Psoriasis in the Armpits

“Hello darkness my old friend,” is the song I imagine my armpit psoriasis would sing if they could sing. We talk a lot about psoriasis on the elbows, knees, and scalp, but what about psoriasis in your armpits?

What makes it worse, what makes it better? Should I use regular deodorant? How do I shave? Here are some answers based on my personal experience.

What kind of psoriasis is in the armpits?

Let’s get this out of the way first, I’ve never been super clear on whether inverse psoriasis specifically goes after your skin folds or if it is just regular psoriasis in a skin fold (which then turns psoriasis a little different by virtue of its unique location). Because I’m not 100% sure, I’ll level-set by saying that I have guttate psoriasis that often ends up in my armpits.

I’ve also had guttate psoriasis under my breasts, where it’s been extra sensitive because of the moisture/rubbing. Is my psoriasis in these locations a little different? Yes. It’s less scaly and often more irritated/painful and a characteristic of how inverse is described. I’ve still never been told by my dermatologist that it’s classic inverse. That aside, what do I do about it?

Treatments options for psoriasis in the armpits?

Many of the same rules apply to armpits as they do to other skin folds – you can’t use regular strength topical creams here (think steroids). The skin in your armpits is thinner and therefore absorbs topical medications more easily. In addition, armpits create a natural “occlusion.” If your doctor has ever recommended covering your skin cream with dressings or saran wrap, this is occlusion. It increases the potency by keeping the medication in contact with the skin longer and increasing absorption.

Armpits are a double whammy. That means they’re extra prone to thinning or stretchmarks from steroid use. Make sure to tell your dermatologist or pharmacist if you’re planning to use prescription creams in your armpits as they may recommend a milder treatment for this area. I’ve also been for two separate rounds of phototherapy and have found it just as effective in my armpits as on the rest of my body.

Does deodorant affect psoriasis in the armpits?

Nothing like the burn of deodorant first thing in the morning, am I right?! Lots of people have trouble finding a deodorant that doesn’t irritate their psoriasis. In the past, I’ve had some success with deodorants designed for sensitive skin. Some of our favorite lotion brands, like Eucerin and Vaseline, make deodorants too. You may find that aluminum, parabens, and heavily scented brands irritate your skin, so avoid those where possible.

What’s ultimately worked for me is making my own deodorant at home. I mix a bit of baking soda and arrowroot powder with lots of coconut oil. The baking soda eliminates any smell, the arrowroot powder absorbs excess moisture, and the coconut oil keeps everything moisturized. I’ve been using this for years! If you find baking soda irritating, take it out and throw in some shea butter with tea tree, lemongrass, or rosemary oil instead. I’ve also seen people use zinc in DIY deodorants (and we know psoriasis loves zinc).

How does hair removal impact psoriasis in the armpits?

Last up… to shave or not to shave? I do still shave on occasion, but I make sure to soften everything up with coconut oil first. When your armpits are fairly clear, you may even consider going for laser hair removal. But if you’re mid-flare, or your armpits are always super angry and irritated, neither of these options seems attractive.

My advice? Electric razors. They keep hair short and manageable without any of the pain. Because they just shorten the hair, there’s no problem with the Koebner Phenomenon from shaving nicks, or from ingrown hairs 3 days later. I would definitely avoid waxing or hair removal creams. Life’s too short for that kind of agony. Or skip the hair removal all together and go natural. If men can do it, why not the ladies too?

I’d love to hear all about your armpits and treatment options in the comments.

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