Confession: I’m obsessed with armpits.
If you know me, you know I don’t wear deodorant. This is often viewed as socially unacceptable but you can ask anyone that has ever met me and hugged me and not a single one of them will tell you that I stink. And it’s not because they don’t want to hurt my feelings. (I surround myself with blatantly honest humans.) It’s because I don’t stink. People usually tell me that I smell like a garden and if they know that I don’t wear deodorant, they’re shocked that I don’t have body odor. And that, my friends, is because you don’t inherently stink.
But let’s face it, at first, it’s not convenient to forego deodorant. Really unpleasant things can happen like stubborn body odor. The heart is willing but when you stink it’s hard to push through and easy to give up. Your armpits are delicate and are often neglected so I’m sharing some of my armpit secrets and how I’ve gotten away with not wearing deodorant consistently for 3 years!
If you can’t stand the smell from the outside, just imagine what your body smells like on the inside! Armpits are designed to sweat. Yet people go to great lengths to prevent their armpits from sweating. Sweating is an important part of maintaining optimum physical health. Conventional doctors like to say body odor is due to bacteria living on your armpits, but that’s ridiculous because your entire body is covered with bacteria. The real cause of armpit odor is the intentional excretion of horrible toxins that your body is trying to get rid of! The way to eliminate body odor, then, is not to mask it with unhealthful deodorant products, but rather to clean up your body from the inside out.
Dr. Joseph Mercola states, “Your body doesn’t naturally stink; the bacteria living in your body only react with what you ‘feed’ them. The smell in your armpit won’t be offensive if it’s just perspiring excess minerals and healthy metabolic waste products; however, it will stink if your body is sweating toxic byproducts which come from eating [conventional] meat and processed refined food.”
Make sure you’re drinking at least half your body weight in ounces of water on a daily basis, ditch manufactured foods made with refined white flour, added sugars, hydrogenated oils and other processed ingredients, consume organic leafy vegetables and fresh fruits, super greens, lots of sprouts, raw nuts and seeds, healthy oils and other similar healthful ingredients.
Stress —Feelings of anxiety trigger a release of cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” which gets your body ready to deal with a potentially harmful situation. This hormone also makes you sweat which is why you might see someone with drenched armpits before they head into a big interview. The best thing you can do to prevent this from happening is to try and reduce your stress level. Practicing stress reduction techniques on a regular basis, such as prayer and meditation, can help keep you in a calm frame of mind and reduce stress-related body odor. There are situations where stress reduction techniques barely scratch the surface of stress and I know that feeling all too well. I’m having flashbacks to when I took my Part 4 National Board Exams! The other tips in this blog post will be even more valuable to working with your body, not against it.
Menstrual cycle — A new study that had men sniffing women’s armpit odor suggests that the scent of a woman is more attractive at certain times of the month. Hello pheromones! The highest intensity smells, corresponding to the lowest attractiveness for men, were found during the time of menstrual bleeding. During the menstrual cycle, many changes take place in the chemical composition of a female’s body, a change in hormones cause body odor to increase. The alkaline content of the blood tends to increase during the menstrual cycle, leading to the emission of strong menstrual odors.
The hormonal changes that occur during puberty, pregnancy, postpartum (including breastfeeding), and menopause are real. First and foremost, I recommend chiropractic care — with a chiropractor who does an analysis of your nervous system — because your nervous system controls and coordinates your hormonal system. Removing interference to that communication pathway unleashes the body’s innate ability to heal and restore hormonal balance. One of the most hormone healing practices I’ve incorporated into my wellness routine is acupuncture. I have been amazed by how my menstrual cycle has healed — in ways I never thought possible. I also recommend working with a functional medicine practitioner to get proper hormone testing. Since our hormones are changing on a daily basis, getting a one-time hormone panel test is only showing a fraction of the answers you deserve. Ask for a month long hormone panel.
If you’re local to Dallas, you’re always welcome to come see me at Our Well House! I love to refer to my women’s health acupuncturist, Emily Guevara at The Acupuncture Juncture and either Jake at Stewarding Life Wellness for integrative functional medicine (as well as remote consultations) or Dr. Katie Naumes, a naturopath and holistic doctor specializing in women’s health.
It’s time to get conscious of what you’re exposing your body to, like your daily deodorant routine. No tip toeing around this issue, throw your commercial deodorant in the trash. A daily smear of chemicals under your arms that intentionally clog pores is a habit worth reconsidering and oh so doable with a little help and planning!
Keep in mind there are dozens of lymph nodes close to the armpit and breasts that your chemical laden deodorant is touching everyday. Most breast cancers occur in the upper outer quadrant of the breast (area next to the armpit), so rubbing exogenous estrogens into that area is a terrible idea!
An armpit detox can help your body get back to it’s natural state of clean perspiration faster. Flush out the old bacteria and chemical residue and then if you choose to use natural deodorants, they will work better for you! To all my friends who gave up on making the switch, please, please try again! Try to resist using your new natural deodorant for at least two weeks to let these detoxes work their magic. Get those pores cleaned out and functioning properly and then begin your love affair with a healthy deodorant choice, or forego deodorant all together (like me).
