Underarm Rash: Causes, Symptoms, and Home Remedies

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Underarm rash
Credit: iStock.com/robeo

The armpit is a sensitive area of skin that can quickly develop an underarm rash after shaving, sweating, or wearing restricting tops. A red, swollen, and itchy armpit rash can also cause a great deal of discomfort or pain. Treating underarm rash starts with detecting the underlying cause. Learn what to look for and how to get rid of armpit rash with simple home remedies.

An underarm rash is a common skin condition that is typically caused by the use of irritant products, synthetic clothing, improper skin care, and hygiene practices in the region. Many cases of the inflammation and discomfort appear after the removal of hair follicles in the armpit, whether by waxing, depilatory creams, or razors.

Usual signs include red patches; tiny, pimple-like bumps; a burning or itchy sensation; and sometimes cracked, dry skin. Lesions or blisters may develop with infections or aggravation of the rash.

Knowing the cause will help narrow the proper treatment to ease and soothe symptoms while treating the rash, and possibly the cause.

 

Common Causes of Underarm Rash

1. Fungal Infection

A fungal infection may produce a candida armpit rash, or yeast infection. The Candida albicans invader settles into dark, warm areas such as the armpits and into any areas where the skin rubs together.

Other causes of fungus in armpit may be improper hygiene practices, hot and humid temperatures, or the friction caused by clothes rubbing against the skin’s surface. These all provide a warm, moist area for fungus to grow.

Those at a high risk for contracting a yeast or fungal infection include those who are pregnant or diabetic, as well as people who are obese, have an inflammatory disease or a weakened immune system, and working in damp conditions.

With an underarm rash fungal condition, the area may become red and swollen. The area may also be tender, itchy, and have circular rings or have flaky and cracked skin patches.

Most treatments require antifungal medications, lotions, or creams.

2. Contact Dermatitis

Contact dermatitis can appear under the arms as an itchy, red rash. It is usually caused by skin contact with an irritant or allergen, such as chemical substances or plants.

The rash will disappear after stopping the use of certain soap, detergent, cosmetics, or perfumes that are causing the skin disturbance. Jewelry, certain clothing material, and contact with some house and wild plants can also cause an outbreak of the rash.

3. Seborrheic Dermatitis

Commonly known as a scalp problem, seborrheic dermatitis can also appear in the armpit region with scaly, oily skin patches. This is caused by excessive production of an oil-like substance called sebum in the sebaceous glands.

The underarm rash may appear yellow or white with a greasy surface, and may have an itchy or burning sensation. It may be caused by illness, stress, cold weather temperatures, or chemical irritants.

4. Hidradenitis Suppurativa

A chronic skin rash under the arms may be the hidradenitis suppurativa condition. It affects the hair follicles with tiny, red, and inflamed bumps that may be painful. The rash often presents as pimples, boils, blackheads, or folliculitis with a hair in the center.

Seen with the onset of puberty and in obese people, these pimple-like bumps may contain foul-smelling fluid that oozes and forms scars. There can be deep, long, and narrow tracks under the skin’s surface, which can thicken and cause problems moving the arm.

Medications and surgical removal of the lesions may be required for proper treatment.

5. Heat Rash and Sweat Rash

A heat rash under the arms caused by extremely hot or humid temperatures may present as a red inflammation of the armpit region. This common condition is usually caused by blocked sweat glands.

It can appear with itchy or burning small bumps that may blister. Once the body has cooled, the rash usually disappears. This skin condition is also referred to as prickly heat rash or miliaria.

6. Underarm Shaving

The most common underarm rash cause is removal of hair in the region. This is usually due to shaving the hair follicles with a dull razor blade or not protecting the follicles with a lathering cream before shaving.

The armpit may appear red with tiny, raised bumps through irritation of the hair follicles, which also may become itchy. This may be caused by excessive pressure on the hair follicles by the razor blade or shaving against the hair growth direction.

In some cases, the portion of hair remaining intact with the skin during shaving can curl into the pore and become inflamed. It is commonly seen in those with sensitive skin.

7. Deodorants and Antiperspirants

The harsh chemicals and perfumes used in many commercial skin products such as deodorants and antiperspirants may also cause a rash in the armpit. A deodorant rash may be an allergic reaction to the alcohol, aluminum, or fragrance added to the product for long-lasting, odor-fighting protection.

One’s body can react in unusual ways to the ingredients, and small, red bumps may appear in the underarm region. Trial and error of assorted products may be required to find a suitable deodorant.

8. HIV-Related Armpit Rash

An armpit rash HIV case may appear at any stage of the infectious disease and is commonly seen as one of the first symptoms. It may appear as small, red bumps or as a red rash, especially within the first two months of contracting the disease. The red or pink-colored rash is commonly observed during the third stage.

