Last updated on November 29th, 2018 by Garrick Dee
Shaving your armpits comes with its own challenges because this area accumulates a lot of oil, sweat and barely sees the light of day.
To help you understand how to properly shave your underarms let’s look closely beneath the surface.
Did you know that our body has two different sweat glands?
First type is called the eccrine gland that produces sweat for most of the extremities (body, legs, etc.).
It is responsible for cooling the body down during intense heat or aerobic activity.
Second type is the apocrine gland found in areas with dense hair growth such as the armpit and pubic area.
Apocrine glands produces sweat that contains more protein and fat which equates to a thicker and stickier sweat.
The armpit’s damp and moist environment makes it a perfect home for different kinds of bacteria, good and bad.
Microbiologist Alex Berezow (American Council on Science and Health) says that “secretions our armpits make don’t stink”. The bad odor comes from the interaction of bacteria found on the armpit and sweat.
Hair growing on your armpits amplifies the odor issue because it provides bacteria with more real estate to break down sweat and produces unpleasant odor.
Shaving armpit hair thus decreases space where bacteria can feed off sweat.
It also increases the effectiveness of deodorants and antiperspirant products to block off sweat glands and kill bacteria because it has better access to the skin.
A little history
Shaving goes a long way back even before the straight razor was invented.
If you think cave men and women have hair all over their body, think again. Archaeologists believe otherwise.
According to History Undressed, men and women during the ancient times scraped off hair not because of vanity but for practical reasons.
Notice the language, the article said scrapped not shaved because that’s what they literally did.
Razors aren’t available back then so the both men and women had to use stones to scrape hair off their body.
They did it for various reasons most of which involve life and death. One of which is preventing frostbite during winter season.
Should you shave armpit hair?
The topic of shaving armpit hair is a controversial one to say the least.
Women who’ve chosen to ditch the razor don’t want to be limited to what they view as double standard set by men.
But when you boil it down, it all boils down to personal preference. There are women who still shave their armpits.
A lot of them are celebrities and you’ll see them in a Subreddit called “Celebrity Armpits”.
This list includes names such as Emma Watson, Kirsten Dunst and much more.
Now let’s compare these two women and you be the judge.
It’s all personal preference, women (and men) shave their armpits for the following reasons:
- Hygiene – they don’t want smelly pits and lots of hair equate to bad odor
- Aesthetic – they don’t want hair sticking out of their pits and pubes while wearing their bathing suites
- Practical – swimmers shave all of their body hair and that includes armpit hair to reduce drag during competition
I can’t stress this enough, choosing to shave or not to shave will boil down to what you want. There’s no really right or wrong.
If you don’t feel comfortable having hair under there or you think it’s getting a little too stinky then shave. Otherwise don’t shave at all.
With all the history and social stuff out of the way, let’s get into the meat of this article.
How do I properly shave armpit hair?
Compared to other hair removal methods, shaving is perhaps the cheapest.
But shaving the armpit isn’t as straight forward as you might think. There is a process that you should follow.
Since this area is highly sensitive, you’ll need to take time to prep before dragging a razor across it.
What you do before the actual shaving process is as important if not more important.
Since the area is sensitive, you need to make sure to use as few passes as possible to minimize irritation.
If you’ve decided you want to shave your armpits, scroll down and read to see tips on making this a pain free process minus the razor burn, cuts and ingrown hair.
Thoroughly Clean Your Underarms
One of the best ways to prep for shaving underarms is by taking a hot shower before going to bed.
Steam from hot water will soften underarm hair and soap will remove excess oil, sweat, deodorant residue and dirt that could hinder the blades from doing its job.
Your armpits produces thicker sweat than other parts of the body like the face and legs. This alone should be good enough reason to thoroughly wash.
Never shave an armpit full of sweat, oil or deodorant residue because these contaminants will clog and reduce the effectiveness of the razor.
Also the sweat produced in your underarms traps bacteria and if you cut yourself shaving, it will be easier to get an infection.
Exfoliating is the process of removing dead skin cells. There are two options – physical and chemical exfoliation.
Chemical exfoliation involves the use of chemicals to remove contaminants and dead skin.
Physical exfoliation involves the use of a nubby towel or loofah to physically remove dead skin cells.
If you’re using a towel make sure to use a new one every time. The last thing you want to expose your armpit to is a dirty towel.
You can also use homemade recipes made from natural ingredients.
This recipe includes the combination of 2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon organic honey and a teaspoon of lemon water then apply this in a gentle circular motion while in the shower.
According to the article, the benefits of this homemade scrub is threefold.
Honey hydrates underarms, the coarseness of brown sugar help remove dead skin cells (or exfoliate) and lemon has bleaching properties that whiten skin.
Dermatologists however warn against using lemon on underarms as it could potentially lead to a painful or unsightly burn.
Shave At Night
This tip applies best during the summer time where it is hot and humid (depending on where you live).
