How often do you think about taking care of the skin under your arms? For most of us, that area is an afterthought in the shower: wash, shave, done. Yet you may have seen the term “PitiCure” floating around the internet—it was coined by Dove as part of a campaign to promote the brand’s deodorant range. The PitiCure idea is basically a “pedicure” for your armpits, the suggestion being that pits need just as much TLC as hands, feet, and the rest of your body.
But is there any truth to that? Turns out, yes! Shaving, sweating, and using harsh soaps can leave pits in rough shape, according to Dr. Ellen Marmur, a New York City–based dermatologist. Armpits are a part of the body that most people don’t really talk about—and usually gloss over in terms of skin care—and Murmur says she wants to change that.“It’s an area I’m really hoping to help demystify, because the skin there is very thin and fragile,” she says.
The armpit, of course, gets a bad rep by definition: Merriam-Webster lists the second, slangy meaning of the term we’re all familiar with, “the worst area in a place,” (e.g. a city described as “the armpit of America”). But officially, the armpit is the hollow spot right under the joint of your arm and shoulder, and, says Dr. Marmur, several inches of skin surrounding it onto the arms and down the sides of the body. You know all the uncomfortable, bumpy, and even painful conditions that can happen to your skin? It’s not uncommon for those—psoriasis, ingrown hairs, abscesses, even yeast infections(!)—to turn into armpit conditions without proper exfoliation, cleansing, and moisturizing. Here are five ways to keep your armpits smooth, healthy, and tank-top ready.
Every day, lather on body wash and massage into your armpits using a washcloth, then rinse thoroughly. The goal is to gently get rid of any dried sweat or debris buildup. If you have super-sensitive skin, you can use a gentle, non-irritating facial cleanser. Look for a product formulated for sensitive skin, without any harsh ingredients, like glycolic acid; our go-to is Korres Wild Rose Daily Brightening & Refining Buff Cleanser.
According to Dr. Marmur, it’s also important to use an exfoliating scrub under your arms at least twice a week. Skipping exfoliant altogether may cause dead cells to build up in crevices under the skin, and that can spell discoloration. Always exfoliate before shaving, and don’t overdo it—massage the scrub in gently, and rinse off. If you start to see irritation “you’re either scrubbing too hard, using a soap that’s too harsh, or shaving with the wrong kinds of products, like old razors,” explains Dr. Marmur (for more on shaving, read on).
Dr. Marmur mentioned a study that shows that 36% of what you actually remove when you shave is skin. That includes the sloughing off of dead cells, which is a good thing—however, the process can be rough on armpits especially, often sapping skin of about about half its moisture. To help counteract the dehydrating effect and avoid nicks and cuts that are often caused by dull blades, replace your razor or blade after five to ten shaves.
When it comes to protection, shave gels are a better choice than soap or bodywash, because they’re formulated with glycerin. The ingredient helps skin absorb and retain moisture and keeps the product in place as you shave, creating a smooth surface for the razor to gently glide across. Most of these products also contain vitamins that help soften and condition hair, making it easier to get a closer shave.
Dry shaving is never a good idea. But you may find yourself in a situation where you have no other option. If this happens, Dr. Marmur suggests using a moisturizer before and immediately after shaving to help avoid irritation.
Dr. Marmur stresses the importance of drying your underarms thoroughly with a towel after showering. If you forget to pat skin dry, you risk trapping moisture in the area which may lead to dryness and flakiness.
Most of us lotion our legs, arms, hands, and feet, and diligently use creams and serums on our faces and necks, leaving our underarms out of the process altogether. But Dr. Marmur says our pits need hydration, too! Moisturizing the area at least twice a week will help combat parched skin and ingrown hairs. And those with coarse and thick hair should moisturize more often. “They’re more prone to ingrown hairs,” explains Dr. Marmur.
Dr. Marmur recommends choosing a deodorant that’s filled with nourishing ingredients and moisturizers. A couple to look for: sunflower seed oil, which helps skin retain moisture, and calendula (marigold), known to heal dry, damaged patches and reduce inflammation. Dove Advanced Care with Nutriummoisture ClearTone Skin Renew Deodorant has both.