Let’s chat natural armpit care! BUT before we do, I have to make a BIG announcement….
Now introducing, BEAUTY! She’s a brand new pillar to our Fed+Fit world. Give her a warm welcome.
This new topic of conversation started about two years ago. Curious and ever eager to learn more, I bought and then poured over Liz Wolfe’s Skintervention Guide. Her brilliant work in combination with my own continued research inspired a gradual overhaul of my makeup, skin, hair, and oral care routines from conventional methods/products to more healthful and natural solutions. Throughout my beauty transformation, I’ve kept diligent notes, tested countless products, and concocted my own homemade (budget-friendly) alternatives. I’m left armed with a myriad of personal experiences that I’m just delighted to share.
We’re going to eat this elephant of a topic one bite at a time. As we work through this series, we’ll discuss all the pertinent what’s, why’s, and how’s of natural body care. If you’d like to read ahead and start your own overhaul today, I recommend you check out the Skintervention Guide.
Note: As you have probably gathered from my recipes and Instagram feed, I’m a proponent of “all things in moderation;” known by many as 80/20. I consider myself mostly (about 80%) squeaky clean with my Paleo-friendly foods and enjoy minor (about 20%) indulgences and compliances to the modern world around me. This lifestyle philosophy rings through to this new “Beauty” mainstay. While the foundation of my lifestyle is unprocessed, I do still believe that there is room for some modern conveniences.
What beauty topic should we cover first? Well, because we’re those people who don’t fret over jumping into personal conversations too soon, let’s talk about armpits!
Before we chat about all the ways we can source natural armpit care, we should cover some basic anatomy & physiology.
The armpit, also known as the axilla or underarm, is a hollow area located under the shoulder joint (duh?). It’s generally very warm and home to several arteries, veins, nerves, fat, skin, hair, sweat glands, breast tissue (especially in women), and a whole mess of lymph nodes.
Things get more interesting when a person starts to hit puberty. Hair follicles will develop and with them, those infamous apocrine sweat glands. Apocrine sweat glands are only found in a few distinct areas on the human body. They produce an odorless milky secretion that is home to our individual pheromones. Pretty neat stuff, if you ask this science nerd!
Fun fact: What’s the point of underarm hair? It’s not like we need to keep warm down there, after all. Some believe that underarm hair is an evolutionary adaptation to help provide more surface area for natural pheromones to “air out.”
Why the sweat?
Apocrine sweat glands respond to raised adrenalin levels (due to stress/anxiety) with more and more sweat secretions. This is why you tend to sweat more in your underarms during stressful job interviews or first dates; your nervousness spikes adrenalin levels, which in turn creates more moisture.
Why the stink?
A little moisture and natural pheromones are well and all, but stinky armpits are something else. What causes the stink? It’s not the sweat! You heard me right. The sweat secretions are not responsible for the stink. There are certain strains of bacteria that like to hang out in armpits and live off of the proteins and fats found in those special sweat secretions. The metabolized bacterial by-product is what stinks. Liz includes a neat tip for quick bacterial maintenance in her Skintervention Guide.
Another fun fact: Armpit hair also serves as protection for the stink-producing bacteria. Can’t seem to shake the stink? Try a shave then thorough cleaning.
Current Armpit Care Options
Now that we’re all on the same page about the structure and purpose of the armpit, let’s briefly overview both the conventional and natural armpit care methods used to stop the sweat and stink side by side.
Note: “Conventional” refers to the modern-day, more toxic, more processed, generally less healthful products and methods presently available.
Homemade Deodorant Paste
Natural Deodorant Stick
|Purpose||Allow your body to detoxify and sweat as nature intended!||Help reduce wetness and odor; essential oils may be added for perfume and other healing effects.||Helps reduce wetness and odor; essential oils added for perfume effect.||Minimize bacterial growth, typically include perfume to mask any present odors.||Often combined with a “deodorant,” they’re designed to minimize sweat production and therefore, minimize bacteria by creating a dry environment.|
|Applicator||None||Remove from jar using fingers or cotton ball||Stick||Stick or spray||Stick or spray|
|Risk||None||Little to none||Little to none||Concentrated presence of toxic materials: parabens (pictured above exclude), propylene glycol, and many with aluminum.||Inhibit healthful sweating and natural detox. Toxic materials: aluminum, parabens, triclosan, etc.|
|Products||None||Coconut oil + baking soda + optional essential oils||Primal Life Organics||Not advised||Only for special circumstances|
Why go natural?
The detailed advantages of a natural armpit care regimen vs. conventional are often long and deliciously debatable. (I love debates.)
Instead of boring you with those details that may inadvertently cause you to wind up at a cocktail party arguing whether aluminum is a leading cause of Alzheimer’s disease or not (one example), we’ll summarize it like this…
In this modern world, toxins in the air, water, food, cosmetics, household cleaners, and a nauseating number of other pollutants surround us. This causes our bodies to stall in a constant, exhausting state of detox. Can we continue to get by using all conventional (mostly toxic) methods? Absolutely. Our bodies are made to heal and are up for the challenge, at least for a time. Are we thriving and living powerfully in this state? Absolutely not.
Eliminating the slathering of random chemicals and metals (in the form of conventional deodorants and antiperspirants) we apply to our armpits on a daily basis is one way we can step a little closer to reducing our total load.
What are the natural options?
The three natural armpit care options I want to discuss are: bare, homemade pit paste, and the Primal Life Organics Pit Stick (my personal favorite).
1. Bare: If this interests you, I support you 100%. I know a few strong men who choose to workout early in the morning, shower before work, and go deodorant-free the rest of the day. They may sweat some, but there’s no stink and they report feeling great.
2. Homemade Pit Paste: This is easy as pie. Melt about 1 tablespoon of coconut oil, add a couple drops of your favorite essential oil, and stir in about 1/3 cup (or enough to form a thick paste) of baking soda. As for baking soda, look for 100% sodium bicarbonate. Keep it in a jar on the counter and apply with your fingers.
3. Primal Life Organics Pit Stick: MY FAVORITE! It’s handy, it’s dandy, their options smell lovely, and I’m totally stink and mostly moisture-free.
Check out the Primal Life Organics website HERE. If you’re reading this on or before July 11th in 2014, make sure you enter the code “fed&fit with PLO” for 15%-off your entire purchase!!
Note: As with all the methods described above, there will be an adjustment period. Your body will attempt to play catch-up and detox whatever chemicals are present. You may sweat more at the beginning, but it will even out.
So, are antiperspirants out altogether?
I understand that while we now know that pit sweat doesn’t equal stink, there are still some high-pressure occasions where we’d rather not sweat though that strapless silk bridesmaid dress or perfect power pantsuit you picked out for your dream job interview. For those occasions, I keep a stick of antiperspirant on hand. It’s an exception, not the rule.