You started with a dynamic warm-up, crushed a treadmill run, and are ready to hit the shower. Before you do, spend a few minutes doing these stretches for flexibility. Stretching may not be the most exciting part of your workout, but it’s an important tenant of a well-rounded fitness routine. Taking time to stretch after a cardio workout will help your body cool down, improve your flexibility, and keep your body working like a well-oiled machine.Why should you stretch after a cardio workout?As SELF has previously reported, stretching post-workout gives your body a chance to cool down properly. It’s important to make time for that—versus just abruptly stopping your workout—so that your body has a chance to slowly recalibrate. Otherwise, you might feel lightheaded or dizzy if your heart rate and breathing rate are trying to go from one extreme (intense!) to the next (less intense!). Stretching after a workout may also help you recover more quickly, thanks to the way it increases blood flow to muscles and soft tissues that need all those good nutrients and oxygen to repair themselves, Jennifer Morgan, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., a sports physical therapist at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, previously told SELF.Focusing on stretches for flexibility post-workout is typically recommended over doing them beforehand. Dynamic stretches, which are more active and focused on moving your body through similar motions that you’ll do in your workout, are great for warming up. But static stretches, which are the classic hold-a-stretch moves you think about when you think about flexibility training, are best to save until the end of the workout. As SELF has previously reported, research suggests static stretching can potentially reduce strength, power, and explosiveness if done right before a workout—all things you might need to crush your cardio routine.It’s also best to stretch when your body is already warmed up (to reduce the risk of pulling or straining anything). There’s no better time for warm muscles and tendons than right after a sweaty cardio workout.What are the best stretches to do after a cardio workout?In general, you want to focus on stretching the muscles you just used in your workout. After a cardio workout, that probably means your lower-body muscles. But remember that your core—including your abdominal muscles and back muscles—also do some serious work when you run, bike, or spend time on your favorite cardio machine. Even your upper back and shoulders might feel fatigued. They just worked hard, too, helping you to maintain correct upright posture.So, there’s no reason not to take advantage of your whole body being warm and primed for flexibility. Feel free to stretch anything that feels tight, or any problem areas you have—like, say, the lower back or neck and shoulders.The Best Stretches for Flexibility After CardioTry these moves after your cardio workouts to improve your flexibility and range of motion. Hold each one for at least 30 seconds to get the best benefits. If you don’t have time for all of them, pick the ones that target the areas you feel tightest, or the areas that feel the hardest hit from your workout.
To prepare for a CT scan, you’ll drink a fluid that contains something called contrast medium, which is a unique dye that helps the tissues in question show up better on the CT scan. During the procedure, you lie down on a table that slides into a tunnel-shaped machine, where the scans are done.Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)MRI is another test that gets detailed images of your organs and tissues. MRI is good at detecting fistula, which is when two body parts don’t connect together properly, around the anus or the small intestine, according to the Mayo Clinic. (This may happen because of inflammation involved with Crohn’s disease.) According to a 2021 research review published in Insights Into Imaging1, MRI is an effective way to detect Crohn’s in the small bowel and related complications and can be used as a radiation-free alternative to a CT scan.Upper GI seriesAn upper GI series is a type of X-ray that involves drinking a chalky liquid called barium, which makes your upper GI tract more visible on the test. Generally, the process also includes a method called fluoroscopy, where an X-ray beam is constantly passed through your GI tract to create a movie of sorts, showing how the barium travels through your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine, per Johns Hopkins Medicine. This method can show abnormalities related to many digestive problems, including Crohn’s disease, as well as swallowing problems, stomach ulcers, cancer, hernias, and more.EndoscopyEndoscopy is a procedure where a long, bendy tube with lights and a camera on the end (endoscope) is inserted into the digestive tract—either via the mouth or the anus—to show exactly what is going on inside. They’re the most accurate way to diagnose Crohn’s and rule out other potential conditions, according to the NIDDK. There are three different types of endoscopy used for diagnosing Crohn’s disease, and your doctor will choose which one is best based on your symptoms.ColonoscopyMost often, your doctor will recommend a colonoscopy if they think you have Crohn’s disease. During the procedure, an endoscope is inserted into the anus to view the rectum, colon (large intestine), and the terminal