Skin-Care Tips

Your 4-Step Plan for Giving Your Armpits a Refresh (and Preventing Future Odor and Irritation)

Photo: Stocksy / Felix Chacon
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Sometimes, your pits get funky. It's a fact of life. "It's the combination of the sweat with the bacteria that's just normally on the skin that causes odor," says Maral Skelsey, MD, a Maryland-based dermatologist. But when your usual soap-rinse-deo routine has you reaching for your stick to reapply by lunchtime, it might be time to show your underarms a little extra TLC. According to Dr. Skelsey, a simple armpit skin-care routine can help keep things feeling fresh.

First, a word from our friendly doc: "If you are having a lot of sweating, you should see a board-certified dermatologist to see if there's a medical treatment for your sweating, or if there's an underlying there might be an underlying condition," Dr. Skelsey advises.

But, if nothing is out of the ordinary and you just want a bit of pit-care, doing a refresh every few weeks to once a month can help keep bacteria at bay, leaving your skin healthy and happy. Below, Dr. Skelsey shares a four-step underarm skin-care routine that you can personalize to fit with your skin sensitivity and preferred product types in order to avoid irritation (because an inflamed armpit is an angry armpit).

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1. Physically exfoliate in the shower

Exfoliating your underarms can help break down dead skin to leave your pits feeling soft. However, it's very easy to overdo. Because your armpits don't get exposed to the elements, the skin is very vulnerable and sensitive, explains Dr. Skelsey.

Cleanlogic Exfoliating Body Scrubber

For a gentle physical exfoliation, Dr. Skelsey says to use a body scrubber with your go-to body wash. "The caveat is using a new loofa, not letting it sit in your shower for a long time," she says.

Drunk Elephant Sugared Koffi Almond Milk Body Scrub

If your pits can handle it and you aren't sensitive to fragrance, try using a body scrub. This scrub from Drunk Elephant uses coffee seed oil, raw sugar, and an almond milk blend to leave your skin both exfoliated and nourished.

For a DIY solution, you can also try baking soda on a warm washcloth. "There's some physical exfoliation, but it also helps reduce odor," says Dr. Skelsey.

2. Shave (if you'd like to)

If you shave your armpits, now is the time to do it. Dr. Skelsy says exfoliating before you shave can help prep your skin, but isn't a necessary step to take every time you shave.

EOS Sensitive Skin Shaving Cream

Start with a super moisturizing shaving cream. This one from EOS is super slick to give you a clean shave and fragrance-free to avoid irritation.

Maapilim Safety Razor

Dr. Skelsey recommends using a single-blade safety razor. "It seems like if you get not-too-close a shave it's better for people who [experience] a lot of irritation. And especially if you have curly hair," she says.

3. Dry off and apply lotion

If a swipe of deodorant is the first thing to touch your pits post-shower, Dr. Skelsy says you're skipping an important step. "It's great to put moisturizer on right after you shower, especially if your skin is dry or sensitive, and especially in the winter [and] after you exfoliate," says Dr. Skelsey.

Lubriderm Fragrance-Free Moisturizing Lotion

Dr. Skelsey says something that's unscented is best. This lotion from Lubriderm is enriched with vitamin B5 to help restore your skin's barrier. Be sure to let it dry before applying deodorant.

4. Maintenance with antiperspirant, deodorant, and antibacterial products

While the above steps are great for a refresh, you'll need to maintain what you did to keep from getting smelly. There are three ways to do this: antiperspirant, deodorant, or antibacterial products. Antiperspirants work to keep sweat at bay by blocking your pores and signaling to the body to produce less sweat. Deodorants won't impact sweat but will protect against odor. Antibacterial products take that one step further by destroying the bacteria that make things stinky when mixed with sweat.

Secret Clinical Strength Invisible Solid Antiperspirant Deodorant

"Antiperspirant is really best to put on at night," says Dr. Skelsey. It takes some time for your sweat glands to realize they're blocked and to slow sweat production, so applying it at night gives it time to kick in. The derm says you only need to apply it a couple of times a week, even if you're showering daily. "The effect of the antiperspirant will remain...especially if you're using the clinical strength versions."

Malin+Goetz Bergamot Deodorant

Deodorant is something you can use daily. Dr. Skelsey loves this deodorant from Malin+Goetz, which is free of aluminum and baking soda, which can be irritating for some.

Surface Deep Anti-Odorant Pads

To instantly get rid of underarm stench and prevent it from coming back, these glycolic acid pads work wonders. "The very light glycolic acid wipes for a refresh are great if you don't do it too often," says Dr. Skelsey. She advises to avoid using these pads on shaved skin and not to follow up with antiperspirant or scented deodorant. "That's a light peel when you do those glycolic acids," she says. "Antiperspirant or deodorant that has fragrance is more likely to irritate the skin because your pores are open." Plus, you likely won't need it.

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