If ever there was a time to ditch the razors, waxing strips and laser appointments, it’s been this past homebound year.
The sight of singer and songwriter Julia Michaels on the red carpet at last month’s (mostly virtual) Grammys baring her armpit hair in a strapless Georges Chakra couture gown confirmed it.
Michaels, who joins the likes of Julia Roberts, model Emily Ratajkowski, Sophia Loren and Madonna in (sometimes) ditching the razor in glorious fashion, joked about stopping shaving her armpits back in May, tweeting: “Social norms can eat an eggplant.”
Indeed. But whether or not you too have forgone razors, the underarm area is one that requires special attention.
As Lucy Shaw, education manager at beauty retailer Mecca, puts it: “Looking after the underarm area is really important. This is because this area is prone to irritation from moisture and rubbing, which can make it less tolerant [of] the products we use every day, like soap and deodorant.”
Her tips for sensitivity include avoid applying deodorant directly after shaving (if you choose to do so). “Shaving takes off the top layer of dead skin cells, so while it leaves the area silky smooth, it can also leave [it] vulnerable to irritation – shaving in the evening should help with this,” she says.
Shaw also suggests opting for a pH balanced body wash such as Frank Body Clean Body Wash, because it won’t strip natural moisture barriers like traditional soaps can.
“This means your precious microbiome can continue to defend itself against the odour-causing bacteria while leaving the underarms hydrated and protected,” she says.
“Finally, if you’re prone to ingrown hairs, lumps and bumps, be sure to exfoliate regularly and extend your body moisturiser to this area; this will keep the skin soft and ensure that when underarm hairs grow they won’t get stuck under the skin and cause havoc. A weekly treatment like the Dr Dennis Gross Body Peels is a great option.”
Vicki Engsall, co-founder of The Jojoba Company, agrees the underarm area needs to be treated gently, and advises regular exfoliation.
“The first step should always be to clean the area with a gentle cleanser in a circular motion. Exfoliation is the next step before shaving or waxing, as dead skin cells accumulate over time, which can create a breeding ground for bacteria and clogged pores. Exfoliation is also key to remove that layer of deodorant that never really washed off properly. Again, it’s important to choose a gentle and natural formula,” she says.
Her pick? The Jojoba Company Jojoba Bean Natural Exfoliant, which uses natural jojoba that helps slough away dead skin cells as well as moisturising.
As Engsall notes, regular exfoliation 24 hours after shaving or waxing two or three times per week will also help prevent ingrown hairs and bumps that come with regrowth.
Meanwhile, if you’ve been wary in the past of natural deodorants, now might be the time to give them a try. For one thing, they’ve long left behind any crunchy incense connotations, with the likes of Le Labo and Drunk Elephant offering up seriously luxe (and crucially, effective) versions.
Shane Young, co-founder of New Zealand natural-deodorant brand Essano, says it took years of development to create a roll-on deodorant the brand was happy with.
“After trialling natural ingredients from around the world, Essano’s on-site chemists discovered four new-technology, natural actives proven to effectively destroy and inhibit the bacteria that cause odours.”
Ultimately, whether you’re making a statement about body norms, seriously can’t be bothered or will never give up a silky smooth pit, the underarm is an area deserving of your attention.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.