There’s one area of our bodies whose skin we don’t pay that much attention to during our personal care routines: our armpits. Unless you have sensitive skin, most people just use whatever products work the best and keep it pushing. The only time underarm care is discussed is when it comes to hair removal—because y’know, society wants us to believe that armpit hair is evil—and lightening the area when the skin is more pigmented there than it is on the rest of the body.
Caring for your underarm skin is especially important in the summer. The weather’s hot, you get sweaty a lot, and a lot goes on under there. Left alone, those conditions can ferment into issues like irritation and unpleasant odor. And sometimes, needing to apply multiple times a day isn’t solely the fault of your choice of deodorant. Sometimes it’s due to an imbalance or an underlying condition that causes excessive sweating. Just in time for summer, a.k.a. peak ‘pit season, here’s a guide for caring for your armpits.
Caring for your underarm skin is especially important in the summer. The weather’s hot, you get sweaty a lot, and a lot goes on under there.
Pick the Right Kinds of Products For Your Skin Type
Like the skin on your face, body, and scalp, the skin in your armpit area needs to be treated according to your skin type. If you have dry skin, you might have to lean towards moisturizing shaving creams and deodorants, while people with sensitive skin have to watch out for the wrong kind of razors or potentially irritating active ingredients. For instance, if you’re allergic to natural coconut derivatives, using a deodorant with any of those ingredients in it might have the opposite effect of antibacterial deodorizing, instead causing inflammation in the area. The skin in your armpits is delicate so treat it with care.
Exfoliate, Then Shave
If you’re prone to razor bumps and ingrown hairs after you shave, you might be skipping one key step and that’s exfoliation. Using an exfoliant loosens the sebum and dead skin cells that can build up over time and may clog the pores if left unaddressed. You can use a physical exfoliant like a sugar, salt, or coffee scrub, or go the chemical exfoliant route with AHAs, BHAs, or PHAs. Some people even elect to use AHAs and BHAs as deodorant, as the acids destroy odor-causing bacteria that generate the funk we all dread.
However, if you’re looking for a respite from perspiration, you won’t have much luck if your go-to deodorant is a glycolic acid toner, as chemical exfoliants cannot block sweat production.
If you choose to use chemical exfoliants to slough off your dead skin, look out for any signs of irritation and stop if you have any adverse reactions. And of course, there’s no rule that says you have to shave your hair. Do what you want. Exfoliating is good for your underarm skin either way.
If you’re prone to razor bumps and ingrown hairs after you shave, using an exfoliant loosens the sebum and dead skin cells that can build up over time.
Invest in a Good Razor
I used to buy whatever cheap men’s razors had the best reviews because I decided that I’d be damned before I’d purchase anything with a pink tax levied on it. At some point, I realized that I was only punishing myself because I was using more razors because the depilatory effect didn’t last long, the blades dulled quickly, or they just didn’t do a good enough job. When I returned to using the popular women’s razors commonly found in drugstore aisles, I could never find one that gave me a close enough shave, and all the shaving creams irritated my skin.
Enter Billie, one of the many subscription-based personal care services available these days. The brand’s attitude towards body hair is great, the razors are colorful and amazing, and each disposable head comes with built-in charcoal shave soap that’s gentle on the skin. Throw out that cheapo Bic razor today and invest in a razor that actually works. It’ll help prevent ingrown hairs and razor bumps too.
Antiperspirant vs. Deodorant?
These words are sometimes used interchangeably to refer to the odor-eliminating, sweat-blocking products used on our underarms, but each is really quite different from the other. Antiperspirants completely prevent or lower the amount of perspiration by using aluminum salts that react with sweat to form gels that plug the sweat ducts. The kinds of aluminum salts commonly used are aluminum chloride, aluminium chlorohydrate, zirconium salts. Since perspiration is the body’s natural way of regulating temperature, a popular opinion is that they are bad for the body because they block a natural vital function. Also, the aluminum salts they contain can be irritating to the skin and affect kidney function.
Deodorants, on the other hand, work by eliminating odor-causing bacteria by using antibacterial ingredients such as triclosans and are usually perfumed. The body’s natural perspiration isn’t blocked unlike with antiperspirants. They might be better for the body, but they’re not as popular, especially in the summer months, because no one likes the look of big sweat patches on their clothes.
A look through the aisles of your local grocery or drugstore will show you that most underarm products for sweat control have both antiperspirant and deodorant properties, as consumers want the benefit of odor elimination as well as sweat reduction. However, with the dissipation of information about the potentially harmful effects of antiperspirants, a lot of brands are beginning to offer aluminum-free products to match the demands of consumers.
That’s pretty much it! Keep these four things in mind the next time you shop for underarm care products or reach for a razor in the shower, and you should have healthy, happy underarms in no time. Have a great summer!