Summer Skin Care

There’s a Right and a Wrong Way To Wash Your Armpits, and It Can Make All the Difference in How Much You Stink

Photo: Getty Images/ Benjamin Egerland / EyeEm
Despite these unprecedented times, we can always count on hot, sticky summers to get our sweat glands working overtime, inevitably leaving us with the kind of stench that brings back memories of middle school gym class. And while deodorant and a regular soap-and-water cleanse may be enough for some people to stay stink-free, those with particularly odorous pits may need a little something extra—namely, an antibacterial soap.

What you may not realize is that sweat, on its own, is actually odorless. But according to Ranella Hirsch, MD, board-certified dermatologist and co-founder of Atolla Skincare, things start to stink when sweat interacts with the bacteria on your skin—which means getting rid of that bacteria could be the key to keeping B.O. at bay.

One of the main culprits behind bacteria buildup under your arms is a lack of attention paid to the area, says Mary Futher, TikTok's @MadameSweat and the founder of Kaia Naturals. If you aren't properly cleaning your pits when you shower, you may not be fully whisking away all of that odor-causing bacteria, which could explain why you still smell less-than-fresh even after your standard lather-and-rinse. You may also leave behind deodorant residue and other impurities that trap sweat and further contribute to the stink. (Also worth noting: Hair is particularly prone to trapping bacteria, so shaving may be another helpful way to stave off stench—but that's totally up to you).

For most people, a regular cleanser should do the trick as long as you're taking extra care to scrub the area under your arms and applying a deodorant or antiperspirant before you head out for the day. But if that isn't entirely cutting it, Dr. Futher recommends treating your pits to a more comprehensive skin-care routine.

The most effective way to wash your armpits

Because armpit odor occurs when sweat and bacteria interact, the key to eliminating it is, simply, to tackle the bacteria—which means using some sort of antibacterial agent under your arms.

If you want to go the DIY route, you can try wiping the area with apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil after you shower (just be sure to dilute the ingredients with water to avoid irritation). Or, for an easy-to-use OTC option, the pros suggest swapping your regular soap for an antibacterial one.

Kaia Naturals The Takesumi Detox The Underarm Bar — $25.00

This antibacterial charcoal bar soap, which was created by Futher, uses apple cider vinegar, activated charcoal, and sea salt to keep stench at bay and help your deodorant of choice give you extra-strength protection.

Regardless of which method you choose, Futher suggests applying the solution or soap to each armpit for at least 30 seconds to ensure it's truly eliminating any odor-causing bacteria. For those with underarm hair, be sure to really work the product into the skin to ensure it's penetrating properly.

By regularly washing pits with an antibacterial and allowing the formula to sit for at least 30 seconds, you can give your hardworking deodorant a helping hand, ultimately leading to longer hours of odor-free assurance.

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