Your armpit is a prime spot for irritation. You may not be able to see an armpit rash right away, but the itch and irritation can be unbearable in some cases.
Armpit rashes can be bumpy and red or scaly and white. Many things can cause underarm rashes, and likewise, many treatments can address them. Determining the cause of the rash makes it easier to find relief.
Armpit rashes can last from a few hours to a few months. Most rashes can be easily treated with home remedies or over-the-counter treatments. However, it’s important to know what’s causing your rash before taking measures to treat it and prevent future rashes.
For instance, rashes caused by hot weather usually disappear quickly. Rashes caused by your lifestyle or skin conditions may last longer and may require specific treatments.
Also known as eczema, atopic dermatitis normally begins in childhood. Eczema is most common in the folds of the body, like the backs of your knees, the insides of your elbows, or in your armpits. It’s usually red, itchy, and can crust over.
Because of the intense itch, eczema rashes can bleed after continuous scratching. Sometimes, eczema rashes seep clear fluid. Many people with eczema experience flare-ups at certain times of the year. Otherwise, their skin may appear normal.
Seborrheic dermatitis is skin irritation caused partly by the overproduction of sebum, or skin oils. Unlike the dry patches of eczema, seborrheic dermatitis appears as oily patches of flakes or scales. The flakes may be white or yellow due to the excess oil.
Some infants experience a form of seborrheic dermatitis called cradle cap. This condition usually shows up on the scalp, ears, face, and armpits.
Contact dermatitis occurs when you come into contact with an allergen or irritant.
Contact dermatitis under your arms can be caused by the fragrance in your deodorant or lotion. A new laundry detergent or even the fabric of your shirt can also cause contact dermatitis.
Candida or candidiasis is essentially a fungus or yeast infection. Candida occurs most frequently on moist areas of skin, like the underarms. It can cause swelling, itching, scaling, and red rashes.
Candida can worsen in hot weather, under tight clothing, or because of poor hygiene. Unlike other underarm rashes, candida rashes are best treated by an antifungal cream. Steroid creams can make fungal infections worse.
Several of these conditions are caused or irritated by substances coming into contact with your skin.
Find the irritant
For contact dermatitis, identify the irritant and stop using it immediately. This may solve the rash altogether. This can also instantly affect flare-ups caused by eczema and seborrheic dermatitis.
Actions you can take
In addition to removing irritants, armpit rashes can be soothed by:
- taking a warm (but not hot) bath with colloidal oatmeal
- using over-the-counter anti-itch creams
- lathering up with unscented moisturizers (in the case of dry skin and eczema)
- using cool compresses
Do not scratch
Avoid scratching the irritated area. Scratching makes the skin vulnerable to infections and can turn a simple rash into a larger issue. Taking an over-the-counter nonsedating antihistamine during the day such as fexofenadine (Allegra) or loratadine (Claritin) and a sedating antihistamine at night when sleeping such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) will help with itching.
Stress can aggravate some forms of dermatitis, and relaxation techniques can help fight the rash. Plus, relaxation can make it easier to resist scratching.
Many armpit rashes can easily be treated with ingredients you have at home.
Placing ice cubes against the rash can help with itching. Consuming more vitamin C in oranges, tomatoes, and even broccoli helps you fight against skin issues caused by infections. Cutting open a lemon and sliding it across your armpit skin kills bacteria with citric acid. Using lemons this way also works as a do-it-yourself deodorant.
Using lavender, coconut, or tea tree oils helps with itchiness, irritation, and fungal infections. Mix a small amount of lavender and coconut oil and use a cotton swab to spread the mixture on your rash to soothe irritation. Use tea tree oil mixed with water on a cotton swab to help kill fungus and stop excessive itchiness.
Hydrocortisone cream and calamine lotion are both effective home treatments for an armpit rash that causes irritation and inflammation.
A candida rash or other fungal rash requires a different approach. Try over-the-counter antifungal treatments that contain clotrimazole, nystatin, or ketoconazole. Any creams or lotions that have these ingredients can help with a fungal armpit rash. However, hydrocortisone creams (steroid creams) will worsen fungal rashes.
Using antichafing powders can also help reduce the discomfort caused by an armpit rash. These powders decrease the pain and irritation caused by skin rubbing against itself in your armpit. They may not get rid of the rash completely, but they can help make the rash more tolerable until you can try other treatments.
Leaving an armpit rash untreated for too long can lead to serious bacterial and fungal infections. These infections can cause fluid-filled red bumps called pustules to form on the skin. Pustules are itchy and inflamed, and scratching them too often can leave scars. Other symptoms of a bacterial infection are warmth, tenderness, swelling, and redness.
If there are any underlying causes of your rash, other complications can occur. Talk to your doctor about your rash if it won’t disappear with treatments. A skin biopsy or prescription treatment may be necessary.
Practicing good hygiene is the most important way to prevent armpit rashes. Shower regularly and air-dry instead of using a towel, if possible.
If you notice that certain deodorants or other skin products cause a rash, stop using them right away. Your rashes may not seem to have a specific cause. In this case, see an allergist to find out if any allergens in your home or other environments may be causing your rash.
Wearing tight clothing made of synthetic material can cause armpit rashes because sweat cannot escape from the armpit. Wear loose cotton clothing so that your armpit can breathe and sweat doesn’t pool on your sensitive armpit skin.
In some cases, your armpit rash may simply be a heat rash. When the weather is hot and wet, use talcum powder in your armpit to stop a heat rash from occurring. During hot weather, stay in cool, air-conditioned places. Keep the area where you sleep cool with air conditioning or a fan.
If your rash doesn’t subside with over-the-counter or home remedies, ask your doctor about prescription-strength solutions.