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How To Treat 'Chicken Skin' On Your Underarms, According To A Dermatologist

Plus, ways you can keep bumps from forming after shaving and plucking.
PHOTO: Getty Images

"Chicken skin" or bumps on the kilikili is a common skin issue among Pinays. This unwanted texture is mainly caused by plucking or waxing, as these quick hair removal methods pull out the armpit hair, causing tiny, rough bumps on the skin. Other times, "some people really have the tendency for their skin to create plugs that prevent hair from reaching the surface of the skin, causing bumps," explains Anna Palabyab-Rufino, a dermatologist at BeautiqueMD.

The beauty expert adds, "I think a lot of Pinays are very much concerned with the appearance of their underarms because our weather encourages us to wear clothes that often expose them.

"Everyone wants to make sure that their underarms are smooth, bright, and of course, hair-free. In doing so, some people end up causing more harm than good."

Nowadays, there are tons of underarm treatments available in the market, especially online, from scrubs to toners and serums. This is why we reached out to dermatologist Anna Palabyab-Rufino to give us the lowdown on the proper ways to treat bumpy armpits. Read on for her expert advice! 

  1. Exfoliate regularly. 

    "Regular exfoliation can help prevent chicken skin," says Anna. Unclogging the hair follicles by removing dead skin cells and deodorant residues will lessen the inflammation on your underarms. The dermatologist recommends using a "washcloth or a mild scrub to lightly scrub [your armpits] in one direction," but warns that you should "never scrub too vigorously because it may cause irritation and darkening."

    Exfoliate at least once a week to see results. "Don't do it on the same day you shave so as not to irritate it further," adds Anna. "When shaving, use a mild shaving gel to reduce friction."

  2. Switch to gentler soaps to avoid irritation. 

    As you would know by now, the skin on your underarms is thin and super sensitive, so washing it with harsh soaps only dries it out, triggering itch and inflammation. Anne suggests "using a mild, fragrance-free, moisturizing soap to wash your underarms." 

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    Here are some of the gentlest, most underarm-friendly soaps in the market you can start with: 

    Human Nature Fragrance-Free Cleansing Bar, P64.75, Robinsons Supermarket


    Sebamed Cleansing Bar, P348, Watsons

    Cetaphil Gentle Cleansing Soap Bar, P514, Watsons

  3. Try toners and serums that contain exfoliants like retinol and glycolic acid to soften rough patches, but use them with caution! 

    "Retinol and glycolic acid help peel off the upper layers of the skin [without scrubbing needed], and so they can definitely help prevent chicken skin," Anna explains. "But always remember that the skin on our underarms is much thinner and more sensitive compared to the skin on our faces. Always use products with caution or ask advice from your dermatologist."

  4. Invest in laser treatments for quick and long-term results. 

    Anna shares: "I would encourage people to invest in diode laser hair removal. After one session, you can expect a significant reduction in hair growth.

    "[Exfoliating treatments like] light microdermabrasion and chemical peels can also help [improve the texture of your underarms]." Perhaps, the biggest bonus is how these dermatological treatments effectively lighten the underarms, too.

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These are the ways you can minimize "chicken skin" when shaving, plucking, and waxing 

For those times when you really can't avoid the razor or the wax, here's how you can minimize forming bumps on your pits: 

  • Replace your razor blades from time to time. When you use a dull blade, you're likely to put more pressure on your pits. Using a fresh, sharp blade will lessen the need for you to go through your underarms multiple times. 
  • For a smoother shave (and softer pits), moisturize your underarms. Some lotions and creams may contain fragrance and synthetic oils that may irritate your sensitive pits. Try applying an all-natural sunflower oil to minimize the risk of reactions. Rich in vitamin E, the plant-based oil is famous for its ability to soothe irritated skin and soften the armpit hair itself! Massage a few drops of the oil on your underarms before going to bed and wash it all off the next morning. 

Human Nature Sunflower Beauty Oil, P174.75, Robinsons Supermarket