5 Ways to Get Nice Underarm Skin

Shaving can actually cause skin irritation, so while most people who choose to shave do so for aesthetic reasons, they could be self-sabotaging. ©Alliance/iStock/Thinkstock

We can be our own worst enemies, including (maybe especially) when it comes to how we look -- and it's not only our weight or our nose that can bring us down. As many as 93 percent of American women consider their underarms unattractive, and that anxiety leads many to cover up [source: Unilever].

What's the problem? Not odor or wetness. Pimples, discoloration, dark splotches, soreness, itchiness -- these are the complaints keeping women from slipping into their sleeveless. But we have five ways to feel more confident about throwing your hands in the air in happiness rather than in despair. First, something simple: Did you know your deodorant may be sabotaging you?

5
Examine Your Antiperspirant
The aluminum salt and alcohol in antiperspirant products can lead to irritation. ©Jupiterimages/Pixland/Thinkstock

If your underarms have become a bit red, bumpy and irritated, look at your antiperspirant before anything else. Antiperspirants do just as the name implies: They block your sweat. Most antiperspirants contain aluminum salt to block your pores and keep you dry, but that ingredient may also irritate your skin. The more aluminum salt your antiperspirant contains, the higher the chance it will cause irritation (and possibly damage your shirt, too).

Antiperspirants that contain alcohol may also be too drying for some people's skin, which can lead to irritation, as can any ingredient that ends in "-paraben" (such as methylparaben).

4
Moisturize
Just like the rest of the skin on your body, your underarm epidermis can benefit from a good moisturizer. © S847/Thinkstock

One simple way to minimize skin irritation (whether it's from an antiperspirant, razor burn, or simply a predisposition to having sensitive skin) is to keep your skin hydrated. Moisturizing skin on a daily basis protects it from the harshness of your daily life, decreasing its scaliness and increasing its softness. When it comes to caring for underarms it's best to apply lotions after shaving and before applying antiperspirant.

Moisturizers come in a few different types which work in different ways. Emollients, such as petroleum jelly, trap water in your skin, whereas humectants, such as your daily hand cream, attract and draw water to your skin from the air. Dimethicone-based moisturizers soothe dry skin through silicon-based polymer technology, and are successful in treating -- or decreasing -- underarm skin irritation, too.

3
Exfoliate
Look for gentle exfoliants, and limit your exfoliation to once or twice each week. ©sitriel/iStock/Thinkstock

Your skin renews itself about every four weeks; skin takes a little longer to turn over as we age. But you can speed the cell-sloughing process along by practicing regular exfoliation. Exfoliation removes the old, dead skin cells from the outermost layer of your skin, giving it a softer texture and more youthful appearance. Skin-care products that contain exfoliating ingredients gently scrub off the build-up of dead cells -- that's true for your face, underarms, or any part of your body.

There can be too much of a good thing when it comes to exfoliation, though, leading to cause skin irritation, dryness and inflammation. Always use a mild exfoliant or soft cloth, and exfoliate gently before shaving. Do this no more than twice a week (less if you have sensitive, pigmented or acne-prone skin or if you use other hair-removal methods).

2
Use a Skin-lightening Treatment for Dark Areas
Most cases of hyperpigmentation are thought to be caused by skin irritation. © Robert Byron/iStock/Thinkstock

Did you know that wearing antiperspirant, tight clothing or plucking hairs might be causing your underarm skin to darken? That irritation may be the cause of these dark or splotchy spots, an increase of melanin production in the skin known as hyperpigmentation, although hormone fluctuations and sun damage are also sometimes to blame. The condition appears to affect dark-skinned women most frequently (although no skin color is exempt).

Skin-lightening treatments, such as topical bleaching agents, can be used to treat mild hyperpigmentation problems. Chemical peels can also lighten skin, though recovery time associated with the procedure can range from a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Other risks involved included allergic reaction, scarring and infection [source: WebMD].

1
Consider Alternatives to Shaving
While laser hair removal takes multiple sessions, the results are often long-lasting. © hamburguesaconqueso/iStock/Thinkstock

During the 1920s shaving underarms gained popularity among American women, and hasn't fallen out of fashion since, but there's more to underarm hair removal than just the razor. What's the problem with the tried and true method? Shaving can lead to razor burn, nicks, and irritation -- and the results only last about one to three days. This leads some to seek alternatives, such as waxing and laser hair removal.

Waxing can be painful and may cause some redness and swelling immediately after the treatment, but it does offer long-lasting results -- hair-free armpits for about a month. Laser hair removal, on the other hand, permanently removes hair by destroying the hair follicle. Though it can take as many as eight sessions for full results, about 90 percent of underarms will be hair-free in as few as three to five treatments [source: WebMD].

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Author's Note: 5 Ways to Get Nice Underarm Skin

I knew the market for keeping odor and wetness at bay was big, but the U.S. market for antiperspirants is almost $3 billion. That's a lot of sticks, gels and sprays to keep the sweat away. What I didn't expect was to learn that the majority of women in the U.S. have a problem with their underarms, not the old hair or no-hair debate and not just the occasional razor burn or a nick from an old blade, but a serious discomfort with the condition their underarm skin is in.

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More Great Links

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