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Armpit Rash Causes, Painful Red Itchy and Treatments


Underarm or armpit rash can be unsightly, embarrassing, itchy, painful, cause a burning feeling or general discomfort. They affect male, female and children (baby, toddler or kids).

Underarm rash
Underarm rash

What causes rashes under armpits including the itchy, red or bumpy ones? How do they look like (their pictures)?  What are some of the treatments (ways to heal or cure), home remedies and tips for underarm rashes?

An armpit rash refers to a change of the underarm skin that affects its appearance color or texture. When you have it, your armpit skin might become red (change color), swollen, bumpy (raised pimple-like), chapped, cracked, scaly, flaky, blistered, spotty, blotchy, pus-filled, warm, painful (hurts) or painless.

Also, you might have armpit rashes that that won’t go away, ones that come and go or go away easily own their own even without treatment or the types that need treatment to heal.

Adults (male and female), as well as children or kids (including a toddler or baby), can suffer from this condition with a higher prevalence in people who are active in athletic activities, work in humid or hot conditions or have a sensitive skin type.

Finally, the can be severe or mild, on one armpit (right or left armpit), on both armpits (rash under both armpits) or areas around your armpits including at the top of your breast or the back side of your armpits. Sometimes the rash could begin at one spot and spread to other parts of your body.


Depending on the cause, some of the common symptoms you expect include a discolored skin (red or white colored- white rash), bumpy or pimple-like appearances and smell (could be odorous).

Also, it could be itchy, have circular rings, swell, ooze some discharge or pus, be warm, or cause a burning or inflaming feeling, tenderness or some pain (painful under armpit rash), among others.

Sometimes, then it might come alongside symptoms such as armpit swelling, runny nose, sweating, sore throat, headache, chills and fever, cough or joint pain and stiffness.

In case of joint stiffness and pain, purple rash, breathing problems (choking, wheezing, labored breathing), face, lip or tongue swelling, throat constriction or tightness, chills, and fever or a change in alertness or consciousness, seek emergency help.

Rash picture due to yeast infection

To help you visualize how they might look like, we have included an image below of an armpit rash caused by yeast infection.

Rash on underarm due to yeast infection
Rash on underarm due to yeast infection

This picture is only for illustration purposes. You might be suffering from the same causative reason, but yours might look slightly different depending on factors such as your skin complexion, sensitivity, and so on.

Reasons or causes

Effective rash on armpit treatment requires a proper diagnosis to determine the reason for its appearance.

In this part, we are going to focus on causes. However, while looking the various  causes, we will give you some ways to treat, heal or cure them. This treatment will be specific to the purpose. Later on, we will mention a few general cures that will include home remedies and cream.  So, what causes underarm rashes?

1. Underarm shaving rash

Armpit hair shaving using a razor, especially an old or dull blade can irritate, break, cause razor burn, raised red bumps, ingrown hair or even cause infections to the delicate and sensitive leading to an armpit shaving rash.

Some people will also have rashes after epilating or plucking hairs. For armpit hair removal, try waxing, laser hair removal, use shaving creams and make slow and short strokes to minimize skin damage.

2. Underarm heat rash and sweat rash

Another common cause is sweat rash which is primarily caused by blocked sweat ducts that “trap perspiration under your skin. Symptoms range from superficial blisters to deep, red lumps” [].

It commonly affects babies but can affect adults (men and women) too. See the below heat rash picture to get a hint on what you expect.

Besides blocked ducts, as heat increases, moisture, friction, and chafing in the underarm usually increase too, leading to discomfort and rashes. These rashes are “often pimply in appearance, or may have small raised bumps” [] and are common when temperatures are high especially during summer.

You do not need any heat or sweat rash treatment since it clears on its own. To help reduce the effect of heat on your armpits as well as heat rash under armpits symptoms, try to wear loose and cool clothing during hot seasons and use calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream to soothe it.

3. Underarm fungal rash  - candida or yeast

Having candida (yeast infection) on your underarm can lead to a rash. Commonly, they affect, “almost any area of the body, but are more commonly in intertriginous regions—where two skin areas may touch or rub together—such as armpits, the groin, skin folds, and the area between the fingers and toes” [].

Candida albicans thrives well in warm and moist environments, something your underarms will provide, especially if you have sweaty armpits. Furthermore, hot weather, poor hygiene and wearing tight-fitting or restrictive clothing allow candida infection multiply and spread.

