Let’s talk about armpit hair. And here you thought that by “hair specialists” we only meant hair on the head? Nope!
The armpit area is often the first odour-causing body part we think of – but not the only one. The armpit on its own doesn’t have a scent, but it can excrete scent that can sure be yech! And this scent can be worse when we’re stressed or even as a result of the body detoxing from eating not-so-favourable food and drinks.
So we’ve been trying to mask the smell since 1888 (when the first deodorants were invented) and later by using antiperspirants, meant to cancel-out the natural production of sweat (launched in 1903).
But the body only has a few ways of detoxing, and sweat is one of the most effective.
So is shaving your armpit hair a good thing
or a bad thing?
Does shaving your armpit hair help
to repel body odour?
First off, there’s a lot happening in the armpit.
The fact is that hair protects the skin and all those bodily functions happening underneath it. Whether on your head, legs, face or armpits, having hair is a good thing and often not recommended to shave it all off, just as it’s not recommended to have your whole body tattooed.
The armpits are an important area of the body because there’s a lot of body function happening under all that hair: There are approximately 20 clumps of lymph nodes that filter out toxins out of tissues and produce lymphocytes, or immune cells that fight infection. Lymph nodes work in the body just like drain hole covers work on a road full of rain water – it helps to drain. These axillary lymph nodes also help to drain 75% of the lymph nodes from the breasts. Yes, they're important.
There is also some healthy bacteria (part of the skin’s microbome), and we each have our own personalized armpit bacterial communities that protect it.
So you see, the armpit hair is protecting all that’s happening in the armpit; it’s not there without reason or function!
Why did we start shaving?
For some people, shaving their armpit is a traditional or cultural (or sometimes religious) matter. For some it’s medical. And for some, it’s cosmetic because we think it looks prettier to be hairless. For most of us, shaving is just a matter of social expectation or done because we were taught to do so – because we grew up seeing our parent(s) do it and automatically accepted it as the “thing to do” once you start growing armpit hair.
Women began shaving their armpits since an advertisement in Harper’s Bazaar told them it had to be done in order to engage in social dancing, and it was objectionable to have hairy armpits. This is going back to the early 1900s. And many of us still feel shaving is a must!
Do we still feel shaving
makes us feel more feminine?
We’d love to read your comments on this one…
Does armpit hair trap odour?
The fact is that armpit hair does not cause odour; it may contribute to trapping odour that is caused by the quickly-multiplication of odour-causing bacteria, but that’s easily and more healthily-removed by doing a simple pit washing daily. No need to shave it all off, just wash it using a gentle, pH balanced soap or a body cleanser.
There are many causes for body odour, including the obvious like exercise and hot weather, but there are other reasons your pits can be stinkier than usual, like stress or anxiety, being overweight and even genetics. Some medical conditions like diabetes, menopause and kidney disease can also cause a change in the body odour smell-o-meter. The important thing to remember is that you just never want to stop the armpit from sweating altogether, for example by using anti-perspirants, because this can only make matters worse by trapping harmful bacteria under the skin.
Some foods can also make your sweat smell more pungent and pronounced, like eating too much red meat, brassica veggies (broccoli, cauliflower and brussel spouts), and yes, onions and garlic. MSG (Monosodium glutamate), caffeine and spicy foods like curry have been shown to spike up the scent.
So as you can see, although armpit hair does not cause odour, it can trap odour but it also has much more important protective functions.
What’s more important to you?
What do you think will affect your health more in the long run, or does that even concern you at this point in your life?
The armpit shaving “fk it” movement.
Mintel, a Chicago-based market research company conducted a survey of 16-24 year old women, on their opinion about shaving, and apparently, shaving your armpits is on the decline – from 84% down to 77%. Many celebrities have also opted-in for the au-naturel look of the pit, and that number is only growing yearly. Part of the empowerment journey of doing your own thing and being your own self, regardless of what the media says.
The pandemic has also increased the number of anti-pit shavers, as well as anti-leg shavers. Many were stuck at home so shaving was felt to be unnecessary, and then the trend continued onward. How do you feel about it?
Reasons why some women shave their armpit hair:
They’re embarrassed to go hairy
The feeling they’re perceived as more manly or unkept
The misconception that hair will trap odour
Shaving one’s armpits continues to be a personal choice, yet it’s nice to see how much more acceptable we are becoming to allow everyone’s freedom of choice.
We’d love to know what your preferences are – do you shave your armpits? do you use deodorant or anti-perspirants? Is it a cultural topic or health matter for you? Are you a male who chooses to shave their armpit hair? Comment below and let’s have a conversation.
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