If you’re living with hidradenitis suppurativa (HS), also known as acne inversa, you know it can be painful, unsightly and, let’s face it, just downright embarrassing. The thought of getting naked, much less intimate, with someone may seem like a far-off dream. But it doesn’t have to be. Though acne inversa is little known, and often misdiagnosed (some doctors may mistake it for acne or an infection), the good news is, there are some effective treatment options. And dermatologists have found certain lifestyle changes can help prevent flare-ups—and help you feel better about yourself and your appearance. What is it exactly? Acne inversa (or hidradenitis suppurativa) is a long-term skin disease that causes inflammation of the sweat glands on certain areas of the body. This leads to boils and abscesses—usually under the arms, in the groin/inner thigh area, or under the breasts—that may leak pus and are often difficult to heal. But you don’t have to suffer. There are many steps you can take that can provide significant relief: Lose weight. With hidradenitis suppurativa, it’s unknown why hair follicles become blocked and inflamed, but it may be related to excess weight. And for many people, the stress of living with hidradenitis suppurativa can lead to overeating, which only adds to the problem. If this is the case for you, finding a good program to help you not only lose weight, but also cope with your condition, can be extremely helpful in alleviating your symptoms—or even clear them up. Dermatologists have found that losing even 10% of your body weight can make a difference. Plus, it can also lead to increased self-esteem and help you feel better about being in the buff. Lose the razor. Shaving can irritate the skin and make breakouts worse. Talk with your doctor about less-irritating hair removal treatment options to keep your skin looking good. Lose the smokes. Did you know smoking can contribute to acne inversa flare-ups? Get help to quit smoking, and you will find it also decreases the severity of your acne inversa, and keeps your skin looking its best. Added bonus—it will help you live a longer, healthier life! Loosen up. Tight-fitting clothes can also be irritating, rubbing against the skin and making symptoms worse. Choose soft, loose clothing and undergarments. Spend a little extra time picking out attractive, sexy (free-flowing) lingerie that will not only feel better on your skin, but will put you both in the mood (to take it off!). Cool off. Sweating and overheating can also make acne inversa worse, so having a good antiperspirant is essential, especially in the bedroom. But some can be too harsh for your skin, so ask your dermatologist for a recommendation. Keep it clean. It’s important to keep the affected areas clean to help relieve any discomfort and prevent the infection from spreading. Wash with antibacterial soap, and then apply an over-the-counter antibiotic, approved by your dermatologist. Talk with your partner. Though you may be embarrassed by your condition, you might be surprised at how little it bothers your partner, and how understanding he or she can be (especially when you reassure them that it’s not contagious). Give your partner a heads-up about your skin and how you are feeling. It can also be beneficial to talk with a professional counselor or other people who are living with acne inversa. There are online support groups for people to share what is helpful for them, and you may discover some great new coping skills and maybe even find a new relationship! Don’t give up. For some people, it can take several tries to find the best treatment (and a good doctor) that works for them. But there are many options—from lifestyle changes to medication to surgery. When you feel like giving up, try to keep in mind that acne inversa is a treatable medical condition, and a good dermatologist is the best person for the job. Find one who is experienced with hidradenitis suppurativa and who has a reputation for helping others like you.