The Ultimate Underarm Skincare Routine (+ Options To Try)

Body

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From the follicles on our scalp to the cuticles on our toes, we’re so good about caring for our skin. However, there’s one spot – a notoriously smelly one – that sometimes gets the shaft. Yep, we’re talking about armpits! This highly delicate and finicky spot is prone to all sorts of skincare dilemmas, not limited to odor, excess sweating, irritation, and ingrown hairs.

Given all that, it makes perfect sense to spend a few minutes a day grooming and tending to our underarms. Whether you’ve grown your armpit hair long, have a tuft of fine baby hairs, or prefer to go bare, following an underarm skincare routine can make all the difference between a problem zone and pits that are fresh, soft, and healthy.

Step One: Wash Your Armpits Daily

Even if you don’t make it to the shower every day, prioritize washing your armpits. This dark, hot, and sweaty zone develops an odor more quickly compared to other areas of our body for a few key reasons.

In areas with a lot of hair follicles, like your armpits and genital areas, you’ll find two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine. Apocrine glands release a thicker sweat that contains sugars, fats, and proteins, and it can also take longer to dry,” explains Dr. Geeta Yadava board-certified dermatologist based in Toronto.

When that sweat mixes with the bacteria on our body, you’ll get that tell-tale “ripe” odor. To make matters worse, bacteria thrive in damp and dark conditions. Basically, your armpit is a breeding ground for stank.

You can use a gentle body soap, hand soap, or even a facial cleanser to gently wash this area. Dr. Yadav says, “I like Neutrogena Body Clear® Pink Grapefruit Salicylic Acid Acne Treatment Body Wash, $10, because it contains BHA salicylic acid, which goes into the pore to help clarify it. This offers added insurance against the bacteria that causes odor.” Use a dry cloth to wipe away excess water.

Step Two (A): Groom Your Hair (If You Don’t Shave)

Running a little comb through your armpit hair can help smooth your hair and nix tangles. This makes it easier to keep the area clean and dry. It’ll also help your deodorant and/or antiperspirant go on more evenly and reach your skin. (BTW, if your armpit hair tends to grow really long, you can trim it every week or two so it’s more manageable.)

Step Two (B): Exfoliate Your Pits (If You Do Shave)

Exfoliating your underarms is a key step in your armpit skincare routine for anyone who shaves. Dr. Yadev says, “You can use a scrub or a chemical exfoliant to help remove the dead skin cells, which can trap hairs under the skin and lead to ingrown hairs.”

Ingrown hairs don’t just cramp your style – they’re pretty uncomfortable. A simple option is to wipe an exfoliating pad over the area. Pixi By Petra Glow Peel Advanced Exfoliating Pads, $22, contain 20% glycolic acid and soothing rosewater. They’re a good option if you have active bumps you want to nix. For a milder option that acts as more of a preventative and maintenance solution, try Go-To’s Exfoliating Swipeys, $35.

Alternatively, you can apply an exfoliating liquid – such as Oui the People’s The Big Reveal Ingrown Relief Toner, $25 – on a reusable pad and sweep it across your pits. To help further minimize ingrown hairs and irritation, Dr. Yadev insists on using a smooth, sharp blade. We know it’s tempting to keep using that same disposable razor to save money, but your pits will thank you for using a new cartridge or blade.

You should change the blade every five shaves or so,” says Dr. Yadev. She adds, “If you’re prone to irritation, you can help soothe any inflammation or tenderness by applying a thin layer of aloe to the shaved area.” How frequently you shave depends entirely on how quickly your hair grows, but in many cases, every other day is often enough to get a close shave without irritation.

Step Three: Manage Odor Throughout the Day

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This is an optional step, but if you’re into odor management then you’ll definitely need a deodorant. The good news is that there are all kinds of options available, including natural formulations and those without antiperspirant ingredients added to the mix.

People with sensitive skin or conditions such as eczema should look for natural deodorants. These generally don’t cause skin irritation,” notes Dr. Debra Jaliman, a board-certified dermatologist in New York City.

Natural deodorants are also a great option for people who prefer to go the earthier route. Two awesome options include the Alaffia Everyday Coconut Charcoal Deodorant, $9, and the Pacifica Sandalwood Incense Clean Deodorant Aluminum Free, $12. If you do want to steer clear of deodorants altogether, consider washing your armpits a couple times a day. For a convenient option, you can use gentle makeup cleansing cloths, such as the Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleansing Cloths Unscented, $7.

Those who prefer a more robust deodorant option and/or one that includes antiperspirant, some of our favorites include the Dove Advanced Care Sheer Fresh 48-Hour Invisible Antiperspirant & Deodorant Stick, $6, and the Secret Dry Spray Antiperspirant Deodorant, Wild Rose and Argan Oil, $7. We also can’t help but restock the MALIN+GOETZ Eucalyptus Deodorant, $14, which uses antiseptic eucalyptus extract and odor-neutralizing citronellyl to keep odor at bay.

There’s a good chance you’re doing a lot of the above already, but sometimes those small tweaks – like prioritizing a fresh blade, switching up your deo, grooming your armpit hair, and exfoliating – can make all the difference. You can easily give your skin the TLC it deserves with these six delicious body scrubs.

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