The best time to shave is during night time. Since shaving removes some protective layers of skin, immediately applying deodorant will increase risk to infection and irritation.
Shaving at night gives it enough time to recover. Sleeping 8 plus hours is one of the best ways to help shaved skin recover before applying any type of deodorant.
Doing it at night time allows you to relax so you don’t rush and make unnecessary mistakes.
Hydration Is Your Best Friend
Avoid dragging a razor on a dry armpit, it will create a lot of friction that could potentially irritate an already sensitive area.
To give you an example when my wife shaves, she does it inside a hot shower. Doing this does several things.
First the armpit area is clean and free of contaminants. Second hair follicles have swelled up making it easier to cut.
Other women also have suggested using shaving cream to add a layer of lubrication and prevent irritation.
Make sure to use a shaving cream formulated for the underarms because it will require a different pH.
Avoid using aerosol type gels because these products contain a lot of chemicals that could potentially dry and irritate armpits.
Always Use A Sharp Razor
The biggest cause of razor burn is a dull blade.
Since it does not cut as well as a sharp balde, the tendency is to put put more weight on it. This creates more friction that can lead to more irritation and razor burn.
Also a dull blade is often times dirty and you don’t want something dirty rubbing against a sensitive area of your body.
By using a sharp blade, you don’t need to put too much pressure.
This is an area you can’t cut corners on. Make sure to replace the razor every 3 to 4 uses.
If you have coarse hair, replace it more often.
Use A Razor Designed For Your Underarms
These products usually have a rubber handle to provide better grip inside the shower.
Most have between 2 to 5 blades with cushioning around the blades designed to reduce friction.
The shaving head also has rounded corners aimed for comfort and prevent accidental bruising.
Buy A Mini Razor Just In Case
The armpit area isn’t flat. If you look closely, you’ll notice that it has a lot of contours. And missing a spot is a common occurrence using a regular shaver.
This is were a mini-razor comes in. It is small enough to work on really tight spots.
The small shaving head of these products will help you navigate through hard to reach spots.
Raise Your Arm Over Your Head
To give the razor as flat a surface possible to cut hair follicles, you’ll need to raise your arm over your head at a 90 degree angle.
Avoid Going Against The Grain
Going against the grain simply means shaving opposite the direction of hair growth.
While it shaves closer, it also increases risk to irritation and ingrown hair. If you have sensitive skin, definitely avoid shaving against the grain.
Shave In All Directions
Underarm hair grows in different directions so try to shave not just downward but also sideways.
You could try to shave upwards but only do it if you don’t have sensitive skin. Remember to use short strokes and don’t put weight on the razor – let the blades do the work.
Start by shaving downward then across to the side. I wouldn’t recommend shaving upward as this goes against the grain.
Rinse Blades Often
After each stroke, the razor accumulates hair, gunk, dead skin and excess shaving cream.
These contain a lot of bacteria and you don’t want it touching your skin so make sure to rinse off the razor under hot running water so these contaminants don’t pile up.
Rinse it as often as you can, if possible rinse after each stroke. The hot water doesn’t necessarily disinfect the blade but it removes excess gunk that could possibly block the path of the razor.
A clean razor head cuts hair more effectively.
Rinse With Cold Water
Hot water opens up the pores of your skin so it is important that you finish off by rinsing your armpits with cold water to close pores and prevent any infection.
After rinsing make sure to pat dry with a clean and dry bath towel.
If you have sensitive skin make sure to wait a few minutes before applying any deodorant to give your skin a chance to recover from the exfoliating experience.
Keep Your Underarm Hydrated
You might be scratching your head on why you need to keep an already sweaty area hydrated but hear me out here.
Hydration and sweat are different. Sweat is what you call “bad moisture” what you want are “good moisturizers”.
These products help skin recover from the beating it took during the shaving process.
There are a lot of different ways to hydrate it.
Some suggest using coconut oil, yogurt, cucumber juice or lemon juice.
If you don’t want the hassle of prepping these natural ingredients then you can opt for a deodorant that contains avocado oil, glycerol or sunflower seed oil.
Some products you can try include the Nevia Dry & Comfort with Avocado Oil, the Dove Advanced Care or the Dove Clear Tone Antiperspirant.
To wrap up
Shaving armpits isn’t rocket science at all. With a little common sense and by following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to having great looking, hair free underarms just in time for bikini season minus the irritation and ingrown hair.
However, you may need to shave a few times per week because armpit hair grows twice as fast versus let’s say hair on the legs.
Don’t worry shaving will not make hair grow back faster or thicker and science has proven this.
If you have any additional tips that you’d like to share, I’d like to hear from you. Please comment below and share your personal tips that will make armpit shaving a more pleasant task.
Garrick spends his days researching and writing about grooming. When he’s not in front of his computer, you can find him hanging around with his wife and son.