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Here's Exactly Why You Get 'Pimples' In Your Armpits, According To A Dermatologist

Plus, what you can do to get rid of 'em!
armpit pimples
PHOTO: Shutterstock

Pimples can appear anywhere, from the face to the back. It can even pop up in weird spots like the butt and vagina. If you think you have one in your underarms, don't panic. Getting these red or white bumps is much more common than you think. 

To learn more about these "zits" in the underarms, we spoke with Dr. Raissa Francisco-Pasion, a board-certified consultant dermatologist of SKIN Dermatology and Laser Center and You+ Intelligent Aesthetics. Keep scrolling to know what causes these pesky bumps and how you can get rid of them! 

Why am I getting "pimples" in my armpits?

Before anything else, here's one thing you should know: Oftentimes, "those red, itchy, and painful bumps in the armpits are not pimples," said Dr. Raissa. But rather, what you're probably dealing with is a skin condition called folliculitis. She explained, "This happens when the hair follicles get infected with bacteria (usually staphylococcus aureus) or fungi-causing inflammation. The infection can enter the hair follicle when there are tiny breaks in the skin, which we can get from repeated shaving, plucking, waxing, wearing tight clothing, or doing arm movements that cause rubbing in the armpits." The dermatologist also noted that getting these bumps is quite common during the summer szn. "High temperatures during the summer months can also increase sweating and heat in the underarms, causing an increase in the bacteria that are normally present in our skin." ICYDK, bacteria thrive in ~moist~ environments. 

Sometimes, the bump in the kilkili may be a "deeper and larger infection of the hair follicle which is called a furuncle or a boil. Another condition causing swelling, pustules, and scarring in the underarm area is hidradenitis suppurativa, a condition that can be diagnosed by a dermatologist." 

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How to prevent underarm pimples from popping up

When treating folliculitis in the armpit, you must know that "scratching and friction from rubbing can aggravate the bumps and cause them to get worse," Dr. Raissa warned. "Heat and moisture are also contributing factors so make sure to keep the armpits dry with an antiperspirant." 

Additionally, wearing loose clothing will help prevent bacteria buildup as well as showering after working out. However, "If the folliculitis keeps recurring because of hair removal methods, a viable option is permanent hair reduction with laser hair removal." Aside from folliculitis, ~investing~ in a laser treatment can also address other common armpit concerns like chicken skin. (READ: Is Laser Hair Removal Worth Its Hefty Price Tag?)

Here are other simple ways to take better care of your underarms: 

  • If you shave, do so with care. Never dry-shave. Slather some shaving cream (you may use a hair conditioner as an alternative, too!) all over your pits before hair removal to minimize irritations. As much as possible, use a fresh, clean razor each time and shave in the direction of the hair growth. 
  • Exfoliate regularly. Just like your face, your kilikili accumulates sweat, dirt, and dead skin, including deodorant residue! Aside from washing your pits with soap and water every day, *gently* exfoliating them at least once a week will help unclog your pores and keep breakouts at bay. (READ: The Right Way To Exfoliate Underarms For Smoother And More Even-Toned Armpits)
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How can I get rid of my "armpit acne"?

According to the expert, "folliculitis in the armpit is treated with a topical or an oral antibiotic, depending on the severity. It is best to consult with a dermatologist for your treatment." If you're looking for a quick, home remedy, she said that applying a "warm compress to the affected area" can help soothe swelling.

Another important tip? As tempting as it may be, avoid popping or squeezing those bumps. "That will just make the infection worse," Dr. Raissa noted. This will push the bacteria deeper into the skin and may even cause scarring. She stressed, "Try to not touch or traumatize the bumps during treatment." 


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