Sweating the Details: Your Guide to Maintaining Healthy Armpits

Sharanjit Deol

Posted on May 13 2020

Sweating the Details: Your Guide to Maintaining Healthy Armpits

Dealing with armpit drama can literally be the pits. You wake up, shower, put your deodorant on, start your day and hope for the best. 

While you might casually sneak a look to ensure deodorant streaks are non-existent, sweat stains are dried, and your blouse still looks as pressed as when you first pulled it out of the closet that morning, there are other reasons to keep watch of this neglected body part. 

In fact, armpits can be a source of irritation or a signal of certain health problems. It’s important to treat them with respect and daily care. 

Regular hygiene, care and observation are essential to keep your armpits healthy and to stay on top of potentially harmful bodily changes. 

This post will take an in-depth look at how to treat your armpits, covering everything from self-examination to the appropriate use of deodorants. 

Armpit Anatomy: A Vital Look at this Bodily Junction

For those who face many crossroads in their own life or just lovers of science and biology, you’ll be interested to know just how important armpits are in relation to our bodies.

Speaking of crossroads, armpits are essentially an intersection of various types of tissues. Also called the axilla and nestled in the underside of your shoulder joint, your armpits are one of the warmest areas of your body. They contain a high concentration of hair follicles and sweat glands, with various blood vessels and lymph vessels all converging here.

<Alt= https://qph.fs.quoracdn.net/main-qimg-3fbf68d3ba49508d545bed696d5db7ef> Diagram of an armpit.

This is why your armpits end up being the first place you might feel a physical response to things life throws your way. 

Remember a time you were nervous or scared? Getting personal: notice that your armpits tend to smell much worse if you’re sweating a big project or presentation at work? 

You’ll be interested to know stress sweat contains different nutrients than exercise sweat. It’s a very telling example of how your armpits can show a different physical reaction in line with your emotions, and also how your armpits can demonstrate your body trying to tell you something.

In relation to your body’s health, armpit tissue can produce symptoms (ie. armpit irritation) or become diseased themselves. We’re going to take a look at some of these issues and how you can treat and prevent them where possible. 

Armpit Irritation: Your Underarms Under Attack 

Your armpits reveal a lot about you. They can give you several hints about the quality of your hygiene and grooming routines, or the state of your overall health depending on how they look and feel.

Conditions that May Cause Armpit Irritation 

  • Hyperhydrosis - The medical name for overactive sweat glands, hyperhidrosis causes parts of the body - the armpits included - to sweat too much. 

  • Acanthosis Nigricans - A common dark armpit cause, acanthosis nigricans can be a sign of minor hormonal changes or more serious illnesses such as Type II diabetes. 

  • Contact dermatitis - There are different types of contact dermatitis including hives or rashes triggered by contact with allergens or redness and swelling triggered by harsh compounds

  • Armpit folliculitis - Bacterial infections can cause the hair follicles to become inflamed, resulting in a tender bump that usually resolves itself without any treatment. 

  • Psoriasis - Red plaques with a silver scale that appear on the armpits or anywhere else on the body is a sign of psoriasis, a chronic yet treatable autoimmune condition. 

  • Fungal infections - Infections caused by fungi can lead to a ring-shaped rash (Ringworm) or white plaques with skin irritation (Candida). 

  • Axillary lymphadenopathy - An armpit symptom that may need a doctor’s observation is a swollen lymph node in the armpit, especially one that persists. This may be the result of a mild recurring infection or early warning signs of cancer. 
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    As you can see, your armpits provide telling hints about the state of your health. So don’t ignore these signs even if all you experience is mild irritation. With that said, what should you do if your armpits “act out of character”?

    How to Fight Back at Armpit Irritation

    Let’s say your armpits begin acting up. There’s irritation such as itching or bumps, or discolouration in the form of redness or darkness. 

    What should you do first? 

    Should you run to the doctor? Is it something you should first address with the items in your bathroom cabinet? You’ll find some pointers below to help you decide. 

