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Don't Sweat It: Tips for Underarm Hygiene

Bromhidrosis is the medical term for excessive odor. Bromhidrosis occurs specifically under the arms, a.k.a. axilla, due to bacteria and it's interaction with apocrine sweat glands located in the axillary region. The sweat produced by apocrine glands is otherwise odorless. And like many of us have witnessed, this apocrine bromhidorsis phenomenon will occur commonly once puberty hits. The use of deodorant alone won't cut it as that is simply masking the problem. The goal should be to tackle the root cause. So, a key step in reducing unwanted odor in this area is to reduce the bacterial load.

Here are 4 solutions that can be quite effective at reducing odor causing bacteria. Happy #DermTipTuesday!


1. Antibacterial soaps

Dial® is a great example of a common antibacterial soap. It can be a little too harsh to wash the entire body with, but is great for the areas that have a tendency to produce unwanted odor. My male patients particularly love it.

Hibiclens® is another alternative and also available over-the-counter. It is a product that is frequently recommended in dermatology to cleanse the entire body when bacteria, such as staph aureus, is a culprit for recurring dermatologic conditions. Hibiclens® keeps killing microorganisms even after washing.

2. Citrus fruits

For my home remedy fans, I recommend using one half lime to cleanse each axilla a few times a week. This anti-septic citrus fruit is strong enough to kill bacteria but mild enough for sensitive axillary skin to tolerate.

3. Topical antibiotics

Clindamycin and erthromycin are topical antibiotics available via prescription and safe to use daily to reduce the bacterial load in the underarm area. These topical antibiotics are commonly used in the treatment of acne on the face and even safe for those who are pregnant.

4. Natural mineral salts

Looking for a natural alternative to deodorants or antiperspirants? Naturally occurring zeolite minerals may be for you.

Crystal® Body Deodorant Stick is one example. It's not your typical deodorant. It is made with mineral salts that create an environment where bacteria cannot survive. Although no research has been done to determine it's mechanism of action, it works and is strong enough for men. Even my husband uses it.

It is also a great option for those who develop allergic contact dermatitis from standard deodorants and are looking for a hypoallergenic substitute.


Seek care from a board-certified dermatologist if you have persistent bromhidrosis. We can examine the area and give appropriate guidance for what will work best for you and your skin type.

Look for next week's #DermTipTuesday where I discuss ways to reduce excessive sweating.

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