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5 Most Common Underarm Problems and How to Solve Them

Derm-approved solutions, right this way.
5 Most Common Underarm Problems and How to Solve Them
IMAGE Paolo Pineda for Preview
Derm-approved solutions, right this way.

No one deserves to live with pit problems forever. So to try and make your life easier, we asked dermatologists for their tips on how to deal with the most common underarm issues. See what we learned below!

1. Sweating

As embarrassing as sweaty armpits can be, Dr. Windie Hayano of The Skin Inc. Dermatology and Laser Center assures us that it's totally normal—necessary, even. "It is an effective way for us to regulate body temperature, and it's a normal response to hormones and emotions like anxiety." That said, if the perpetual pit stains bother you, the derm has several solutions to get you by.

For a cost-effective option, she recommends over-the-counter anti-perspirants with aluminum chloride hexahydrate, a metal salt that reduces sweat production. Since this can be quite potent, she highly suggests consulting your dermatologist prior to using products with high concentrations.

Botox injections are also effective to keep your armpits dry, since they can "block" communication with our sweat glands and temporarily shut them down. In fact, this is Dr. Windie's preferred method for minimizing sweat production. "It is a very safe and effective treatment option," she says. "Administration is relatively painless if a topical anesthetic is applied. The only downsides are the temporary effect and long-term cost." When done right, you should be able to see results within seven days, and the effect usually lasts up to six months or longer. 

If you experience excessive sweating, however, consider getting checked for hyperhidrosis. This complication has varied levels of severity, and its cause is also apparently unknown but is suspected to be hereditary. There are many treatments out there that reduce its effects (botox included), so it's best to consult your doctor for a recommendation.

2. Darkening

The specific cause of dark underarms varies, but Dr. Windie points to inflammation as the ultimate culprit. "Any acute inflammatory process will prompt the body to a healing response, [which] inadvertently stimulates melanocytes to produce more melanin," she explains.

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Treating dark underarms could be tricky, says the derm, but you have tons of options. Over-the-counter brightening products can be effective, as long as they don't contain irritants such as fragrances and toxic ingredients.

Stopping your shaving and plucking habit can also reduce inflammation overtime, as well as avoiding ill-fitting bras and clothing that cause too much friction.

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3. Odor

According to the dermatologist, armpit odor is produced when the naturally odorless secretions from our sweat glands are mixed with bacteria. The most common kind, apocrine bromhidrosis, happens when pheromonal odors containing oily fluid interact with bacteria.

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Another kind is eccrine bromhidrosis, which occurs when eccrine sweat softens keratin and is degraded by bacteria. "This degradation causes a foul smell, and may be affected by food (garlic, onion, curry, etc.), alcohol, drugs, toxins, and other metabolic disorders," explains Dr. Windie.

To address this, she recommends paying closer attention to your hygiene to reduce the bacteria near your sweat glands. Using better anti-perspirants or deodorants with antibacterial properties may help as well. For treatments, she lists botox, lasers, microwave therapy, High Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU), and Fractionated Microneedling Radio Frequency (FMRF) as options. For extreme cases, surgery might be required, so do consult your doctor!

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4. Ingrown hairs

When dead skin clogs a hair follicle, it forces hair to grow sideways or inwards instead of upwards and outwards. This trapped strand is called an ingrown hair, which results in red bumps and even pustules. While known to be caused by shaving, Dr. Windie reveals that ingrown hair can also occur when we pluck, wax, tweeze, or thread.

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When faced with growth, the derm suggests gently exfoliating the affected area (don't rub!) to slowly dislodge the hair. Never pick and pull the hair out yourself because it can break and become trapped further or worse, become infected or scarred. "[Trapped ingrown hair] changes the natural angle of hair growth and later becomes a chronic condition," Dr. Windie notes.

To avoid ingrown hairs from happening at all, opt for hair removal methods such as laser hair removal or pulsed light hair removal. "Not only will you prevent ingrown hair, in the long run, this is a more cost effective way and less painful treatment for unwanted axillary hair," says the doctor.

5. Bumps or "Chicken Skin"

"Chicken skin," according to Dr. Gaile Robredo-Vitas of BeautiqueMD, form when hair is pulled out of your armpits or when the pores in the area are clogged.

Compared to the previous concerns, getting rid of bumpy skin is simple. First, Dr. Gaile suggests getting your underarm hair lasered instead of plucking or waxing. She also recommends switching to gentler formulas for deodorants and exfoliating often. Read more about treating chicken skin below:

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Do you have other underarm concerns you want us to talk about? Let us know in the comments!

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