ACV spray — Combine 4 drops of rosemary essential oil, 4 drops of lavender essential oil, and 1 tablespoon organic apple cider vinegar in a 2 oz glass spray bottle. Fill the rest of the bottle with filtered water. Before going to bed, give the bottle a gentle shake and spray both armpits. Let the spray dry and get a good nights rest! Next day, repeat the process! You may need to spritz your armpits several times during the first 2 or 3 days but that will be short-lived. You should see your body respond to the detox reasonably well after 5 days. Don’t give up! The length of this process will vary for everyone but like I said, don’t give up! This too shall pass, you can do it! Take time for an Epsom salt or magnesium chloride detox foot bath at night, this too will speed the process of cleaning.
Bentonite clay mask — Combine 1 tablespoon bentonite clay, 1 teaspoon organic apple cider vinegar, and 1-2 teaspoons filtered water in a bowl. Spread an even layer over your armpits and let it sit for 5-20 minutes. Wash it off in the shower or with a warm, wet washcloth and repeat as needed until underarm odor goes away!
We take such good care of our face with washing, toning, moisturizing, exfoliating, moisturizing again and then neglect our armpits. I get it though… Your face enters the room first but then couldn’t your body odor enter the room second? Yeah, let’s nix that.
Exfoliation is the first step from my facial ritual that I’m bringing down to my pits. I like to simply mix some salt with a little bit of whatever organic oil I have in my kitchen (typically Kasandrinos Olive Oil). Natural sea salt kills odor-causing bacteria while neutralizing body odor. You can add essential oils and make this an aromatic experience, but I like to keep it cheap and simple.
The thin skin of our underarms are prone to dryness. Keep them moisturized and they’ll stay happy all day! I like to use Mountain Rose Herb’s organic jojoba oil because jojoba has absorption properties that are similar to our skin’s own sebum.
I’ve been keeping manuka essential oil a secret in my armpit ritual for over a year, but I’m excited to share that it has become my ‘holy grail’ oil. I apply 3 drops to each armpit without a carrier oil. I usually recommend dilution when it comes to topical use of essential oils, but my skin has been fine with this form of application. I use Plant Therapy’s manuka essential oil, but click here to read more about which brands of essential oils I support and why I cancelled my Young Living membership.
As you know, I don’t personally wear deodorant on a daily basis, but when I do reach for the occasional swipe, here are my tried-and-true favorites:
Probably the #2 reason people give up on natural deodorants is because they begin to experience a red, itchy rash in their armpits. I remember using natural deodorant successfully for one month and then one day I broke out in the most annoying rash. The culprit? Baking soda.
I recommend avoiding baking soda in natural deodorants because baking soda is an accumulation in your body and it’s not if you’ll get a red, itchy rash, it’s when. For my husband, it took over a year before he broke out in a rash. It’s different for everyone. The Material Safety Data Sheet for sodium bicarbonate warns against rash, redness, and dry and/or cracked skin with prolonged exposure to baking soda on the skin.
If you’re currently using a natural deodorant that contains baking soda and it’s working for you, that’s freaking awesome! Just be aware that you could possibly break out in a rash at some point and this is most likely why.
I know it’s not socially acceptable for women to have armpit hair in America, but I firmly believe that God put it there for a reason. It reduces friction between the upper and lower arm during movement, covers exposed parts of the body with vital arteries, and facilitates the release of sex pheromones. When you shave, you can get irritation, folliculitis, rashes, inflammation, and even infections from dirty razors.
I’m not on this level of dirty hippie (yet — kinda) but I do typically shave my underarms only once every few weeks. I’ve noticed that the longer I go between shaving, the better my body handles sweat and body odor. Since I’m sure no one is ready to grow their underarm hair, let’s talk about healthier ways of hair removal!
Razor — My armpits are so delicate that basically all razors give me some form of irritation. The only thing that has not irritated my armpits is this Tinkle Razor for at home derma-planing. I also used it on my belly hair during pregnancy and was amazed at how gentle yet effective it was. When it comes to razors, I try to avoid any built-in moisturizing strips because they tend to contain ingredients that are known to cause skin irritation and aren’t classified as healthy for our bodies. I used Oui Shave’s Samantha Chrome single-blade razor for over a year and it dramatically decreased the frequency of ingrown hairs and razor burn. I changed the blades about once every 2 weeks or so. I also prefer to use Ursa Major’s Stellar Shave Cream or Aleavia’s Enzymatic Body Cleanse for the most silky smooth shave!
Sugar Waxing — If you’re still using conventional wax, just stop! Sugar waxing is absolutely amazing! I go to Erin Cox of Sweetie’s Sugar Co. in Dallas and she’s the only person I recommend in the DFW area. I have had a few friends visit other salons and they said it was much more painful than conventional wax. I personally believe that sugar waxing is significantly less painful than conventional wax and strips, but I did ask Erin about this at my last appointment and she said it depends on technique. Everyone that I’ve referred to Sweetie’s Sugar Co. has come back a big fan!
I hope you feel more confident either transitioning to natural deodorant or forgoing deodorant all together! Show your pits some love, they deserve it!
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for educational purposes only.
This article contains affiliate links which means that I receive a percentage of commission if any products are purchased through them. As always, these are brands / products / services I have used personally, believe in and support. Receiving a sample(s) of any of the above products in no way influences my opinion. Thank you for supporting me, Dr. Courtney Kahla, through your purchases!