The underarm rash may disappear on its own during the disease and usually does not cause a burning or itchiness sensation.

9. Folliculitis

A rash under armpit could be caused by folliculitis, an infection or inflammation of the hair follicles. It can be caused by the bacterium known as Staphylococcus aureus.

Folliculitis may appear with the rubbing of skin folds or friction on the hair follicles. It may also be present after shaving the underarm region.

Most cases of folliculitis may be prevented and treated by keeping the area clean and moisturized. Wearing loose tops to avoid the material rubbing on the skin may also help symptoms during the healing process and prevent further outbreaks.

 

What Causes Painful Underarm Rash?

An irritated underarm rash may present a burning or tenderness sensation accompanied by pain. Whether the pain is mild or severe, it may be caused by a known or unknown underlying health condition.

Most painful armpit rash cases are the result of an allergic reaction such as hives or eczema, shingles, ringworms, hidradenitis suppurativa, or a staph infection.

A painful rash in the underarm region may be caused by a bacterial infection of the lymph nodes. The nodes become inflamed, triggering the lymphadenitis condition. Swollen and hard lymph nodes can also be experienced.

 

Underarm Rash Symptoms

As an armpit rash may be triggered by different causes, there are certain signs and symptoms to watch for in the underarm area.

  • Itchiness
  • Red rash
  • Burning sensation
  • White or red bumps
  • Strange odor
  • Discharge
  • Armpit swelling
  • Circular rings
  • Pain or discomfort
  • Tenderness

Accompanying symptoms may result from the underlying cause. These may include joint pain and stiffness, runny nose, nasal congestion, sore throat, fever, chills, body pains, headache, or fainting spells. Any symptoms such as breathing difficulty or swelling of the face or tongue requires immediate medical attention.

 

Treating Underarm Rashes

With underarm rash treatment, the key is identifying the cause and focusing on the symptoms. Take the following steps to treat any stage of a chronic skin condition.

  • Identify the irritant: The common contact dermatitis rash may be caused by the harsh chemicals in the soap, laundry detergent, or skin care product you use. Once the irritant is found, stop using the product prevent any flare-ups. The rash may then disappear within a few days.
  • Act on the rash: Soothe any burning or itchy sensations with an oatmeal bath, using moisturizing lotion on the dry skin, or by applying cool compresses.
  • Avoid scratching: Prevent the onset of an infection by not touching or scratching the underarm rash. The home remedies outlined below may help deter the urge to scratch by eliminating the itch.
  • Relax: A rash may be triggered by extreme stress. Perform relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and focusing on other tasks to avoid the desire to scratch.

 

How to Get Rid Of Underarm Rash: Home Remedies

1. Cold Compress

Alleviate the uncomfortable itching or burning of an underarm rash with a cold compress. This is best used for heat rashes, as it may calm the irritation and prevent blisters from forming. Do not use ice directly on the skin surface.

Apply a cold water-soaked cloth to the affected area throughout the day or use cloth-covered ice cubes to apply on the area for a few minutes. Use the ice cube treatment throughout the day.

2. Oatmeal

Oatmeal, particularly colloidal oatmeal, has been shown to treat the itchiness and irritation of an underarm rash. As one of the more common home remedies for rashes, oatmeal adds moisture as it balances the pH levels of the skin.

The Indian Journal of Dermatology, Venereology, and Leprology published a scientific review in 2012, which suggests the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-irritant properties found within could work to heal chronic skin conditions like atopic dermatitis, acneiform eruptions, and viral infections.

Add one to two cups of the finely ground oatmeal flakes to a tub of warm water and gently agitate the water to mix the oatmeal well. A few drops of lavender essential oil may also be added to the bath for healing antibacterial properties.

Once a day, soak in the tub with your armpits immersed in the water for a 20-minute treatment. Place any oatmeal from the bath directly on the affected area. Rinse with warm water with a shower and always pat dry, allowing armpits to air-dry.

3. Aloe Vera

Aloe vera gel works to soothe red, irritated skin as well as alleviate itchiness caused by an underarm rash.

A 2014 study found that the polysaccharide component in aloe gel could reduce redness and rash as effectively as hydrocortisone gel. This is likely due to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Aloe vera gel is also good to use after shaving.

Create a paste of aloe vera gel and coconut oil to apply to the armpit or apply the gel directly onto the rash two or three times each day. Rinse remnants of either treatment after 20 minutes with cool water.

Another remedy to use is a combination of one to three tablespoons of aloe vera gel and a pinch of turmeric powder to create a paste to rub onto affected area. Rinse with cool water after 30 minutes.

4. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar has antibacterial and antifungal properties that could possibly treat chronic skin infections as well as balance the pH level of the skin. It may alleviate the itchiness, inflammation, and discomfort of the underarm rash.

