The skin in your underarm area is dark, sweaty, and particularly prone to rashes. This is because the underarm skin is comparatively thinner and traps moisture and sweat. It also has a great number of hair follicles and increased terminal hair growth.
An underarm rash can stem from a number of different factors and has to be treated accordingly. It is usually identified by a change in the feel or texture of the affected skin and often is accompanied by burning or itching of the affected skin. In severe cases, the rash may ooze or crust, and may be immensely painful
Even though most armpit rashes usually clear in a few days, they can be an annoyance to experience as they cause much irritation and embarrassment resulting from an overwhelming urge to itch the affected skin.
What Causes Armpit Rash?
There are several factors that can cause armpit rash:
- Improper shaving techniques
- Excessive use of chemical-based products
- Excessive sweating
- Wearing tight and synthetic clothes
- Exposure to a hot climate
- Prolonged skin chafing or friction against itself and clothing
- Poor personal hygiene
- Fungal, viral, or bacterial infections such as candida and ringworm
- Allergic reaction to soap, perfume, lotion, clothing, or deodorant
- Skin inflammation due to eczema
- Chronic skin conditions such as contact dermatitis and seborrheic dermatitis
Signs and Symptoms of Armpit Rash
Common symptoms of an armpit rash include:
- Small bumps on the skin
- Redness or darkening of the skin
- Stinging or burning pain
- Increased odor
Severe armpit rashes can lead to:
- Cracking and blistering of the skin
- Skin infection
- Enlarged lymph nodes
Natural Treatment Options for Armpit Rash
Here are the ways to get rid of an armpit rash.
1. Try Cold Compresses Technique
You can use cold compresses to reduce the itching and burning sensations associated with an armpit rash.(1) The cold temperature helps reduce the irritation caused by excessive heat. It even prevents the rash from developing blisters.
- Wrap a few ice cubes in a thin cotton towel and hold it on the affected area for a couple of minutes.
- Take a break and then repeat.
- Do this for 10 minutes, a few times daily.
You can also wash the area with cold water a few times a day. Make sure to pat dry the area completely after doing so.
2. Apply Coconut Oil to the Affected Area
Although coconut oil can uncommonly cause a rash, it can be helpful most of the time. Extra-virgin coconut oil can help get rid of the irritation caused by an underarm rash.
The healthy combination of fats and vitamin E inherent in coconut oil can help keep the affected area moisturized, thereby mitigating itching and facilitating healing.
It can even reduce skin chafing by preventing it from rubbing against itself or the fabric of your garment, which can often aggravate the condition and give rise to an infection.(2)
- Dab some extra-virgin coconut oil on your armpits and allow it to get completely absorbed by the skin. Do this a few times daily until the rash subsides.
- Alternatively, prepare a solution with 4 tablespoons of extra-virgin coconut oil and 1 teaspoon of lavender essential oil. Dip a cotton ball in this solution and apply it on the affected area. Allow it to sit for 10 to 15 minutes, then rinse it off with cool water, and pat dry with a clean towel. Repeat this two times daily for a few days.
3. Trust the Healing Potential of Aloe Vera
- Cut off a thick aloe vera leaf and slit it open. Scoop out the gel and apply it directly to the affected area. Allow it to sit for 20 to 30 minutes, and then rinse it off with cool water. Use this simple remedy three or four times a day until the rash clears.
- Alternatively, mix a little turmeric in 1 to 3 tablespoons of aloe vera gel. Rub this mix on your armpits. Wait 30 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water. Do this twice daily for a week or so.
4. Tea Tree Oil can Give You Relief
If your armpit rash is a by-product of fungal infection such as ringworm or other dermal conditions such as psoriasis or eczema, treat it with diluted tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil has antifungal and antiseptic properties that help soothe the red spots and sores. It even limits the growth of the fungus and thereby the spread of the infection.(4)
- Mix 5 or 6 drops of tea tree essential oil in 1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil.
- Clean the infected area with water and pat dry, now apply this mixture to the affected area.
- Wait for 10 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water.
