An itchy armpit may lead to the persistent feeling that you need to scratch. Pruritus is the medical term used to describe itching and it is common for the itchy area to also have scarring, flaking, soreness, swelling, or redness. While scratching can provide temporary relief from itchy underarms, scratching repeatedly may make the symptoms worse, leaving your affected skin at risk of infection and contamination. Most of the time, the best option is to avoid scratching your itchy areas and let them heal naturally instead.

Potential Causes of Itchy Underarms

It is common for people to ask, "why do my armpits itch?" but the answer is not always simple. Many people will experience the discomfort and annoyance of itchy underarms at some point and because there are many possible causes, it is not always easy to find the solution. In order to increase your chances of avoiding or quickly relieving the condition, it helps to understand the causes.

Common Ailments


Bacteria appear most in areas with sweat and dirt, so those who are very sweaty or dirty may experience a great deal of itching. You should always take shower after exercise to avoid this problem.

Laundry Detergent

Most of the time, itchy underarms are due to laundry detergent. The itching will affect any part of the body that touches clothing. Simply switching detergents should help.

Improper Shaving

If you use a dull razor or don't use shaving cream, your underarms may become itchy, dry, and irritated. Try to change your razor regularly and use proper shaving cream before shaving.


Some women will be allergic to the nickel, latex, rubber, or elastic in some bras. You can try to select bras that are made using natural materials instead.


This condition is very common and is usually called a rash. It affects areas where you have skin folds, mostly leading to itchy underarms or itching in the groin or lower abdomen. It is characterized by redness and itching in most cases, but sometimes the skin may be crusty or cracked or even ooze a liquid that smells foul. If intertrigo isn't treated, a bacterial or fungal infection may develop. Risk factors for this condition include poor hygiene, exposure to high humidity and heat, diabetes, and obesity.

Miliaria Rubra

This slightly common disease involves a heat rash and usually affects people who are on bed rest or are exposed to humid and hot environments for extended periods of times. It can also be known as prickly heat and the main symptoms are itchy underarms and red bumps. The condition is frequently triggered by blocked sweat glands, trapping perspiration under the skin. This disease is more common in the tropics.

Serious Conditions

Axillary Dermatitis

Axillary dermatitis may include atopic, allergic, or contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is considered the most common, and usually occurs when the skin contacts an irritant. Allergens coming in contact with skin may also lead to the reaction or rash. In most cases, sudden and painful rashes are due to contact dermatitis and allergic dermatitis takes a day or so to develop and be itchier.

Axillary Folliculitis

This condition is when at least one hair follicle in the armpit is infected, usually by a bacterial infection involving Staphylococcus aureus. Most of the time, folliculitis is superficial in nature, meaning that it can heal by itself in time. People with this condition notice small white pimples which itch and if there is deep folliculitis, there may also be scarring. In extreme cases, it may even be accompanied by boils. Axillary folliculitis is uncommon, but can be caused by spending time in a chemically imbalanced hot tub.

Axillary Hyperhidrosis

This is a sweat gland disorder leading to excessive sweating affecting the armpits. The causes aren't known and it can occur spontaneously. It may be related to the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for "fight or flight." Although the condition won't directly lead to itching, the excessive moisture can lead to peeling, then infections, then itchiness and irritation.

Axillary Lymphadenopathy

In this condition, the lymph nodes located underneath the armpits are enlarged. Most of the time, axillary lymphadenopathy will be due to a relatively benign disease, typically with the lymph nodes having an abnormal number, size, or consistency. Most of the time, this condition will be mild, with only itchy underarms or no symptoms. If the lymph nodes are larger, they will be monitored closely or removed.


This autoimmune disorder leads to the formation of red plaques on the skin. The skin will also flake and may be itchy. Inverse psoriasis, when red patches are smooth instead of flaky, may also occur in the armpits. The skin will be itchy and swollen. Inverse psoriasis can be caused by the skin folds associated with obesity.

Hidradenitis Suppurativa

This condition is also known as HS or acne inversa and affects the sweat glands in the groin, underneath the breasts, and along the armpits. The disease isn't contagious and includes clusters of cysts which may be large in addition to abscesses. When the abscesses burst, they may not heal or do so slowly. Symptoms include itching, pain, and tenderness.

Tinea Axillaris

This is ringworm of the armpits, or armpit fungus. Infections occur in the armpits because of the low light, high moisture, and high body temperature. Despite this, tinea axillaris is not very common and it is more likely to affect people with axillary hyperhidrosis, a condition with excess sweating.

When to See a Doctor

Itchy underarms can sometimes indicate a life-threatening condition. You should see a doctor immediately if the itchiness is accompanied by:

  • Changes in alertness or consciousness (like unresponsiveness or passing out)

  • Chills and fever

  • Joint stiffness and pain

  • Breathing or respiratory problems

  • Sudden swelling on the tongue, lips, or face

  • Throat tightness or constriction

  • Symptoms worsening during treatment

5 Quick Methods to Soothe Itchy Underarms

  • Keep Good Hygiene. As mentioned earlier, underarm itching may be due to poor hygiene. To avoid this cause, simply practice good hygiene.

  • Avoid Irritants. In many cases, deodorants will contain parabens, alcohol, fragrances, or aluminum, which can trigger a negative reaction. Test various products to see which ones will cause irritation or opt for a natural method, such as baking soda, potassium alum or lemon juice.

  • Stop Shaving. Shaving may lead to ingrown and infected hair follicles. Instead of shaving, try to use a depilatory agent or waxing.

  • Use Hot Compress. A hot, moist compress promotes drainage, but always change the compress between uses.

  • Apply Soothing Lotions. Try applying oils with vitamin E, aloe vera or tea tree oil. You can also try calamine lotion or taking an oatmeal bath.


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