ileum (the very end of the small intestine). Before a colonoscopy, you have to do bowel prep, which includes a special drink or enema to clean out your bowels so your doctor gets the clearest view possible of your insides. A colonoscopy is usually done under general anesthesia.If Crohn’s is suspected, your doctor will likely take a biopsy, or tissue sample, from your digestive tract. If the biopsy shows that you have inflammatory cells (called granulomas), then you’ll typically get diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. “All tests and scans matter, but the findings on a biopsy are critical,” Peter D.R. Higgins, M.D., Ph.D., professor of gastroenterology and director of the IBD Program at the University of Michigan, tells SELF. “It’s hard to make the call without a definitive biopsy.”Upper GI endoscopyAn upper GI endoscopy is similar to a colonoscopy, except it comes in from the other end. This doesn’t involve bowel prep, and typically you’ll be given liquid anesthesia to numb your throat and be put under a sedative—not general anesthesia. The endoscope goes down your esophagus and gives your doctor a good look at your throat, stomach, and duodenum (the beginning of your small intestine) to see if there is any inflammation or bleeding. Similar to a colonoscopy, your physician may take tissue samples to test for inflammation that can indicate you have Crohn’s disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.Capsule endoscopyThis is generally recommended when other tests are inconclusive, according to NYU Langone. During a capsule endoscopy, you swallow a capsule that contains a teeny-tiny camera, which then takes photos of your small intestines. The camera eventually passes in your stool (you shouldn’t even notice it).EnteroscopyAn enteroscopy is used to examine the small intestine with a specialized endoscope that can reach further down your GI tract and give a better view of the area. If your doctor thinks your symptoms, like severe pain and diarrhea, is due to Crohn’s affecting your small intestine, then you might have an enteroscopy. There are a few different types of enteroscopy your doctor may use to be able to fully examine the small intestine:
As a fitness editor and writer, I often talk to people about the exercises they love and the ones they could do without. The well-known mountain climbers exercise is right at the top of that second list for me. Here’s the thing: We all have those moves that make us feel like we can conquer the world—for me, it’s pretty much any type of squat. And then we all have those moves that make us seriously consider walking out in the middle of a workout class just to avoid doing them, and for me, that move is the mountain climber.My distaste is inconvenient, because pretty much every time I take a workout class, mountain climbers show up. And I’ll admit, there is indeed a good reason for that: The mountain climber is a really effective compound exercise that works so many muscles, from your shoulders to your core, and is great for cardio. I know that it makes total sense that trainers incorporate them into workouts. That doesn’t stop me from hating them.After voicing my feelings to my colleagues, I learned I’m not the only one who is anti–mountain climbers. I’ve even mentioned it on Instagram, and other people have replied in solidarity that they, too, can’t stand the damn things.For further validation, I asked Jess Sims, NASM-certified personal trainer in New York City, whether this is a common sentiment among her clients and other people in the fitness industry. “Yes! Most people have a love-hate relationship with mountain climbers,” she says. “It’s so funny because most people can’t say why [they dislike them] because there are so many things working that it’s hard to decipher what burns the most.”Mountain Climbers Exercise BenefitsThere are many reasons for why mountain climbers can feel so intense, says Sims. Ironically, these are the same reasons people don’t like them and what makes them so beneficial. They work most of your upper body, plus your core and cardiovascular system.“You’re holding a plank position, so your core is engaged, as well as your triceps, chest, and shoulders,” Sims says. “Then you add in the cardio aspect of running your knees into your chest, which leaves you gasping for air.”So, yes, mountain climbers are undeniably great for building strength and core stability and revving up your heart rate. But they are also more challenging than they look—so if you find them difficult or unenjoyable, you’re certainly not alone.In addition to the strength and cardio challenge, mountain climbers also require a certain amount of hip mobility. “Folks with tight hip flexors may struggle to get their knees to their chest and end up bumping their feet on the floor on the way in,” Sims adds.While mountain climbers are effective, there are actually plenty of other exercises that have comparable benefits that you might find less daunting—making them very fitting mountain climber alternatives when you really just are not in the mood.7 Mountain Climber AlternativesBelow, seven mountain climber substitutes you can choose from the next time your workout calls for mountain climbers. Just swap them in for the mountain climbers exercise, or pepper them into other workouts when you’re looking for a nice little cardio burst. Start with 15 seconds of each move, and adjust as necessary.
