I’ve been a member of the Hairy Pits Club for about a year, and in that time, I’ve dealt with a lot of the issues that come with body hair--most of which are odor-related. The good news is that unlike the opinions of random strangers on the street, you can exercise some control over your body odor.
Body odor comes from the bacteria native to your sweat. Bacteria thrive in warm, moist environments. Hair is really great at keeping stuff warm and moist. Hairy armpits are warmer and moister than shaved armpits. Armpit hair itself doesn’t make you smelly or dirty, but it has the potential to aggravate your stink problems.
Basic Underarm Hygiene
I’ll start with the obvious: wash your armpits. It’s not something I ever did consciously while I was still shaving. I would just put my arms above my head in the shower to shave, and soap and water got in there. If you aren’t shaving, you have to actively get water and maybe even some soap in your armpits. Wash, rinse, and when you’re done, dry off your pits with a towel. Deodorant goes onto dry hair more easily than wet hair.
What kind of deodorant is best for hairy armpits? I’ve tried a few.
Deodorant & Antipersperant Options
Solid: When I first stared growing my hair out, I kept using my same solid Dove Clinical Protection Antiperspirant/Deodorant combo. It was fine. But depending on how hairy your 'pits are, solid deodorant can have a hard time actually reaching your skin.
Gels: Gel-type deodorants work a little better, but I’ve found they take a little while to dry. No more than a two or three minutes, but that’s still two or three minutes of jelly in your armpits. Personally, I’m not a big fan of squelchy armpits, but if antiperspirant properties are important for you, gels are going to be your best bet.
To work properly, an antiperspirant has to get to your skin, onto the surface of your sweat glands. Hair makes it harder for the antiperspirant to get to your armpit skin because it sits on top of your skin. A solid can get to some areas of your skin if you work it into your hair, but a gel is more effective, because it can move through your hair onto your skin. I’ve noticed a lot of deodorants marketed to men are gel formulas, and this probably has a lot to do with hair.
Spray: I’ve never tried spray-on deodorants, but I would imagine they would work pretty well. I haven’t seen a spray-on antiperspirant, but I can’t say I’ve looked that hard.
Roll-On: I once had a liquid deodorant, which was great. You applied it with a big fat roller ball. It seeped through the hair into the skin, but without the squishy gel feeling. Roll-ons may be less common than they once were in the U.S., but I’ve also seen them in Europe and Africa.
Nature's Deodorant: You can also try lemons for getting rid of stink bacteria.
My 'Pit Fragrance of Choice
Lately, I’ve been using Tom's of Maine, the Official Deodorant of Hairy People, and it’s…OK. It looks pretty gross going on, but when it dries up it masks mild armpit odor pretty effectively. Since Tom's isn’t an antiperspirant, and really just armpit fragrance, it doesn’t need to get onto the skin to be effective. It smells just as sweet whether sitting on your hair or your skin.
Hairy pits can be a lot of fun, but they’re still stigmatized in some circles (like with your conservative family members, and also people you’ve never seen before in your life). Making sure your armpits smell nice can go a long way toward convincing people (i.e. your scandalized mother) that you’re not losing your mind.
- Are you now, or have you ever been, a member of the Hairy Armpit Party?
- What are your best tips for keeping your 'pits smelling sweet?
- Is there a halfway-decent synonym for armpits?