We’ve all heard the saying “listen to your body.” Of course, your body won’t be sending you a text or detailed instructions on how to care for it. You're likely going to have to listen closely to the tiny hints it gives, and these can take many forms. What feels like a minor inconvenience could actually be your body’s way of asking for help.1
Rashes, redness, and other forms of irritation under your arms are signs from your body that something needs to change. While there are multiple potential causes, one you may not have considered is the ingredients in your antiperspirant or deodorant. Changing your underarm product, and possibly switching to an aluminum-free deodorant, could save the day—and your armpits. We'll get into this more below.
In this article, we’ll explore common causes of armpit rashes and products to help resolve and prevent them altogether.
What Causes Armpit Rash?
If you’ve ever had a rash under your armpit, you know how uncomfortable it can be. What causes these rashes in your armpits? Some of the most common causes are:
Often these are treatable and preventable with the proper care and over-the-counter products made with clean ingredients.2 Of course, if you are having a serious reaction, please see your doctor or a certified dermatologist.
Below we'll explore each common cause of armpit rash in more detail.
Every guy’s felt it—when skin rubs against itself or clothing for too long, it causes a kind of irritation that’s uncomfortable and gets worse over time. Chafing usually occurs in areas where skin areas meet or rub against themselves, like your armpits. Chafing is particularly common for those who do certain types of activities, like long-distance running and biking.
Underarm rashes from chafing typically appear as red bumps. They can become raw as the top layer of skin is rubbed off and can even bleed. For some, these rashes look swollen, cracked, or crusted.
(By the way, our deodorant formulas are uniquely created to help prevent chafing in your armpits. Instead of leaving skin sticky or clumping, they keep skin hydrated and smooth so chafing can be avoided.)
Painful armpit bumps as a reaction to irritants or allergens are called contact dermatitis. This type of reaction typically develops after a few hours of exposure. It's often caused by chemicals found in cleaning detergents and personal care products, as well as food, environmental allergens, medicines, and bug bites.
There are many different kinds of contact dermatitis, but the rashes commonly itch or blister and can be painful. They may appear red, dry, and/or flaky.
Eczema is chronic skin inflammation. Among other places on your body, it can be found in skin folds like your armpits. It’s quite common; one survey found that about 30% of the American population experiences eczema.3
Like contact dermatitis, eczema rashes can be painful if left untreated and can appear red, dry, and cracked. They often itch and may release a clear fluid. Eczema flare-ups can last for more than a week and often happen during certain times of the year (like winter) or alongside other illnesses or stress.
Sometimes underarm rashes are caused by an outside intruder, like naturally occurring yeast. Armpit rashes from yeast are most often caused by a type of yeast called Candida, which causes fungal infections on the skin. This is a sign that your skin's microbiome is out of balance.
Rashes caused by Candida are often red, itchy, and swollen. They can also develop scales.
You can also develop a heat rash in your armpits. Many people develop this under their arms in warmer months or while in hot climates because of the high concentration of sweat glands in those areas.
This type of rash often appears as tiny patches of red, slightly raised bumps. These can feel painful or prickly.
Skin Care Products
In addition to all these issues, armpit rashes can be caused by the everyday products you use, including deodorant and antiperspirant. Active ingredients can cause negative reactions, as can preservatives and fragrances. We'll dive deeper into this below.
Can Armpit Rash Be Caused by Deodorant?
In short, yes—deodorant or antiperspirant can cause an armpit rash. Allergic reactions to or irritation from deodorant are not uncommon.4 Certain ingredients are known to cause skin reactions more often than others. However, just like food sensitivities and allergies, you can have a reaction to any ingredient in a deodorant or antiperspirant formula. Because of this, a good way to avoid irritation and reactions is to test the product on a small, visible area of your skin to see if it’s compatible.
What Causes Armpit Rash from Deodorant?
Deodorant armpit rashes are most commonly caused by alcohol, aluminum, fragrances, preservatives, and dyes.5 That being said, every person's skin tolerates specific ingredients differently. You may experience a rash from an ingredient that doesn't fit neatly in those categories above. For example, many people find baking soda to be irritating to their skin.
If your immune system detects any ingredient in your deodorant as an allergen, it reacts by producing antibodies.6 These antibodies travel to cells around the body which release natural chemicals to contain the allergen. This causes an allergic reaction, such as a rash.7
What Is the Best Deodorant for Sensitive Armpits?
If you’ve experienced any of the above conditions under your arms or generally have sensitive armpits, try switching to a deodorant that uses clean ingredients instead of harsh ingredients to keep body odor and sweat in check.
For example, many antiperspirants and conventional deodorants contain alcohols such as Ethanol, SD alcohol and denatured alcohol in their formulas. These dry out your skin, disrupt your skin’s microbiome and can increase your risk of getting an armpit rash.
You'll also want to stay away from aluminum, by definition found in all antiperspirants. Aluminum is put into antiperspirant to stop you from sweating, but it does so by clogging your pores and preventing your sweat glands from releasing sweat. Antiperspirants also often contain synthetic preservatives and stabilizers that are known to disrupt hormonal balance as well as irritate the skin.
Third, be aware that certain fragrances should be avoided if you have sensitive skin.8 Examples include photosensitive oils like lemon, lime, orange, and bergamot. You may want to try a completely fragrance-free deodorant, or a deodorant made with allergen-free fragrance.
Last but not least, if you have tried an aluminum-free deodorant made with clean ingredients and you still experienced a rash, we would recommend trying a different formula. Your skin is likely allergic or reactive to a specific ingredient, even if that ingredient is considered "clean." One of the common culprits in this genre is baking soda (which our formulas don't use), but it could be something else.
Try Oars + Alps Deodorant for Sensitive Armpits
If you’ve experienced armpit rash or other signs of sensitivity in your pits, try switching to a deodorant that uses clean, non-irritating ingredients and won't disrupt your skin’s microbiome. Our aluminum-free deodorants for sensitive skin are a great place to start.
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