If it’s never occurred to you to wonder, Huh, how often should I change my pillowcase?, we can’t really blame you. You’d probably much rather associate your pillowcases—and pillows themselves—with comfort and sleep than with laundry. Unfortunately, if you don’t swap out your pillowcases often enough, you might be unknowingly messing with your pillow’s potential to be a key part of your bedtime oasis. Below, we talked to experts to learn just how often you should wash your pillowcases (and the actual pillows themselves).So what exactly is lurking on your pillowcase? According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), we humans shed between 30,000 and 40,000 skin cells every day. When you spend at least seven hours (hopefully) sleeping, you’re shedding many of those skin cells right onto your sheets and pillows. On top of that, sweat, oil from your skin (especially if you don’t wash your face before bed), and good ol’ fashioned drool are all going to end up on your pillowcases as well. You might even end up with allergens (like pollen) in your bed via your hair, if you’re not a nighttime showerer. And let’s not forget the skin cells, sweat, oil, and drool of your partner and/or pet, if you share a bed with them.All those cells and bodily fluids can cause microorganisms—like bacteria and fungus—to grow. This isn’t likely to have a significant bearing on your health, but it can lead to skin irritation, breakouts, and possibly even infections. Thomas A. Russo, M.D., professor and chief of infectious disease at the University of Buffalo Jacobs School of Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, tells SELF that while fabrics like pillowcases and sheets can potentially be contaminated, they aren’t generally ideal places for most microorganisms to grow and propagate effectively.Very contagious skin infections like staph or ringworm can theoretically transmit between two people via bed linens, Dr. Russo says. But it’s very difficult to know if something spread that way or was transmitted simply from skin-to-skin contact if two people are living together and intimately close.Even though the risk of spreading infectious bugs via your sheets is slim, the microbes that regularly build up on your pillowcase can disrupt your skin’s delicate balance of microbes, called the microbiome, which can cause breakouts if you have acne-prone skin, SELF previously reported. If you have eczema, it can potentially lead to a flare.Back to top.Now, let’s talk dust mites. Dust mites, which are too small to see without a microscope, are teeny tiny creatures that live in household dust and feast on dead human skin cells. They thrive in warm, humid environments, and especially love living in bedding—where they enjoy an endless supply of sloughed off skin cells. Yummy.These critters are NBD if you’re not allergic to them. If you are, they can be a huge deal. “Dust mites are by far the most pervasive indoor allergen,” board-certified allergist-immunologist Ryan Steele, D.O., assistant professor of clinical medicine at Yale School of Medicine and program director of the Yale Allergy & Immunology Contact Dermatitis Program, tells SELF. “Dust mites are something we think of as affecting airways and causing nasal congestion and watery eyes, but they can also make your skin itchy and worsen eczema.”There’s not really any way to get rid of or prevent dust mites, Denisa E. Ferastraoaru, M.D., assistant professor of medicine in allergy and immunology and attending physician at Einstein/Montefiore and Jacobi Medical Centers, tells SELF. So allergists advise patients with dust mite allergies to get allergy covers for their pillows (and mattress and comforter). “Covers basically keep dust mites inside the pillow/bed so that we can’t breathe them in,” Dr. Ferastraoaru says. If you can put a dust mite cover on any new pillows before using them for the first time, you can also keep dust mites out in the first place.Back to top.So, how often should you change your pillowcase?The best and easiest way to prevent potential skin issues? Wash or change your pillowcases and allergy covers regularly. Dr. Steele suggests doing so once a week, and if washing, using the hottest setting you can to kill microbes and allergens. If you’re a big-time drooler or make it a habit of going to bed with makeup on, you may want to wash or change your pillowcases more often.On that note, washing your face every night and showering before bed (especially if you got super sweaty or have seasonal allergies) will help keep your pillowcases cleaner for longer.Back to top.What about the actual pillows? The National Sleep Foundation recommends washing pillows (if you can) every six months with hot water and mild detergent. That’s right, many pillows can actually be washed! And it turns out…you should be doing that! Generally, down/feather pillows and down-alternative pillows can go in the washing machine on the gentle cycle; while most foam pillows shouldn’t be machine washed. Some pillows may do best when dry cleaned. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific pillow. When it comes to replacing your pillows, the National Sleep Foundation suggests swapping out pillows with new ones that aren’t full of dust mites and sweat every one to two years. Now, that’s not a hard-and-fast rule, and if buying new pillows yearly sounds like a hefty expense, you’re not wrong. By using allergy covers and washing your pillowcases, covers, and pillows as regularly as you can, you’ll keep them in good shape for longer and buy some time before their dustiness, mustiness, and/or lack of fluffiness get between you and a peaceful night’s sleep. Because that’s what it’s all about, after all.Back to top.Related:
Back to the top.Here’s how to heal chapped lips fast.Use these expert tips to prevent and heal chapped lips this winter and beyond.1. Resist the urge to lick chapped lips.While saliva may provide a quick fix, it actually makes things worse in the long run. “Though it may sound counterintuitive, when you lick your lips, which are more sensitive than other parts of the skin, the saliva evaporates, leaving them drier than before,” Lance Brown, M.D., a surgical and cosmetic dermatologist based in New York City and East Hampton, New York, tells SELF.This issue is usually more common in young kids than in adults, Dr. Fox says. It’s often called “lip-lickers dermatitis,” she adds. “Adults tend not to have it as much because we know better.” Still, it can be a natural instinct to quickly lip when your lips feel dry. Try your best to resist that urge.Back to the top.2. Wear moisturizing lip products.Matte lipstick may look super chic, but it can be quite drying. When it’s cold and dry outside, opt for lipsticks that are moisturizing to help reduce dryness, Dr. Brown suggests. Or, better yet! “Try to wear lip gloss,” Debra Jaliman, M.D., board-certified dermatologist in New York City and author of the book Skin Rules: Trade Secrets from a Top New York Dermatologist, tells SELF. Most lip glosses have some sort of oil or other hydrating ingredient in them, and the thick consistency can work like a barrier to trap in moisture.You can also try this hack in lieu of lipstick: “If your lips are super chapped, then you can line your lip with lip pencil and wear a lip balm,” Dr. Jaliman suggests. “The lip pencil will blend into the lip balm so you will make your own lip gloss that is more soothing.”Back to the top.3. Choose the right lip-balm formula.When looking for the best chapstick for dry lips, keep in mind that some ingredients in lip balm, like camphor, phenol, and menthol, can actually dry the lips out more, Dr. Jaliman says. She suggests looking for oil-based balms—these often make for the best lip moisturizers. “Look for wheat-germ oil, almond oil, jojoba oil, coconut oil, sunflower oil, and cottonseed oil in lip balms. These really moisturize the lips.” She also recommends looking for aloe vera and shea butter in your lip balm of choice.To create a barrier that traps moisture, Dr. Brown suggests petroleum—yup, just plain old Vaseline or Aquaphor—will do the trick. It’s not going to hydrate, but it will prevent water evaporation from occurring. (Beeswax works too.)This is where Dr. Fox’s advice rings true. “Plain Vaseline is inexpensive, easy to find, and [most people aren’t] allergic or sensitive to it, so we often recommend that,” she says. If you want something slightly more cosmetically appealing (and your skin isn’t sensitive), look for a petroleum-based product that has fragrance or color.Try: Vaseline Lip Therapy Lip Balm ($6 for a 3-pack, amazon.com); Glossier Balm Dotcom ($12, glossier.com); Aquaphor ($5 for a 2-pack, amazon.com).
At the end of a long, stressful day, it might feel natural to reach for a beer or a glass of wine. After all, many people like to let loose and relax with a drink in hand. But at what point does this casual, happy-go-lucky drinking drift towards something a little unhealthy?Overall, social drinking is typically considered low-risk, as long as you’re imbibing in “moderation.” “People and societies might define ‘social drinking’ very differently, but generally it means drinking within a set of social norms and in a way that does not put someone at risk,” Sheila Specker, M.D., associate professor and addiction psychiatrist in the Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences at the University of Minnesota, tells SELF.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sets these limits to no more than one drink per day for people assigned female at birth and no more than two drinks a day for people assigned male at birth, per the most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans.Everyone’s personal relationship with alcohol is a bit different, but in general, when your booze intake starts to exceed these guidelines, then your drinking may start to skew into risky territory—and this can happen more slowly and discreetly than you might realize. “It can creep up on people and that’s the insidious nature of it,” John Kelly, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry in addiction medicine at Harvard Medical School and founder and director of the Recovery Research Institute at Massachusetts General Hospital, tells SELF. “People don’t realize they’re running into a problem with drinking until they cross the line into compulsive behavior.”They can be hard to spot if you’re not looking, but certain warning signs signal a greater drinking problem. Here are the red flags to keep an eye out for—and what to do if you think you or someone you know might need help.1. People close to you are concerned about your drinking.Having a friend, family member, or even a colleague confront you about your drinking is one of the first major signs of alcohol misuse. “If you’re finding that people are starting to say things like, ‘I notice you drink a lot,’ or ‘You’re drunk again?’ or there’s concern expressed from those close to you, that’s usually an early warning sign,” Dr. Kelly says.If you’re approached about your behavior around booze, then it’s likely already interfering with your daily life in a negative way, even if you haven’t realized or accepted it yet. For example, if you tend to get into arguments with your friends or family members when you’ve had one too many cocktails—say, you start losing your temper more easily over something that wouldn’t normally bother you—then you may want to consider how your alcohol consumption is playing a role in those conflicts, Dr. Kelly explains. Another crucial thing to consider: If your loved ones seem worried and you still want to continue drinking or feel like you can’t stop even if you think their fears are valid, that’s a sign your habit is veering toward an alcohol use disorder, according to the American Addiction Centers.2. You’re starting to worry about your drinking habits, too.If you start to worry about how much you’re drinking and how it’s affecting your life, then that’s another pretty good sign that something isn’t right. Do questions like ‘Am I drinking too much?’ or ‘When was the last time I went without drinking?’ cross your mind? If so, it’s really important to think about your answers. If you respond with, “Yes, probably” or “I can’t remember,” that’s a major red flag.
