Ways To Care for Your Armpits Amid Our Strange Obsession With Them

Everything you need to know about your underarm health, how to keep odor away, and why people are so obsessed with them.
Reading Time: 8 minutes

“Are your underarms beautiful enough to show off?”

“Step into the light with whiter and smoother underarms.”

“Works overtime to keep you drier.”

Sound familiar? The lines mentioned above are just some of the common lines echoed in your favorite deodorant ads.

Ever since we could remember, things like hairy pits, dark underarms, and sweat stains were portrayed as something to be ashamed of. Deodorant ads always made sure to point out that pit stains were unsightly and gross, and armpits that were anything less than poreless and uniformly colored were something to be embarrassed about. 

In a study done by Twitter in 2020, it was found that deodorant ranked number four as part of the top five products purchased online, with food coming in at the fifth spot. Taking into consideration that the study was done during a time when everyone was stuck at home and avoiding other people, it was surprising to note people prioritized deodorized pits over food amidst a pandemic. 

But why is everyone obsessed with underarms? 

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A 1917 Gilette ad read: “Milady Decolette is the dainty little Gillette used by the well-groomed woman to keep the underarm white and smooth.”

With the invention of the first system razor in 1903, a hairless, clean-shaven face became synonymous with being hygienic and well-kept. While safety razors were targeted towards a male audience, it wasn’t long before advertisers decided to cast a wider net. In 1915, Grecian and Roman-style sleeveless dresses were trendy among women and had them exposing their underarms for the very first time. That’s when the depilatory industry saw the opportunity to grow their market. Advertisements declared that to look fashionable, women were expected to shave their underarms. According to a 1917 Gilette ad, “Milady Decolette is the dainty little Gillette used by the well-groomed woman to keep the underarm white and smooth.”

And humankind never looked back. 

Who could forget how Julia Roberts’ cap-sleeved Vivienne Tam gown proudly displayed her armpit hair as she waved at fans during the Notting Hill premiere?

In today’s times, most ads are still touting the message that women’s armpits are expected to be hairless, smooth, and even-toned. But there’s a twist. With the feminist movement championing body autonomy, more and more women are pushing back on unrealistic societal expectations. Who could forget how Julia Roberts’ cap-sleeved Vivienne Tam gown proudly displayed her armpit hair as she waved at fans during the Notting Hill premiere? The much-photographed moment instantly catapulted body hair into discussion and inspired many young women to reevaluate their shaving habits. 

In 2017, the Telegraph reported, “In 2013, 95 percent of women aged 16 to 24 said they removed hair from their underarms. In 2016, this had dropped to just 77 percent.” That means one in four women are foregoing shaving and choosing to sport a more natural-looking underarm. Another study conducted by YouGov reports that in 2021, 53 percent of Americans think that women should get rid of their armpit hair, and over one-third of Americans have no preference on whether women should keep or shave their armpit hair.

It’s clear that nowadays, body hair removal is a choice and not an expectation. Whether hairy or hair-free, whatever sort of armpits you want to sport, here’s the 411 on how to make sure yours are happy and healthy in whatever form you want to present them in. 

ARMPITS: What are they?

According to Merriam-Webster, the armpit is defined as “the hollow beneath the junction of the arm and shoulder.” Its main function is to produce sweat to help regulate your body’s temperature by preventing overheating, making them the warmest parts of the body. Aside from that, it’s also home to a network of lymph nodes that fight infection by filtering fluid through these nodes.

The skin that composes the underarms is also much different from the other areas of your body. “Armpit skin is usually thinner than on the face and on the body,” says Dr. Aivee Teo of The Aivee Clinic. “It has less collagen, that’s why it’s more sensitive.” Dr. Mariel Arambulo-Cordero of the Arambulo Dermatology Center adds, “Since the underarms are anatomically occluded and have a lot of sweat glands on them, they’re more prone to irritation.”

How to Care for Your Armpits

Taking care of your armpit skin is simple: Wash it with soap and water. Find the gentlest soap you can find—something free from fragrance, bleach, or any other ingredient that might cause irritation—and wash your underarms at least once daily. If you find yourself prone to sweating or engage in a lot of sweat-inducing activities, bump it up to twice a day to remove any odor-causing buildup. 

A word of caution: Use a light touch. “You can wash your underarms every time you shower as long as you are gentle. Use a mild, fragrance-free cleanser and avoid scrubbing with a loofah to prevent friction in that area,” advises Dr. Mariel. 

Common Pit Problems

Chicken skin

Characterized by tiny bumps on the armpit, chicken skin can be caused by one of three things: strong antiperspirants that clog pores, waxing and plucking that involves pulling the hair forcibly, and keratin build-up in the pores or keratosis pilaris. 

Texture in the armpit area is totally normal. But if you want a smoother look, you can determine the cause of the bumps and take it from there. The first would be to lessen the use of hair removal methods that pull the hair from the root. If you really want smooth underarms, laser hair removal is your best bet. We especially love this device from the Aivee Clinic because you can easily use it anywhere and keep up with a steady interval to prevent the hairs from growing back.

Another way to stave off chicken skin is to lessen the use of antiperspirants. Since these products have ingredients that could cause build-up, these could potentially clog your underarm pores. Instead of using an antiperspirant every day, space out your usage and use a gentle deodorant in between days. 


