The return of armpit hair

Published September 3, 2020, 11:43 AM

by Paola Navarette

Madonna just let hers grow out, so would you?


Next time you reach for the razor in the shower, think again. Because armpit hair is back. Of course, it never went anywhere, but with a slew of famous faces (and empowering women) choosing to go au naturel this lockdown, eliminating the blade from your body care routine has never felt better—or more liberating.

Take for example Ashley Graham, who has been documenting the realities of postpartum life on social media. In many of the pictures, she’s flaunting her underarm hair. Lourdes Leon, who took the 2018 Vogue Fashion Fund Anniversary event with visible body hair, was seen sporting unshaven armpits during her mom Madonna’s 62nd birthday. 

They’re following in the footsteps of an array of personalities who have embraced body hair—Emily RatajkowskiMiley Cyrus, and Sophia Loren, to name a few—on the red carpet, in magazine shoots and, of course, all over Instagram. Put simply, armpit hair is being seen for what it is: entirely normal. 

But is armpit hair good for you? Dr. Sharmaine Sun, a board-certified dermatologist from Chinese General Hospital, says its presence has pros and cons.

“Armpit hair is there for a purpose, mainly as protection from friction and for ventilation,” she says. “It protects the skin from rubbing together by serving as a cushion. When you sweat, the sweat clings to the hair, thereby reducing irritation on the skin.”

It can also lead to better overall wellness for your sensitive skin. “When you shave, you can get rashes, inflammation, and even infections from dirty razors,” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Janet de Grano from Asian Hospital and Medical Center. “And when you wax your pits, you are prone to burns or irritation from chemical products.” 

But armpit hair, however, can become a breeding ground for bacteria, which thrive under the protective cover of the body hair. “Sweat is odorless, but when it’s combined with bacteria, there is a production of musky odor,” says de Grano. 

So should one grow out underarm hair or not? They say it depends on a person’s personal preference. It’s just important to understand the consequences of keeping it or getting rid of it. 

Whatever you decide to do with your hair, whether you want to laser it off for that smooth, baby skin effect or wear it proudly, we support you. And if you do decide to move ahead with the latter, here are some tips from the experts on how you can maintain it: 

Cleanse gently—but not too much

“When you grow out your underarm hair, a healthy cleansing regimen is important as you may have issues with sweating,” says Sun. 

Take inspiration from your facial routine: cleanse and moisturize.

“Wash it daily with mild antibacterial soap to prevent odor,” she says. “When it comes to keeping ingrown at bay, exfoliation in the shower works wonders. Counter dryness by using a deodorant with moisturizing properties.” 

Invest in trimming scissors

While an electric trimmer can be handy, Sun recommends cutting underarm hair with small cosmetic scissors. 

“Sterilize the blades with alcohol before using,” she says. “And if you can, please avoid plucking as this will lead to ingrown hairs and potential bacterial infection.” 

For better results, use a magnifying mirror, and if the hair is long enough, a fine-tooth comb can help hold it in place as you trim. 

Let it breathe

One benefit of underarm hair is that it protects the skin against irritation from uncomfortable fabrics. That said, airing it out is important. 

“Avoid tight clothing and let your underarm area breathe after a long day,” says de Grano. “Try to minimize sweating. Stay away from moisture-retaining synthetic fabrics and opt for organic cotton.” 

Stay healthy

As with skincare, hair care, and every other aspect of your wellbeing, the scent and health of your pits has—surprise, surprise—a whole lot to do with exercise and diet.

“Try to eat healthy, drink water, and exercise every day. These things that make your skin good are good for your underarms, too,” she says. 

Just because they’re hidden most of the time doesn’t mean your armpits aren’t affected by your habits. “The cleaner you eat, the more fruits and vegetables you have, the less you will smell,” de Grano adds.