Pimples are bumps often formed from bacteria buildup in your pores or clogged sweat glands. Though common, pimples in sensitive areas — such as under your arms — may cause you concern. However, they’re often nothing to worry about.

Underarm pimples aren’t unusual. They’re usually harmless and disappear on their own. They may appear as small, flesh-tone bumps with no symptoms, or red, inflamed bumps with accompanying itching and discomfort.

If your bump produces discharge or causes pain, medical treatment may be required.

Armpit pimple causes

There are a number of reasons why pimples may form under your arm. Some causes may require medical treatment.

Ingrown hairs

Shaving and other forms of hair removal are common causes of ingrown hairs, a condition that may result in armpit bumps. Ingrown hairs are caused when a hair follicle is bent or twisted back to penetrate the skin. In other cases, dead skin can clog hair follicles, leading the hair to grow sideways under the skin rather than upward.

Ingrown hairs aren’t serious, but they can be uncomfortable if they grow in sensitive areas. Other than a visible bump or group of bumps, you may also experience:

While ingrown hairs are known to go away on their own, there may be a possibility of infection. If symptoms from your ingrown hair don’t improve or if your ingrown hair doesn’t go away, schedule a visit with your doctor.

There are no typical treatments for ingrown hairs, but they can be prevented. To prevent ingrown hairs, consider trying:

  • exfoliating to scrub out ingrown hairs
  • shaving with fresh single-blade razors
  • shaving in the same direction your hair is growing
  • applying a cool washcloth to your skin after shaving

Folliculitis

Folliculitis is a skin condition that causes hair follicle inflammation. At first glimpse, it can look like red bumps or white pimples around armpit hair. However, it may progress into painful sores that are slow to heal.

In more severe cases, folliculitis can cause permanent hair loss and scarring.

In addition to armpit pimples, with folliculitis you may experience symptoms such as:

  • itchiness
  • a burning sensation
  • tender skin
  • pus-filled blisters
  • a large bump or bumps

In mild cases, folliculitis clears up on its own in a few days with self-care and proper hygiene habits. In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe medication.

Contact dermatitis

Contact dermatitis is an itchy rash often triggered by an allergic reaction. This condition isn’t considered to be life-threatening, usually clearing up within a matter of weeks. The rash appears on the area of your body exposed to an allergen.

Other than bumps, you may also notice:

Home care is often considered an effective treatment for contact dermatitis, including avoiding the irritant. However, in more severe cases, your doctor may recommend a topical ointment to soothe rash symptoms. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to reduce inflammation and itching.

Hidradenitis suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa is a disease that causes painful bumps to form under your skin, commonly in your armpits and your groin. Though they may clear up on their own, the pimple-like bumps often reappear.

In more severe cases, you may notice additional symptoms including:

  • recurrent pimple breakouts
  • foul-smelling discharge
  • scarring
  • skin cancer

Your doctor may prescribe antibiotics to reduce inflammation and fight infection. Acne medicines are also recommended alongside prescribed treatment to reduce the appearance of the rash. In more severe cases, your doctor may recommend surgical options.

Outlook

Armpit pimples aren’t an uncommon occurrence, but they can be indication of an uncomfortable skin condition. While in many cases they clear up on their own, more severe cases may require medical attention.

If you begin to notice drainage, bleeding, or other irregular symptoms, seek immediate medical attention. Self-care can be helpful, but prescribed medical attention will effectively prevent infection and other complications.