Always dilute apple cider vinegar to prevent irritation from the highly acidic components.

Apply a solution of apple cider vinegar and water to the affected armpit region with a cotton ball. Rinse after a five to 10-minute treatment with cool water. Repeat application three times daily.

5. Olive Oil

The antioxidant properties of extra virgin olive oil may help with the itchiness of an underarm rash as well as promote healing as it moisturizes the area.

Apply the oil directly on the armpit with use of a cotton ball three times each day. A paste of equal parts of regular olive oil and honey can be used in place of extra virgin olive oil.

Olive oil can also be combined with a small amount of turmeric powder to create a paste to apply to the rash two or three times daily.

6. Baking Soda

A rash on the armpit region caused by contact dermatitis may be treated with the alkaline and pH-balancing action of baking soda. It could alleviate the itchiness and inflamed areas as it dries out the rash.

Combine one part baking soda with three equal parts water to make a paste to apply directly on the armpit rash. Rinse the paste after two minutes, as longer treatment can cause irritation to the skin’s surface. Repeat daily.

7. Coconut Oil

The vitamin E and healthy fat components of pure coconut oil may help to speed up the healing time as part of an underarm rash treatment. The oil may reduce the irritation and itchiness as it naturally moistures the skin. It may also prevent development of the tiny bumps or infection of a rash as it may protect against friction.

Apply the coconut oil directly on armpit area with a cotton ball three times a day.

The cotton ball could also be dipped in a solution of four tablespoons of coconut oil and one teaspoon of lavender essential oil. Rinse with cool water after 10 to 15 minutes and repeat two times each day.

8. Tea Tree Oil

Tea tree oil has been used as an underarm rash cure with its antifungal, antimicrobial, and antiseptic properties. Its chemical compounds, including erpinen-4-ol, alpha-terpineol, linalool, alpha-pinene and beta-pinene, among others, may help with the pain and redness of sores. It may also work to prevent further development of infection and fungus growth.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology in 2003 illustrated the antifungal activity of all tea tree oil components on skin conditions, with the exception of beta-myrcene.

Use five or six drops of tea tree oil with one tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil to create a solution to be applied directly on the underarm. First, clean and air dry or pat dry the area before applying the solution. Leave it on for 10 minutes before rinsing with cool water. Repeat two or three times each day.

9. Lemon

Lemons have powerful vitamin C and citric acid to help treat the underarm rash caused by infection. These components also work to prevent body odor.

Simply dilute lemon juice with water for sensitive skin. Also, do not use it on any open wounds or directly after shaving the armpits.

Combine two parts of lemon juice and one part of honey to apply to the armpit and rinse with cool water after a 15- to 20-minute treatment. Repeat twice a day. A slice of lemon can also be applied to the affected area with a cool water rinse two or three times daily.

10. Indian Lilac or Neem

As a traditional medicine for chronic skin disorders, Indian lilac, or neem, may help to alleviate the redness and discomfort of an underarm rash. It has antifungal, antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anti-irritant, and analgesic properties.

The Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine published a study in 2013 showing the successful effects of using Indian lilac oil to treat the symptoms and conditions of acne, psoriasis, eczema, and ringworm.

Allow the Indian lilac leaves to simmer in water for 20 minutes before straining and using the liquid to wash the armpits two to three times each day. A cotton swab can also be dipped into a solution of five drops of Indian Lilac oil and warm water to be applied three times each day.

 

How to Prevent Underarm Rash

  • Maintain good hygiene by taking regular showers and baths, paying close attention to cleaning the armpit areas.
  • Allow the underarms to air dry after cleaning rather than using a towel.
  • Avoid using deodorants, skin care products, and laundry detergents with a high content of perfumes and chemicals.
  • Wear breathable, loose-fitting tops to provide adequate space for any sweat production to escape, and to prevent it from collecting on the material touching the armpit.
  • Apply aloe vera gel to the underarms after shaving in order to maintain moisture and prevent dryness that may cause a rash.
  • Keep cool with the use of fans or air conditioners.

Underarm rash conditions can be embarrassing and uncomfortable due to a possible constant itchiness and red, inflamed skin. Severe cases of an armpit rash may form blisters that ooze fluid with a foul-smelling odor.

Knowing how to treat and prevent the rash may be as simple as identifying the underlying cause of the chronic skin condition. Common irritants may be found in the soap, laundry detergent, clothing, jewelry, and skin care products used daily. Avoiding the use of such irritants and maintaining a clean and clear surface of the armpit may help to prevent further outbreaks.

The active compounds in natural remedies such as tea tree oil, oatmeal, and aloe vera have been shown to effectively treat skin inflammation, which may include your itchy, red underarm rash.

Related Article:

Armpit Pain: Causes and Treatments


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