How to Deal with Irritating Armpit Chafing

An active summer can lead to uncomfy armpit chafing. This guide will help you heal.

Photo: Getty Images

It's bare arm season, and while that free feeling is wonderful, it comes with some potential friction: Wearing tank tops, sports bras, and swimsuits lets the skin under your arms rub against itself, increasing its sensitivity.

Sweat makes things worse. It's tacky, and as the moisture evaporates, it leaves rough, irritating salt particles behind. "It's the perfect cocktail for skin flare-ups, like chafing and rashes," says Elizabeth Kiracofe, M.D., a dermatologist in Chicago. You're not in the clear when the weather cools off either. Skin tends to become even drier, so instead of gliding, it can skid painfully. When your skin has been rubbed the wrong way, ease the discomfort, then make moves to prevent it from happening again. Here, the game plan for armpit chafing.

Soothe Irritation

Try a back-to-basics approach to armpit chafing. "Think of it as a skin diet, cutting out any products that could exacerbate the problem," says Dr. Kiracofe. Scrubs and exfoliants should be the first to go. Although your instinct may be to exfoliate rough, flaky patches, they can add to the trauma, she says.

Fragrances are unlikely to be the primary cause of your armpit-chafing flare-up, but they can be irritating when skin is already sensitized. Smooth a fragrance-free lotion, like Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion (Buy It, $13, on the chafed areas to calm and protect them. Then, if you have a rash, a bit of gentle, OTC hydrocortisone cream, like Vanicream HC (Buy It, $10,, helps dial down the inflammation, says Dr. Kiracofe.

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Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion

Cetaphil Moisturizing Lotion
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Vanicream HC

Vanicream HC

Stop Future Armpit Chafing

Sweat tends to be what takes your pits from a little rawness to full-blown dermatitis — an umbrella term for any skin inflammation — so it's a good idea to control your perspiration. If you're prone to dermatitis and currently using a deodorant, then consider an antiperspirant that contains aluminum. This helps plug sweat glands and reduces moisture significantly, says Dr. Kiracofe. (

To prevent armpit chafing, try DERMAdoctor Total Nonscents Ultra Gentle Antiperspirant (Buy It, $30, Next, protect the skin around the armpit — the area that experiences the most chafing, say from the edge of your sports bra during a long run — by applying an anti-chafe balm, like Vaseline All-Over Body Balm Jelly Stick (Buy It, $6,, before your workouts.

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DERMAdoctor Total Nonscents Ultra Gentle Antiperspirant

DERMAadoctor Total Nonscents Ultra Gentle Antiperspirant
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Vaseline All-Over Body Balm Jelly Stick

Vaseline All-Over Body Balm Jelly Stick
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