under my arm and groin area. It has helped a lot.” Another wrote, “Anyone who is able to should definitely get laser hair removal done. Best decision I ever made.”
One of the biggest concerns with laser hair removal is its cost. It may take as many as eight sessions to remove almost all the hair in a targeted area, with an average cost of $389 per session. (Six sessions seems to be the average number.) One member noted that laser hair removal is covered by their insurance due to their HS, but coverage may not be the case for everyone.
As with waxing, it is best to consult with a hair-removal specialist prior to your appointment so you can let them know about your condition and any areas of concern. It could also be beneficial to find an expert familiar with HS, though this search may be difficult. “I have been trying to find a laser hair removal clinic that has some knowledge of HS,” shared one member, “but so far, the places I have looked at seem fairly clueless. My dermatologist wasn’t even aware that this was an option for HS.”
If complete hair removal isn’t an option for you, you may want to try other grooming approaches. “Maybe try just a simple trim with scissors,” one member encouraged another. This approach may be particularly useful for people with large bumps or painful sores who would like to keep their body hair short.
Using clippers or trimmers is often the solution for grooming body hair with HS. While it doesn’t remove the hair as closely as other methods do, some people find themselves more comfortable when their body hair is trimmed as short as possible.
One member shared their technique: “I use a trimmer with a low guard on it. It gets it short enough to not be noticeable. I’ve done that for about six years.”
Another member wrote that they use a pair of clippers on grade level one. This allows them to get a short trim without snagging and pulling their hair, something that might cause HS breakouts.
Letting body hair grow out may be helpful in avoiding irritation for some. For others, though, it may actually trigger HS flare-ups. As one member wrote, “It seems that the less hair I have, the less I have breakouts of HS.” Another explained, “Hairless seems to make me feel better.”
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how to approach hair removal or grooming with HS. If you can get insurance to cover laser hair removal, that may be your best option. However, many people cannot afford that option and still find satisfactory ways to remove their hair regularly. You may also want to forego removing your body hair. Talk to your dermatologist to see what option may be best for you and your HS.
On myHSteam, the social network for people with HS and their loved ones, more than 24,000 members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their experiences with others who understand life with HS.
How do you deal with body hair? Share your experience and tips in the comments below or by posting on myHSteam.