Sex isn’t exactly the most pristine activity, thanks to all the bodily fluids involved. It’s inevitable that things are going to get a little wet and messy. But bleeding during sex (or postcoital bleeding, meaning bleeding after sex) isn’t always something you should ignore and just write off as part of the process. The thing is, vaginal bleeding during sex is sometimes NBD, especially if it’s a one-off. But other times, especially when repeated, it can be a sign of a health problem—like a pelvic infection or, in some cases, even cancer—that needs to be addressed, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Note: When we discuss bleeding during and after sex in this article, we’re talking about vaginal intercourse specifically here. Anal is a topic for another day.)A few factors can help you determine if your bleeding during sex or postcoital bleeding is cause for concern, like where you are in your cycle, how much blood there is, how often it happens, if you had really rough sex, and if you’re postmenopausal. Below, we asked ob-gyns to break down what can cause spotting or bleeding during and after sex, and when it’s worth looping in your doctor.Is it normal to bleed during or after sex? | Can hitting the cervix cause bleeding? | Is bleeding during sex a sign of pregnancy? | Can bleeding during sex be a sign of a tear? | Other potential causes of bleeding during sex and postcoital bleeding | When to see a doctor for bleeding during or after sexIs it normal to bleed during or after sex?Generally, if you haven’t yet hit menopause, light bleeding after sex on rare occasions is probably nothing to worry about, the Mayo Clinic says.The key words here are “rare” and “light.” Because as much as we’d like to tell you to just never worry about bleeding during sex—we all have enough worries as it is!—sometimes it is definitely worth paying attention to and seeking medical answers for. But if you see a little bit of light spotting during or after sex one time, then it goes away, chances are you can chalk it up to just another body thing. There are a few common reasons behind light bleeding after sex. “If it’s close to the period, two or three days before, [some bleeding is] kind of to be expected,” Jacques Moritz, M.D., ob-gyn and medical director of Tia Clinic in New York City, tells SELF. “The uterine lining gets so thick, and when the uterus moves around a lot during intercourse, some cells will come off.” This is especially true if you’re having rougher sex. So, bleeding during sex or postcoital bleeding in this kind of circumstance, where there’s a really clear explanation, usually isn’t something that counts as a cause for concern. But, as with pretty much anything when it comes to your health, listen to your instincts. If you feel like you have a good explanation for what’s causing your spotting or bleeding during or after sex, but you’re still concerned or want some peace of mind, definitely make an appointment with a care provider just to be sure.Back to top.Can hitting the cervix cause bleeding?The short answer: Yes, definitely. The long answer: The cervix tends to be more sensitive at certain times of the month—and some people just have sensitive cervixes in general—which can lead to spotting after sex.If you notice some bloody discharge after sex and you’re in the middle of your cycle, it’s not necessarily a problem, as long as, again, it happens very rarely. “During ovulation, [your cervix] can be more sensitive, causing spotting during intercourse,” Sherry A. Ross, M.D., an ob-gyn in Santa Monica, California, and author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period., tells SELF. This can be even more common for people taking hormonal birth control, she adds.Bleeding during or after sex is also more likely if the sex is rough and/or penetration is very deep, not only hitting the cervix once but over and over again.Dr. Moritz also adds that younger people tend to have more sensitive cervices that can bleed easily from something like rough sex or even a procedure like a Pap smear or pelvic exam.Back to top.Is bleeding during sex a sign of pregnancy?Pregnancy is another thing that makes the cervix sensitive and can lead to a little bleeding during or after sex, Dr. Moritz says. For what it’s worth, light spotting during early pregnancy is common, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), even though it can be really scary to actually experience (here’s how to know when bleeding during pregnancy is something you should call your ob-gyn about). And sometimes, that bleeding happens right after sex because pregnancy causes you to develop more blood vessels in areas like your cervix.
