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underarm rash

Itchy armpits and underarm rashes: What do about them

23 Nov 2022 • 2 min read

Ever had itchy armpits or an underarm rash? If you have, then you’ll know they can be uncomfortable, annoying and, well, just a little bit random.

And the most annoying thing about them is, you can get itches and scratches deep down in the crevice of your armpits, which makes them all the more difficult to get to!

As for what’s causing the irritation, it could be many things. The clothes you’re wearing, the products you’re putting on your underarms or showering or bathing in, your sweat or patches of dry skin that have accumulated. Itchy armpits and underarm rashes can be caused by just one thing or multiple triggers.

What can cause a rash under the armpit?

As we’ve just mentioned, there’s not one stand-out thing that can be attributed to armpit rashes. Some possible common culprits include:1

  • Atopic dermatitis – also referred to as eczema, this form of dermatitis tends to develop when people are younger. It looks like dry patches of skin that are red, itchy and can sometimes crust over.
     
  • Seborrheic dermatitis – is usually caused by too much of the skin’s natural oil, sebum, being produced. It looks like oily patches of white or yellow flakes or scales.
     
  • Contact dermatitis – is caused by your skin coming into contact with an allergen or an irritant, e.g. your deodorant or your washing powder or fabric softener.
     
  • Candida – is a yeast infection that can get worse in warmer weather or if you happen to wear tight clothing. It’s the only underarm rash that can usually be treated with an antifungal cream.

Can deodorant cause armpit rashes?

Quite possibly. Red, itching or flaky armpit skin that develops as soon as or not long after you’ve applied your deodorant could be your body’s way of telling you that you’re allergic to something that’s been used to make that particular product.2

A deodorant allergy can cause redness, inflammation, hives and itchy underarms. And the most interesting thing is, you can become allergic or sensitive to a product all of a sudden, even if you’ve been using the same product for a long time. This tends to happen because something’s changed the manufacturer’s end, e.g. they’ve added a new ingredient. Or it could simply happen because you’ve suddenly developed a new allergy to something.

There are a few  ingredients that are used to make deodorants that are known for triggering allergies and irritation. They are:3

1. Fragrances

‘Fragrances’ also applies to different types of alcohol. Some people who were allergic to cosmetic fragrances also reacted to deodorant fragrances.

2. Dyes

Dyes that are used to change the colour of the deodorant can also potentially trigger allergies and irritation too.

How do I get rid of a rash under my armpits?

If you want to be rid of your underarm rash once and for all, you ideally need to work out what’s causing it in the first place.4

It may take a little time to get to the root cause of your armpit rash, so anything you can do to ease the discomfort and pain in the meantime, is a bonus. Armpit rashes and itchy armpits can be soothed by:

  1. Having a warm colloidal oatmeal bath
  2. Applying an anti-itch cream
  3. Using unscented moisturisers (if your itch/rash is being caused by dry skin or eczema)
  4. Putting cool compresses under your armpits to try and calm the area

No matter how much you want to scratch your underarms, it’s really important you resist the urge, as this will only further irritate the skin. It can also potentially make your rash angrier and cause it to spread.

If your underarm rash is being caused by dermatitis, then practising some relaxation techniques can possibly help, as it’s widely reported that dermatitis can be caused by stress.

You may want to listen to music, be mindful, exercise, deep breathe or sleep better – all of these actions are stress-busters that can potentially help you tackle dermatitis-related armpit rashes.5

What else can you do to avoid getting underarm rashes?

Ideally, you don’t want to be dealing with itchy armpits or underarm rashes in the first place. One way you can swerve this issue is by using gentle products suitable for sensitive skin

Natural DIY ingredients that can be used as a deodorant

These ingredients are all suitable for sensitive skin, making them ideal for a more gentle approach.6

1. Witch hazel – is a natural astringent.

2. Baking soda – is effective at absorbing odours and can be applied by mixing it with water to form a paste that’s then rubbed into your armpits.

3.  Baking soda and coconut oil – the baking soda absorbs odours while the coconut oil gets to work with its cleansing properties. Combining the two ingredients creates a soft cream.

4. Apple cider vinegar – happens to have natural cleansing properties and can be applied straight from the bottle with some cotton wool.

5. Shaving – while it may not necessarily be a deodorant-busting ingredient, it is a bit of secret weapon in helping prevent underarms from smelling and becoming a breeding ground for bacteria. This is because underarm hair traps sweat and odour. Keeping your armpits hair-free can help prevent any smells from developing.

Handpicked content: Shaving rash: causes, cures and treatments

6. Lemons – rubbing a cut open lemon under your armpit can help refresh your skin due to the citric acid that’s naturally present in lemons.7

How to make your own natural homemade deodorant

Like the idea of making your own DIY natural deodorant? This article talks you through three homemade deodorant recipes.

Deodorants made from natural ingredients

Have you tried some of the home remedy deodorants above and would rather use a ready-made deodorant? Or maybe you prefer the idea of not using a DIY product? When you are shopping for a natural deodorant, remember that they:

  • Don’t contain any synthetic ingredients
  • Are made from natural ingredients, such as mineral salts, essential oils and aloe vera
  • Work by neutralising your natural body odour rather than preventing your pits from sweating
  • Are available in lots of different options: sprays, balms, roll-ons, sticks and cream8

Itchy armpits and underarm rashes can happen to anybody. And they can be caused by different things too, such as dermatitis, or what you happen to be putting on your skin, your deodorant included.

One way to make sure your deodorant isn’t contributing to the issue is to switch to home remedies, like those listed above, or shop around for a deodorant that’s been made using gentle, natural, non-synthetic ingredients.

6 of the best natural deodorants

Keen to find out more about natural deodorants? What they contain and how they work? We explain all in this article, as well as list 6 natural deodorants for you to check out…

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Last updated: 05 May 2021

Sources

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-an-armpit-rash#types
  2. https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/deodorant-allergy#causes
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/deodorant-allergy#causes
  4. https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/deodorant-allergy#deodorant-allergy
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/deodorant-allergy#deodorant-allergy
  6. https://www.bicycling.com/training/a20021659/-31/
  7. https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-get-rid-of-an-armpit-rash#remedies
  8. https://www.hollandandbarrett.com/the-health-hub/natural-beauty/clean-beauty/6-of-the-best-natural-deodorants/
 
doaa-al-mosawi

Doaa Al Mosawi

Author

International Senior Regulatory Affairs Associate

Joined Holland & Barrett: March 2019

BSc (Hons) in Biomedical Science

After completing her BSc in Biomedical Science, Doaa worked in Research and laboratory for 3 years. Doaa was also a member of a product development team in a manufacturing company specialising in sun care and personal care products, researching and providing regulatory advice regarding international regulations.

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