While many people associate blackhead outbreaks with the forehead, chest, and tip of the nose, this type of mild acne can erupt nearly anywhere on the body. Because of the presence of hair follicles and the tendency for sweat and oil to gather in the underarm area, many acne sufferers will notice blackheads popping up in this part of the body.
Read on for more details about the causes of underarm blackheads and the various treatment options available to you:
What Causes Underarm Blackheads?
The following are the main causes of underarm blackheads:
- Oil and Impurities - Blackheads form when oil and impurities begin to clog the openings of the body's hair follicles. Because these follicles are prevalent in the underarm area, it is not uncommon for blackheads to take root and form here. The thin and delicate skin under the arm also makes it more susceptible to skin issues. When the hair follicles fill with excess sebum and other impurities, the blackheads will erupt and rise to the surface of the skin, causing an unsightly appearance.
- Genetics - While some of the causes of underarm blackheads may be under your control, there are also contributing factors that are pre-determined. Your genetic profile plays a large role in determining if you are at risk of developing blackheads. In addition, hormonal changes may cause an increase in blackhead flareups.
- Friction and Sweating - It does not take a lot of sweat for the skin to become irritated, leading to clogged pores and blackhead formation. This part of the body is subject to a large amount of friction due to the arms continually swinging back and forth. This friction causes inflammation of the skin and irritation in the armpits, creating a breeding ground for blackheads. The moisture that is a result of sweating only exuberates the friction and irritation, leading to a higher chance of blackhead outbreaks.
- Comedogenic Deodorant - Like any type of skincare product, it is important that you check the ingredients to ensure that you are not using treatments that may magnify a problem. Comedogenic deodorant will clog the follicles and increase the chances that blackheads develop.
- Shaving and Razor Bumps - The regular use of a razor on this delicate part of the skin increases irritation and friction. To combat this problem, be sure that the skin is properly hydrated before using the razor. It is also important to not use dull razors when shaving, as they may introduce new bacteria to the skin.
How to Get Rid of Underarm Blackheads
Here are the most effective methods to get rid of underarm blackheads.
- Cleansing - Every effective blackhead treatment routine begins with the cornerstone of good cleansing. Choosing a water-soluble cleanser provides the best protection against blackhead eruptions. Be sure to clean the area every day, taking care to not make the skin overly dry.
- Exfoliating - A good exfoliating routine can mean the difference between clear skin and blackheads. This process uses a thin layer of chemicals applied to the face to lift away dead skin cells and clear out clogged pores. People looking to clear up comedogenic acne such as blackheads should look for products that contain beta hydroxy acid (BHA). This acid is most commonly known as salicylic acid. BHAs are lipid-soluble. This means that they have the ability to dissolve in the oil that accumulates in the follicles and penetrate the pores to wash away the dead skin cells that cause blackheads to form.
- Proper Shaving - A clean razor and non-comedogenic shaving cream are the ideal tools to have on hand when looking to achieve a proper shaving technique. Clean razors will ensure that harmful acne-causing bacteria does not seep through the small breaks in the skin and lead to breakouts. A shaving cream formulated with non-comedogenic ingredients will ensure that the skin is properly hydrated and prepared for the razor to hit the skin.
Best Products for Underarm Blackheads
There are a variety of cleansers, mechanical exfoliation tools, and chemical exfoliants available on the market, and it can be tricky to determine which will work best for you. These are a few recommended products for underarm blackheads that you can implement into your routine.
1. CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser
This fragrance-free cleanser is a great option for both the face and the underarms. It contains three essential ceramides (1, 3, 6-II), which provide a gentle and moisturizing cleanse. It also contains hyaluronic acid, which helps to keep moisture in the skin. Additionally, the niacinamide is anti-inflammatory, and works to calm the skin. These ingredients are essential for effectively sweeping away debris on the skin, without irritating or drying it out.
How to Use: Cleanse the area 1 to 2 times daily in the shower. Be sure to use it as soon as possible after working out.
2. Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid
Salicylic acid is an excellent option for underarm blackheads. This specific exfoliant is incredibly popular due to its effective but gentle formula. It contains salicylic acid, a BHA that is able to get deep into pores to break up any clogging debris.
How to Use: Apply the product on clean, dry skin. Soak a cotton ball or round, and sweep the product across any area with active blackheads, as well as areas where you are prone to blackheads. Do not wash off the product.
3. Paula’s Choice RESIST Advanced Pore-Refining Treatment 4% BHA
This is the stronger sister-product of the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, containing a 4% concentration of salicylic acid for more stubborn underarm blackheads. This formulation can dry out the skin, so it is best to start slowly and build up your usage. Try applying it to the affected area every other day, and then work up to every day or twice a day if necessary. To avoid dryness, you might want to start with the Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid, and then move up to this product if you find you need something stronger.
How to Use: Apply the product on clean, dry skin. Soak a cotton ball or round, and sweep the product across any area with active underarm blackheads, as well as areas where you are prone to blackheads. Do not wash off the product.
4. My Konjac Sponge
If you are looking to go the mechanical exfoliation route, this product is for you. This konjac sponge is safe for all skin types, as it gently but effectively exfoliates the skin. It is also made with activated charcoal, which draws out oil and debris from the pores to help further cleanse and treat blackheads.
How to Use: Use this sponge with a facial cleanser, like the CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser recommended above. While taking a shower, get the sponge wet, and then add cleanser. Gently scrub the affected area to exfoliate and cleanse.
There are a number of professional options available to help get rid of stubborn underarm blackheads.
- Speak With a Dermatologist - A dermatologist is a good resource for you as you prepare to go to battle with these underarm blackheads.
- Armpit Blackhead Extraction - One of the most popular professional treatments is an armpit blackhead extraction. This process involves a dermatologist or esthetician using a blackhead removal tool to manually extract the blackheads. While this is a good treatment for immediate removal, you will still need to practice good preventative practices to keep the blackheads from returning.
How long does it take to get rid of underarm blackheads?
There is no definitive answer on when you should expect the underarm blackheads to begin to disappear. For most people, it will take about 4-8 weeks to see results. So long as you are using the right exfoliant and are committed to performing the exfoliation regularly. It may take longer than this but the key is to remain consistent.
Do home remedies work for underarm blackheads?
There are many myths floating around the internet suggesting that natural remedies and at-home treatments may be the solution to eliminating blackheads. As with any type of skincare advice, it is important to stick to the proven methods of treatment. While you may find limited success, at-home treatments are not always worth your time and money. Instead, seek out proven treatments for underarm blackheads.
Do blackhead extractors work to remove underarm blackheads?
The simple answer is yes. These specially designed blackhead extractors work when looking to remove the comedonal acne from under the arms. However, you should speak with a professional before trying to use the extractor on your own. Improper use of the tool may cause lasting damage to the skin and do more harm than good.
The Bottom Line
Blackheads can appear just about anywhere, including under the arms. By sticking with a targeted skincare routine and taking some preventative measures, you can help clear up current underarm blackheads and prevent new blemishes from forming in the future.