V&M Emu Brightening Deodorant

P395, V&M Naturals

If you’ve been noticing tiny, rough bumps that appear around your underarm hair follicles, you might be experiencing something called keratosis pilaris. These painless bumps usually occur when there’s an excess of keratin on your skin. To remedy this, use a gentle exfoliant on your underarms twice a week. This one has a combination of exfoliating acids like AHA, BHA, and PHA to help unclog pores and refine skin texture, and cica to soothe the skin.


Some By Mi Truecica Clear Pad

P700, Shopee
Body odor

Body odor is what happens when sweat comes into contact with bacteria on your skin. Your sweat starts out as an odorless liquid, but when met with bacteria it can trigger a reaction that causes sweat to smell. Besides bacteria, the smell of perspiration is also dependent on diet, hygiene practices, and even genetics.

Since body odor is caused by the bacteria that live on your skin, we suggest using an anti-odorant cream like Nuud. It uses micro silver to neutralize odors and prevent bacteria growth, lessening odors right at the source.

Nuud Natural Deodorant

P855, Lazada

Dark underarms are caused by irritation or certain changes within the body. Waxing, shaving, wearing tight clothing that causes friction, and using harsh products on your underarms can aggravate your armpits, resulting in the skin becoming a shade darker than the rest of your body. “For waxing, plucking, and shaving, it is not a long-term resolution to arrest the growth of the hair. If you do it repeatedly, repeated redness happens after those procedures. You get what we call ‘post-inflammatory pigmentation,’ Dr. Aivee explains. “In turn, you build up the darkening or the shadow of the underarms.”

On the other hand, hormonal changes like insulin resistance or pregnancy, can also cause the darkening of the underarms. “For hormonal changes, there really is little that you can do, but you can try to brighten the underarm areas so there is less shadowing,” she continues. “Lasers can help, but hydration also plays a role. If the skin is better hydrated, it helps minimize the appearance of darkening and shadows.”

For stubborn pigmentation, we recommend laser treatments to brighten the area safely and effectively. The Aivee Underarm Triple Whitening from The Aivee Clinic is an intensive whitening treatment that uses a powerful laser to blast pigmentation to even out your skin tone. 


Aivee Underarm Triple Whitening

P7,000, The Aivee Clinic

Deodorant vs Antiperspirant

Though both aim to lessen odor in the armpit region, the two products do it very differently. Deodorants lessen foul odors by controlling the growth of bacteria in the underarm and perfume the area with a pleasant scent. Antiperspirants, on the other hand, work by plugging up the sweat glands in the armpit, making you sweat less in that area. 


Whenever you use an antiperspirant, you’re more likely to see aluminum on its ingredient list. Antiperspirants use aluminum-based compounds to plug up the sweat glands and prevent excessive sweating. 

Not everyone agrees sweating is bad. Proponents of the aluminum-free movement claim the ingredient stops the body from expelling harmful toxins via sweat, allowing them to remain in the body and cause a slew of diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and kidney disease to name a few. 

Experts have debunked these myths, saying studies that link aluminum to these diseases still need further research to back their claims. What the experts do say about aluminum is to use it at your own discretion, “Some of this research has led experts to advise that antiperspirant use isn’t a good idea for everyone, like people who have severe kidney disease,” Healthline reports. “If you have a kidney condition, always check the ingredients on your topical products before buying or using them.”

If Sporting Armpit Hair Isn’t for You…


Shaving is the easiest and most inexpensive way to remove body hair. All you need is a sharp razor, cream or oil for some slip, and a steady hand. The downside, though, is that this practice can sometimes result in an irritated underarm. The best way to get the closest, least-irritating shave is to use a sharp blade and a moisturizing cream or oil to lessen friction.

The Collective Razor

P1,099, Lazada

Kopari Hydrating Vitamin C Shower Oil

P2,150, Sephora Philippines

This hair removal method uses heated wax to trap the hair follicles so they can be pulled from the root using a swift motion. Since the whole hair is removed, the effects of waxing last way longer than shaving and could take up to six weeks until your next waxing appointment.


Strip Ministry of Waxing Underarm Wax

P898, Strip Ministry of Waxing

Laser hair removal is the derma-approved way to remove unwanted body hair. According to Dr. Mariel, “For hair removal, the best is to invest in laser hair removal instead of waxing and shaving as the latter two can cause chicken skin and underarm darkening.” Instead of pulling the hairs out, this method uses a concentrated beam of light to remove the hairs by targeting the follicles. In turn, pigment found in the hair follicles absorbs the light and destroys the hair. 

Wink Studio Underarm Laser Hair Removal

P3,000, Wink Studio


No matter what treatments you decide to get or whether you choose to be hairless or not, how you want to present yourself is completely your own choice. All that counts is that you feel happy and confident in whatever you decide, whether or not people think it’s the pits perfect choice.

Collage by Dannah Valdezco. The Artist’s Garden at Vetheuil by Claude Monet by © The Everette. Hand Holding a Razor by © Icons8 Photos. Hand holding laser by © Elena KHarchenko via canva.com. Girl with red hair by © nikitabuida via freepik.com

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