    What to Do When Your Armpits “Act Up”

    Treat at Home

    See Your Doctor

    • Minor irritation (ie. itching, small bumps)
    • Unusual or unpleasant body odour
    • Mild to moderate discoloration (ie. armpit darkness)
    • Painful or extreme irritation (ie. scaly rash/patches, large boils)
    • Persistent or recurring symptoms (ie. itching or darkness that doesn’t go away)
    • Symptoms get worse rapidly (ie. rash that spreads)
    • Symptoms that appear elsewhere in the body (ie. fever, fatigue) 

    You’ll have to rely on a bit of discretion here because the extent of your symptoms may be subjective. Nevertheless, it’s safe to say that milder armpit irritation may only need some at-home remedies, while more extreme irritation may warrant a doctor’s visit. 

    If you do need a doctor’s attention, you’ll get tested in one of many ways. 

    You’ll likely have a physical exam done (especially if you’re overdue for one) to see if there are any other bodily changes to indicate a health problem. Your doctor might also send you for an ultrasound, CT scan or MRI if there’s reason to suspect the presence of a foreign object or some other health issue. 

    In terms of treatment, they might prescribe you medicated creams and lotions or topical steroids if the condition is easy to manage. More serious conditions may require antibiotics or surgical procedures. 

    How to Treat Armpit Irritation at Home

    Assuming you’ve got a milder case of armpit irritation, you can make a few adjustments to your personal care and hygiene routine. A few tweaks may be all you need to experience some relief. 

    Remember, a lot of armpit irritation, whether it’s a dark armpit or a rash, comes from our own habits which may go unnoticed. To help you figure that out, we’ll introduce you to some skincare hacks that will help you deal with armpit irritation. 

    Process of Elimination 

    In a previous post, we discussed an elimination process that could help you discern if armpit irritation is something that’s caused by grooming or a health problem.

    If you’re experiencing minor armpit irritation:  

    1. Discontinue use of your current deodorant
    2. Find a deodorant that stays away from known harmful deodorant ingredients or a natural deodorant
    3. Pay attention to your armpits: if the irritation fades away, then you are likely sensitive to a compound in that stick of deodorant 
    4. If the irritation continues, pay attention to other symptoms such as lumps, swelling or itchiness
    5. Continue avoiding the original deodorant you were using
    6. Begin moisturizing your armpits and switch to a softer razor blade if you haven’t done so already
    7. If the irritation starts to fade, then the issue may likely be due to your shaving and skincare habits
    8. Re-introduce your old deodorant to conduct a final test 
    9. If the irritation quickly returns, then your deodorant is likely the cause: if it doesn’t come back, then the issue was probably a grooming issue

    If none of this works, then you may have a more pressing health concern that needs attention from a doctor or dermatologist. 

    4 Step Skincare Routine 

    In another post, we highlighted a four-step process that you can try regardless of whether you have armpit irritation or not. 

    It can work for all skin types and can help prevent or reduce all sorts of armpit irritation ranging from bumps to armpit darkness. 

  • Cleanse - Shower with a moisturizing body wash to eliminate toxins and bacteria that produce odours or hyperpigmentation (which cause armpit darkness). A soap with a “Deep Moisture” label will often be the best fit in this case. 

  • Exfoliate - Apply a specialized body exfoliant onto a washcloth and gently scrub the armpits to remove a buildup of dead skin cells. This exfoliating action will help balance and even out skin tone. 

  • Moisturize - Use moisturizing lotion on the armpits to counteract dryness often caused by razors and soaps. 

  • Conceal - Apply a deodorant and concealer product to hide armpit darkness or blemishes while your skin heals. Our Joban Beauty deodorant and concealer is a natural solution that conceals armpit darkness while preventing body odours. 

  • Treat Your Armpits With Respect

    Your armpits may not seem like the most glamorous body part, but they’re an important one.

    They speak volumes about your overall health. When there’s armpit irritation, armpit darkness or some other armpit abnormality, consider it a red flag.

    Of course, armpit irritation doesn’t mean your life is in danger! It might simply indicate that you need to make a change in your grooming routine. 

    Even if you don’t feel any irritation whatsoever, make sure to practice a good armpit cleansing routine daily. You will feel fresher by doing so!

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