Armpit care 101: All the questions you're too afraid to ask, answered
Everyone has had their fair share of armpit issues at one point or another—from the hairy-or-not conundrum to the secret stink and more, it’s a surprise that our pits aren’t more of a hot topic.
It’s understandable, of course; no one really wants to be known as the ‘one with the perspiration issues’. Instead, we suffer in silence, dousing ourselves in deodorants, routinely clearing away ‘unsightly’ hair and suffocating our underarms in as many layers as we can manage.
The catch? All this work may be making matters worse. Today, we’re delving into the taboo and answering all the armpit-related questions you may have:
My underarms are a completely different shade to the rest of me—what do I do?
There are a few reasons you may be experiencing increased pigmentation in your underarms, just as you might be experiencing similar skin darkening on your underbelly, your knees and your elbows. In these cases, it’s probably just genetics—your skin is likely to be more prone to hyperpigmentation.
However, as serious as some of the implications of a darkened axilla can be, the cause may just come down to the kind of deodorant you use. Many store-bought deodorants on the market use aluminium compounds as an anti-perspirant—these work by clogging the sweat ducts, which over time, can lead to the thickening and darkening of the skin in that area.
Not to mention, fragrances and alcohols are also popular ingredients in your everyday deodorants, and may also contribute to the darkening of your underarms by causing irritation to the area.
What can you do about it? For starters, you could opt for deodorant formulations that omit these irritating ingredients—we’ve actually got a whole deo-directory for your convenience:
Another tip is to gently exfoliate your underarms and see if that yields any improvement. We recommend steering clear of at-home remedies (they are a chemical burn waiting to happen), opting for chemical exfoliants or very fine, gentle physical exfoliants to get the job done instead.
If you can’t see a difference after a few days of use, consult a dermatologist to lay out your options for treatment.
Further, your shaving habits may also be contributing to your underarm issues—there’s a reason shaving creams and sharp blades are touted as necessities in your shaving routine. Shaving on dry skin or using a dull blade causes irritation to the area, leading to the darkening and thickening of the skin as well as potential ingrown hairs.
A way to remedy this issue is to, of course, make sure your razor is sharp and that your skin is adequately exfoliated and prepped for the shave. And, while we're on the note of shaving…
Why do I have bumpy armpits?
If you’re struggling with a case of the ingrowns, your razor may also be to blame. Ingrown hairs occur when your growing hair bends and twists inwards rather than penetrating through the skin. They appear as red, solid bumps that can be itchy, painful, and sometimes pus-filled. Sometimes, in the case of a bacterial infection in the hair follicle, an ingrown hair may become a boil.
In any case, to treat them, switching up your hair removal routine to waxing or epilating may help to prevent ingrown hairs, while a regular exfoliating routine coupled with good hygiene will help to resolve any existing issues.
Why do my armpits smell so bad?
Body odour (ye olde B.O.) happens when the bacteria in your armpits (and your breasts, genitals and anywhere else on your body with apocrine sweat glands) break down your sweat. The general rule is that the warm, moist, and possible hairy environment of your armpit is the perfect home for the stinky bacteria.
While the bad news is that you’re smelly, the good news is that you can do something about it.
If you do happen to favour the au naturel style i.e. hairy pits and all, you may find that you need a little extra help to keep the stench away. Investing in a good, reliable deodorant (preferably one that doubles as an antiperspirant) and keeping your armpit hygiene up will probably resolve your stench.
However, if you still find that you’re a little musky, you could try removing the hair in your armpits—again, hair in your armpits isn’t inherently dirty, but a hairy pit is a very favourable environment for that pesky pit bacteria. Therefore, giving your pits a groom might serve you well.
Bear in mind that the deodorants you’re slathering on may also be doing you more bad than good—the consistent use of the wrong deodorants can alter your armpit microbiome and make your sweat stinkier if you discontinue use for even a day. Try switching up your deodorant stick and see if it helps your situation.
You may also want to try investing in natural-fibre clothing. Breathable, natural fabrics like cotton and linen allow you to air out your pits more, whereas synthetic fibres like polyester can contribute to the ‘bad’ bacterial overload. While you're at it, make those everyday garments of yours hang loose—reduced friction around your pits will reduce irritation, which will probably help with the whole ingrown hair problem.
However, if you somehow find yourself pungent despite your best efforts, it may be time to consult a physician. There is a clinical strength antiperspirant or deodorant that can help you—we promise.
Why are my armpits… fat?
It needs to be said that that extra bulge of flesh at your armpits is completely normal, and it’s so not worth worrying about. (Writer’s note: I didn’t even realise that this was an ‘unattractive trait’ until literally last week, when a friend pointed out that she avoids wearing spaghetti straps in fear that her armpit pudge will show. Come again?).
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a little excess skin and fat around your axilla: That’s just basic anatomy—your armpit needs to be able to stretch with your shoulder joint as it moves. The wrinkly pudge is functional.
However, if you are exceedingly embarrassed by it (which, by the way, you definitely shouldn’t be), then we are pleased to inform you that there are a few ways to address the so-called ‘problem’.
1) Fix your posture
If your shoulders are perpetually slouched forward, there’s no doubt that your armpits are going to squidge up in supposedly ‘unsightly’ ways. Bring your shoulders back, stick your chest out, and keep your chin high—you’ll probably notice a difference.
2) Size up your tops
Everyone loves a fitted top, and you should feel free to wear literally anything you please (it’s your body, and it’s beautiful!). But if you find that your pit pudge is bunching around the hems of your tiny, fitted top, try sizing up to see if it makes a difference.
3) Tone up your arm muscles
Doing cardio will help you lose fat overall, which is a surefire way to reduce your armpit fat. However, following up with some toning exercises in addition to losing weight will keep your arms (and armpits) in great shape!
For more body and wellness tips, click here.