- Repeat this two or three times daily until your skin looks healthy again.
5. Take a Warm Oatmeal Bath
Oatmeal is great for alleviating irritation and itching due to a rash on your armpit. It even helps normalize your skin’s pH level and keeps the skin soft and moisturized. For treating rashes, colloidal or finely ground oatmeal works best.(5)
A 2012 study published in the Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology attributes the potent anti-inflammatory and anti-irritant properties of oats to the antioxidant phenolic compounds found in it.(6)
- Mix 1 cup of colloidal oatmeal in a bathtub filled with warm water.
- Add a few drops of lavender essential oil or any other essential oil of your choice.
- Soak in this relaxing solution for at least 15 to 20 minutes. Make sure the affected area is completely immersed in the water.
- Do this once daily until the rash heals.
6. Reap the Benefits of Indian Lilac (Neem)
Indian lilac, also known as neem, is a popular Ayurvedic remedy for various skin conditions due to its anti-inflammatory, analgesic, anti-irritant, antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. Both the leaves and oil of neem are used to treat skin problems, including armpit rashes.
A 2013 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine states that organic high-quality neem oil is a remarkable home remedy for skin conditions such as eczema, psoriasis, acne, and ringworm as well as their associated symptoms.(7)
- Simmer a handful of neem leaves in a pot of water for 20 minutes. Strain the solution, allow it to cool, and then use it to wash the affected area. Use this treatment two to three times daily for a few days.
- Alternatively, mix 5 or 6 drops of neem oil in a cup of lukewarm water. Use a cotton ball to apply this solution to the affected area a few times daily, until the rash has resolved.
7. Soothe Itching with Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is an effective antifungal and antibacterial agent.(8) It helps to reduce inflammation, soothes itching, and supports the healing of your armpit rash. Its acetic acid content prevents infection and helps rebalance your skin’s pH level.(9)
- Put 1 teaspoon of raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a cup.
- Add ½ cup of water to dilute it.
- Dab this mixture on the affected area and rinse it off after 5 to 10 minutes.
- Do this a few times daily for a few weeks.
8. Use Baking Soda Solution
You can use baking soda to treat an armpit rash caused by contact dermatitis or swimmer’s itch. Baking soda is alkaline in nature and can help balance the pH of the skin, thus helping dry out rashes and relieving itching and inflammation.(10)
- Prepare a solution of 1 part baking soda and 3 parts water.
- Apply this solution to the affected area and wait for a couple of minutes.
- Rinse it off with cool water.
- Use this remedy once daily for a few days.
9. Lemon can Give You Relief
Lemon is wonderful for relieving itch caused by an armpit rash. Its citric acid helps fight infection and has powerful antioxidant properties that speed up the healing process. It also keeps body odor at bay.
- Gently rub a slice of lemon on your affected armpit. Wait for 5 minutes, and then rinse it off with cool water. Repeat the process two or three times daily for several days. If you have sensitive skin, it’s well-advised to dilute lemon juice in water before applying it to the skin.
- Alternatively, prepare a solution of 2 parts lemon juice and 1 part raw honey. Apply this solution on the rash, wait for 15 to 20 minutes, and then rinse it off with cool water. Do this twice daily for a few days.
10. Moisturize Your Skin with Shea Butter
Shea butter has antioxidant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and skin-protecting properties that can help you get rid of an armpit rash. Its deep moisturizing and healing nature calms skin irritation, reduces itching, and promotes healing.(11)
- Wash the affected area with mild antiseptic soap and lukewarm water.
- Pat dry with a soft towel and do not rub the skin.
- Rub a small amount of shea butter on the affected area.
- Repeat several times a day.
Preventing Armpit Rash
- Properly clean your underarms when taking a bath.
- Increase your vitamin C and Zinc intake to strengthen your immune system.
- Do not use chemical-based deodorants, fragrances, antiperspirants, or body lotions unless they are prescribed by a dermatologist. Switch to unscented all-natural self-care products instead.
- Avoid situations and places that induce excessive perspiration.
