**Warning: Images will be as gross as this title sounds.**
In my two plus decades of life, I’ve only had two major surgeries. The first was when I was a toddler and my adenoids had to be removed. I was so young that I can only remember what my mother tells me about it. My second major surgery took place at age sixteen amidst learning that I would suffer from a pleasant little condition called hidradenitis suppurativa for the rest of my life.
After a small handful of minor knickings and drainings and antibiotics, my doctor highly recommended that I have the apocrine sweat gland removed from my left armpit (the area in which HS affects me the most). Surgery of any kind can be burdensome, but the bright side in this case was getting a couple days off from school and being excused from gym class for a week. The idea was that removing my sweat gland would significantly reduce the occurrence of painful, golf ball-sized, solid boils in my armpit area.
Eight years have gone by and I still experience minor outbreaks from the incurable HS. Although the cause of the infection is unknown, I did, however, learn about what caused individual outbreaks. These causes included: starchy or heavily seasoned foods, excess body fat, sweat, and even shaving. I also learned that HS affects more females than males and boils have a tendency to pop up during your period.
After I began practicing healthier habits (working out, eating better, tending to my mental health), HS became much less of a problem for me. It wasn’t until recently, when life became a little more stressful than normal, that I experienced one of my most painful outbreaks yet.
Once life calmed itself, I temporarily stopped shaving and I avoided paprika like it was poison ivy, I gained normal use of of my arm back in less than two weeks (outbreaks become so large and painful, some people need to wear a sling). Everyday, I used a non-soap cleanser and treated the affected area with tea tree oil and skipped on deodorant and I noticed that even after sweating puddles in the summer heat for hours, I smelled like a fresh stick of spearmint gum! Now, I rarely bother with deodorant.
I am a feminine woman. I care a lot about hygiene. I like to leave a pleasant fragrance behind. However, I am also able to decipher between what is essential to your health (like bathing), and what is really a standard set by society and sometimes a luxury many people don’t have (like wearing cologne or deodorant).
Yes, like you, my concern when first taking on this practice was smell. Anyone who’s been to liberal arts college or any alternative music festival knows of the smell of which I’m referring; not need to elaborate. If that is the case and HS is still a problem, here’s a few tips I’ll leave you with:
- Wash the affected area with a gentle, non-soap cleanser
- Cleaning the area before and treat with tea tree oil or rubbing alcohol before bed (be careful of broken skin)
- Wear a large bandage over the area during the day, if possible (to avoid irritation from clothing)
- And lastly, if the affected area is your axillary (armpit), put on a very thin layer of deodorant
- If you are going deodorant-free, carry a small bottle of oil with and reapply midday
If you’re not a heavy sweater, try going without deodorant on a day when you’re at home all day or won’t be very active. Just apply tea tree oil instead. You, too, can smell like a candy cane in July.
(Featured image by Brooke Cagle)