We all know that person who just can’t wait to get their hands on the latest new gadgets. And we don’t blame them: the best tech gifts can be exciting and delightful. At its best, tech makes your life easier or better—or healthier. There’s something techy for every corner of the wellness world aimed at helping you be your healthiest self—from improving your sleep routine, to upping your fitness game, to making vacuuming your home go even smoother.Luckily, there’s a great tech gift out there for everyone on your list who wants to optimize their daily routine. (So basically, everyone you know.) And we’ve got the best picks—from a digital fitness system, to a temperature-controlled coffee mug, to a smart tabletop garden system, and even a Bluetooth-connected selfie-assisting vanity mirror. Here, we’ve rounded up a list of the best tech gifts you can give this year. Just be sure to order sooner rather than later since many retailers have a shipping deadline of December 15 and there are already widespread shipping delays.All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.All products featured on SELF are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.
For the 1 in 100 people in the U.S. living with hidradenitis suppurativa1, dealing with the condition’s characteristic deep, painful lumps really affects their quality of life. Sometimes, hidradenitis suppurativa lesions can break open and leak blood, pus, and other odorous fluids, and your skin can be more sensitive when this happens2. These sores usually appear in your armpits and groin, so shaving or even just sweating can irritate your skin during a flare-up. That’s why it’s important to be careful about how you treat your skin if you have hidradenitis suppurativa.Generally, people rely on prescription medications, including topical antibiotics, steroid injections, hormonal pills, and biologics to treat and manage hidradenitis suppurativa. (Keep in mind that your treatment options may change over time based on new research and newly available therapies. Make sure you have ongoing conversations with your doctor about which treatment options may be best for you.)In conjunction with your dermatologist-prescribed treatment plan, doing your best to treat your skin as gently as possible can help you feel better during a flare-up and possibly avoid getting an infection. SELF asked dermatologists for their advice on how you can best care for your skin on hidradenitis suppurativa. Here’s what they said:1. Consider using an acne cleanser on your lesions.Hidradenitis suppurativa isn’t caused by an infection or because you don’t clean your skin well enough. But you can develop an infection if bacteria gets into your open sores, according to Sonal Choudhary3, M.D., dermatologist and dermatopathologist at the University of Pittsburgh department of dermatology. Using an antibacterial wash on your lesions that helps kill bacteria can help prevent that from happening, Dr. Choudhary explains. “When skin is inflamed or open, bacteria easily overgrows,” Dr. Choudhary tells SELF.If you’re buying an over-the-counter wash, look for products that can be used every day to find something that isn’t too harsh for your skin, Dr. Choudhary says. (Or you can ask your dermatologist about using a prescription antibiotic cleanser instead.) Even then, you want to be careful of overly reducing your skin’s natural bacteria, which helps protect you from potentially infectious pathogens, by cleansing too often. Instead, try using an acne wash once a week and seeing how your skin reacts, the Mayo Clinic recommends4. If your skin doesn’t become dry or irritated, then you can gradually increase how often you use it up to once per day.2. Avoid scrubbing your skin.You might feel like you need to scrub or use a loofah to get clean, but that can make things worse. “Scrubbing can visibly break the skin open in areas with hidradenitis suppurativa and, in general, opens up the skin barrier to more infections and allergens,” Dr. Choudhary says. Even if you don’t get an infection or have active lesions, your skin can get irritated from washing vigorously. To clean your skin as gently as possible, the Mayo Clinic4 recommends soaping up using your hands rather than with a loofah or washcloth. This can also help you avoid getting an infection since many loofahs and washcloths can be laden with bacteria, which can enter your body through tiny cuts or open sores.3. Be careful with your hair removal methods.Waxing and shaving during a hidradenitis suppurativa flare can make things worse, according to Angela J. Lamb5, M.D., associate professor of dermatology and director of the Westside Mount Sinai Dermatology. Both can cause things like ingrown hairs and inflamed hair follicles, which will only add to your discomfort during a flare.