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  • Oars + Alps
Updated Sep 15, 2023

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 be your body’s way of asking for help.(1)

Armpit rashes and other forms of underarm irritation are signs from your body that something needs to change. There are many potential causes, though some are more common than others. Below we cover the most prevalent causes of discomfort under your arms.

If you experience underarm skin irritation, please consult a medical professional to determine the specific cause. This article explores a few common causes for armpit rashes but is not intended to replace medical advice.

3 aluminum-free deodorants, 2 with allergen-free fragrance, and 1 unscented deodorant.

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.(2) Of course, if you are having a serious reaction, pleasesee a physician.

Below we'll explore each common cause of armpit rash in more detail.

Chafing

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 irritation and 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. 

(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 to help reduce friction and therefore chafing.

Contact Dermatitis

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. Contact dermatitis is often caused by chemicals found in cleaning detergents and personal care products such as deodorant, 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. If you develop contact dermatitis in your armpits, it may be caused by the ingredients in your deodorant and it may be time to switch. 

Eczema

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. 

If you are experiencing an eczema rash in your armpit, consider switching deodorants and checking the ingredient list for any allergens. Metals, personal care topical items, and perfume-based products are a few common triggers for eczema, a form of allergic dermatitis and atopic dermatitis. All of our deodorants are aluminum-free and vegan, and we have unscented and allergen-free fragrance options, each of which minimizes the risk for a few of the eczema triggers.

Candida

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.


Armpit rashes caused by Candida are often red, itchy, and swollen. They can also develop scales.

Heat Rash

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 underarm irritation from deodorant are not uncommon.(4)  Certain ingredients are known to cause skin reactions more often than others. Some examples include:

However, just like food sensitivities and allergies, you can have a reaction to any ingredient in any product, including deodorant or antiperspirant. Because of this, a good way to avoid irritation and reactions is to test the product on a small, visible area of your skin. That way, you can see if it’s compatible before using the product on a larger area of skin. 

What Causes Armpit Rash from Deodorant?

Deodorant armpit rashes are most commonly caused by 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)

The ingredients below are commonly found in deodorants or antiperspirants that can have negative side effects on your body and may contribute to underarm skin irritation.

  • Aluminum: Aluminum is included in all antiperspirant formulas to stop you from sweating. However, it does so by temporarily clogging your pores to prevent your sweat glands from releasing sweat and, in turn, reducing body odor. 
  • Parabens & Phthalates: These synthetic preservatives and stabilizers are known to disrupt hormonal balance as well as irritate the skin.   
  • Fragrances: According to the National Eczema Association, roughly 20% of people are sensitive to at least one allergen. In addition, “fragrance sensitivity is now seen in 1-4% of the general population, and 8-15% of people with contact dermatitis… [fragrance] accounts for 30-40% of reactions in cosmetic products.” Some examples are photosensitive oils like lemon, lime, orange, and bergamot. 
  • Triclosan: This preservative ingredient is usually added as an antibacterial agent in personal care products. It can disrupt and harm your endocrine system, causing improper hormone functions. 
  • Baking Soda: Often found in “natural” deodorants, baking soda has a high pH level which can disrupt your skin’s natural barrier, drying out your skin. 

Our vegan deodorants do not use aluminum, parabens, phthalates, triclosan, or baking soda. We also offer two allergen-free fragrance deodorants as well as an unscented deodorant

The Powerful Ingredients in our Deodorants

Our deodorant formulas use powerful, clean ingredients to help you manage body odor and sweat.  Our deodorants are made with 100% vegan ingredients, for example: 

  • Aloe Vera: Hydrates and soothes skin, which helps prevent chafing
  • Corn Starch: Has a neutral pH level and absorbs sweat without clogging pores
  • Citric Acid: Great for balancing your skin’s pH levels
  • Witch Hazel Extract: A powerful anti-inflammatory
  • Glycerin: Softens skins and great for preventing chafing
  • Arrow Root Powder: Used in our unscented deodorant to help absorb moisture

Our deodorant formula is a soothing alternative to harsh chemical-filled deodorants and antiperspirants. We use clean ingredients that contain several minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants which can help repair and hydrate the skin. All of our deodorants are aluminum-free, and we make 2 allergen-free fragrance deodorants as well as an unscented deodorant

Unscented aluminum-free deodorant

 

How does Oars + Alps formulate Deodorants?

At Oars + Alps, we carefully formulate our deodorants without aluminum or baking soda given that they are so commonly irritating. We also make two deodorants with allergen-free fragrances and one without any added fragrance at all. 

That said, an individual can experience a negative reaction to any ingredient. We always recommend checking the ingredient list on our product pages before buying a new product and spot-testing the product on a small area of skin to ensure it is compatible. The only way to be certain about the cause of an armpit rash is to see a medical professional. 

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