- Use a non-irritating detergent to wash your clothes. Avoid any fabric softeners.
- Stop shaving your underarms, which can lead to ingrown hair and even infection of the hair follicles. If at all possible, avoid waxing or some other hair removal technique, until the rash is healed.
- Drink enough fluids and water to help your body regulate its temperature. In this regard, water and green tea are considered best. Avoid energy drinks, coffee, and other diuretics.
- Do not use petroleum jelly or mineral oil on the affected area as it can block the pores.
- Do not wear tight-fitting clothes. Opt for loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibers (cotton or jute) to allow your skin to breathe properly. Avoid fabrics that may irritate your skin.
- Maintain proper hygiene. This entails showering regularly and allowing your skin to air-dry instead of using towels.
- Slather talcum powder or anti-chafing powder on your armpit to prevent heat rashes from developing during warmer months or due to rigorous exercise.
- Keep your bedding, clothes, and towels squeaky clean by washing them regularly.
When to See a Doctor
If primary treatment for a mild rash fails to relieve your symptoms, it is important that you consult a dermatologist to unearth the probable cause of the rash. Armpit rashes may last from a few hours to a few months.
A visit to the doctors is also warranted if your rash keeps recurring or is accompanied by the following symptoms:
- Stiff neck
- Body chills or shaking
- Nausea or vomiting
- Digestive changes, such as diarrhea or constipation
- Bloody or pus discharge
- Pain and tenderness
- Confusion or dizziness
Rashes that are rooted in serious medical conditions such as advanced infections or allergic reactions are beyond the purview of self-care or primary treatment and require immediate medical attention instead.
On the other hand, minor armpit rashes can be effectively treated with proper hygiene and a few simple home remedies.
- Apply calamine lotion on the rash a few times daily to relieve itching and speed up the healing process.
- Use the air conditioner in your home, especially when you have rashes in the summer months.
- Sleep in a cool and well-ventilated area.
- Avoid scratching the affected area as much as possible. It can increase the risk of infection.
- Manage your stress levels as they can aggravate some forms of dermatitis.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Dr. Sandy Skotnicki MD (Dermatologist)
Are itchy armpits a sign of breast cancer?
Can a rash in the underarms lead to sepsis?
Highly unlikely, unless there is an open wound that has become infected, and it has been left untreated.
When should you seek immediate medical attention for an armpit rash?
Axillary rashes are not uncommon and often are just irritant dermatitis from deodorants and body washes. If the rash continues to grow and becomes itchy and uncomfortable, I would recommend that you see a doctor.
What is the best way to soothe an itchy rash?
Most patients don’t suspect their personal care products to be the cause of their rashes, which is fascinating. They are the most common cause of rashes on the body in patients who do not have a history of skin disease.
So as soon as you notice a rash, stop using all the skincare products you use in the area- in this case, deodorant, antiperspirant and body soap/washes.
How can you reduce excessive sweating in the underarm area?
An easy thing to try is using an antiperspirant 3 times a day- morning, at the end of the work day and before bed. It clogs the sweat pores more effectively.
Then there is Botox which is injected into the armpits and the effects last 6-12 months. Lastly, a new laser-Miradry uses thermal energy over several treatments to permanently destroy sweat glands under the arms.
Please provide some additional tips or inputs on how to avoid armpit rashes.
Avoid highly scented and fragrant underarms products, in particular, botanicals ones. Use fragrance-free body cleansers and avoid true soap, which is very damaging and drying to the skin.
About Dr. Sandy Skotnicki, MD: Dr. Skotnicki is the founding director of the Bay Dermatology Centre and is the Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto, Department of Medicine in the Divisions of Dermatology and Occupational and Environmental Health.
Dr. Skotnicki completed her dermatology training at the University of Ottawa, and was awarded her fellowship in Dermatology by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada in 1997 and is also a Diplomat of the American Board of Dermatology. She is a consultant Dermatologist at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto and is an expert in Allergic Skin Disease, while also working as a consultant for the Workplace Safety Insurance Board.
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