Clothes and fabrics to wear to let your HS breathe

Hardly anyone opens their closet in the morning and figuring out what to wear is an easy decision. But when you have hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), looking at your closet comes with its own set of challenges.

Certain fabrics, designs, and types of clothing can irritate the painful boil-like bumps of HS, potentially rendering your go-to clothes off-limits during flare-ups.

Don’t think for a minute that this means that your clothing choices are limited to sweatshirts or a bathrobe (tempting as that may seem sometimes!). There’s a surprisingly vast amount of HS-compatible clothing and fabrics (some even designed with the condition in mind) that can let your skin breathe and show off your individual style.

Here’s a guide on how to dress for HS from head to toe.

HS prone areas have a troublesome trifecta for potential irritation.

First, HS bumps often appear in the hair follicles of sensitive areas and sweat glands, such as the inner thighs and armpits. These areas of the skin are exactly where friction can occur from exercise or daily movement related to travel. And these areas also happen to be where the bands and seams of clothing meet such tender skin.

That’s why clothing is often responsible (at least in part) for exacerbating HS symptoms, according to a 2021 study. While frustrating, the flip side of this scenario offers a silver lining. In other words, wearing the right kinds of clothes can help protect sensitive spots and lessen HS flare-ups. (Ahhh, sweet relief.)

When shopping for HS-compatible clothing, look for fabrics that are soft, breathable, and moisture-wicking. They can perform a dual function of preventing chafing and drawing sweat away from HS-prone skin.

Great fabric choices for HS include modal (a durable, flexible form of rayon) and lyocell (a more durable form of rayon, which also sometimes goes by the brand name Tencel). As a bonus, Tencel fabrics are also less prone to wrinkling than cotton – perfect for packing away in a suitcase.

Another HS-compatible fabric option, similar to lyocell, is bamboo. It tends to feel cool against the skin – a soothing benefit when dealing with irritating bumps.

On the other hand, cotton is a fabric you might want to skip if you have HS. As any athlete or outdoor enthusiast will scream from mountain tops, cotton can cause chafing which leads to dreaded chafing when you move around a lot.

Plus, research shows that cotton can harbor bacteria and is also very absorbent (meaning it will trap your sweat against your skin, which could lead to irritation). Not a good combination if you are trying to protect HS prone areas of your body.

The material is certainly a great choice for drying off after a shower, but other than your towel, comfortable cotton clothes won’t do your HS any good.

Dressing up starts with donning the right skivvies from your unspeakable drawer. According to the 2021 review, seamless underwear designs can help reduce friction and discomfort on sensitive parts.

For underwear, opt for boy shorts or even bike shorts that won’t have bands encroaching on your groin. The hybrid boxer brief is a great choice for buddies with penises (or anyone who prefers that style – no judgment here!).

If you wear a bra, avoid the type with an underwire that chafes and aggravates bumps. Opt instead for a bralette, a brami (a camisole with built-in bra), or even a long sports version that offers support without a tight band.

And rather than thin straps, which can chafe and dig into your skin, try racerback styles. You might find them more comfortable.

You can also find clothing specifically designed for people with HS. Yes really!

HidraWear, for example, offers HS-compatible garments that serve as combined underwear, bandages and restraints. You can buy disposable armpit or thigh/groin bandages that fit under the brand’s washable and reusable garments, such as briefs or undershirts.

The dressings also come with a disposable external tie that works with the garment so you don’t have to use irritating tapes or adhesives that also refuse to stay in place.

Plus, the founder of HidraWear lives with HS, so you can be sure the clothes are from someone who truly understands them.

Got a hot date, a big day at the office, or just a fun night out with friends? You have plenty of options to look glamorous even during an HS flare. Fortunately, many clothing brands have created high-end garments with Tencel due to its ease of care and wear.

Brands like ADAY and Vetta offer beautiful capsule wardrobe options that are versatile, functional, packable, and stylish. Yet they’re also gentle on sensitive skin with technical fabrics and flowing silhouettes. These puffy shapes are gentler on the skin than tight-fitting outfits, which can cause pain and make HS worse, according to this 2021 review.

Of course, flowing clothes (like skirts and dresses) can sometimes leave skin vulnerable to chafing, as they let your parts rub against each other. Turn those dressier clothes into HS wardrobe staples by wearing a pair of bike shorts or seamless cropped leggings underneath.

Luckily, workout clothes are often made from breathable fabrics that wick away moisture. Tencel also makes athletic fabric, and you can check out this list of athletic brands that incorporate it.

So you’ve already ticked a box when it comes to finding gear for yoga, running, or any other activity you love to do, even burpees. (Wait, does anyone really like these?) And since exercise makes anyone prone to chafing, many styles on the market aim to prevent chafing as well.

But with HS, you’ll probably need to look for options that specifically protect areas where you’re most prone to flares.

Look for seamless longline sports bras, for example. Brands like Thirdlove offer minimalist but supportive styles. If chafing under the armpits prevents you from moving, also opt for technical t-shirts.

Want a short style for extra freshness? Pair it with your favorite seamless high waisted leggings or tights for an overall chafe-free fit while you move.

Yet even the most moisture-resistant workout gear still soaks up some sweat when you hit the gym. Try to put on clean clothes as soon as possible after your workout to prevent sweating from making your HS worse.

When it comes to finding the right clothes for HS, it can take a bit of trial and error to find what works for you. But rest assured, there are designs out there that can keep you cool and comfortable, not to mention looking fabulous. There’s even an HS clothing brand aimed at helping to keep your dressings tidy and comfortable.

The key is to look for options that prevent chafing, wick sweat, and fit your unique style so you feel confident no matter what HS throws at you.

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