People who are overweight, have diabetes, have undergone antibiotic therapy, have a weak immunity, e.g., suffering from HIV aids STD, work in wet conditions, have inflammatory disorders or pregnant, i.e., during pregnancy mothers have an increased risk of suffering from candida including an underarm fungal infection.

When you have candida fungus infection, you will have itchy rashes, red-purple patches (i.e., red circular rings), yellow or white substances on the affected area, scaling (or flakes), cracked skin, soreness, redness, pus-filled pimples on margins of regions affected, among other symptoms.

Treatment is by use of antifungal (OTC drugs such as ketoconazole, clotrimazole,) amphotericin B., nystatin, or anti-fungal lotions, ointments and creams.

4. Hidradenitis suppurativa

Hidradenitis suppurativa or acne inversa refers to “a painful skin disease causing abscesses and scarring of the skin” [] that often affects the anus, buttock, groin, breast and armpit areas but can spread to the neck, back, legs or face.  The cause is not apparent, but it is assumed to be inflamed hair follicles or blocked apocrine sweat glands.

Armpit rash due to Hidradenitis suppurativa
Armpit rash due to Hidradenitis suppurativa

This condition can be cured but corticosteroids, retinoid (vitamin A) based medications, adalimumab, biologics infliximab, ciclosporin, laser or surgical treatments among other treatments.

5. HIV

In its initial or early stages, HIV manifests itself with rashes which can affect various parts of your body, including armpits, chest, shoulders, and so on.

This usually occurs within two months of infection where you will have “flat or barely raised rashes with small reddish dots/ spots (i.e., spotty rash under armpit resembling eczema) in people with light skin, and dark purple/ black in people with dark skin” [].

Typically, the one caused by HIV is not itchy and will disappear within three weeks. However, If it is itchy, try hydrocortisone cream or Benadryl to reduce itching, avoid hot showers, direct sunlight or hot baths.

6. Deodorant and antiperspirants

If you are a fan of deodorants and you suffer from this problem quite often, it could be from the deodorant or antiperspirant you are using.  This happens if you are allergic to some of the ingredients present. Armpit rashes due to deodorants are often “itchy, bumpy, and red and can blister, peel, flake and ooze” [].

To avoid an underarm rash from deodorant, try changing your deodorant or antiperspirant, use hypoallergenic brands such as

  • Mitchum Roll-On Unscented (antiperspirant),
  • Almay Hypo-Allergenic Fragrance-Free Roll On
  • Stiefel B-Drier,
  • Crystal Stick Body Deodorant for Sensitive Skin

7. Contact dermatitis or allergic reactions

Allergic reactions to various chemicals such as soap, shaving creams, body lotions, cosmetics, certain synthetic clothing material, fragrances, or detergents used to clean your clothes can cause rashes especially red itchy rashes. Such rashes develop when any of things you are allergic to come in contact with your underarm skin.

8. Lymphoma cancer

Lymphoma can sometimes cause an “itchy rash… in skin folds” [] where armpits are no exception. It could come alongside lymphedema or swollen lymph nodes, and to be exact the armpit ones.

9. Armpit ringworms or tinea axillaris

Ringworm or tinea “causes a scaly, crusted rash that may appear as round, red patches on the skin” [] including on your underarm skin. You will also suffer from patchy hair loss, scaling, itching, blister-like lesions, among other symptoms.

10. Staph infection

Staph is a methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) resistant to beta-lactam antibiotic. There are two types, the CA-MRSA, associated poor hygiene, contact and touching contaminated things while the HA-MRSA related to surgical procedures, intravenous catheters, and so on.

The CA-MRSA often affects scratched, cut or rubbed areas as well as areas with more body hair “buttocks, armpits, back of the neck, and beard…yellow or white center and a central head” []. The infected areas become swollen (fluid filled), red and painful if you touch them.

CA-MRSA is treated with antibiotics or draining. Keep good personal hygiene and avoid sharing personal items (towels, razors, sheets, athletic equipment), shower after an athletic event, sanitize linens, wash hands regularly, and so on.

11. Other causes

Besides the above, rashes in armpits can be due some  reasons, or contributing factors, which include shingles (characterized by patchy red blisters filled with fluid, breaks easy and are itchy), folliculitis and diabetes (makes people susceptible to fungal infection)

Also, pregnancy (most women while pregnant are vulnerable to yeast infections) disseminated granuloma annulare and poor personal hygiene.

Other possible rashes under armpit causes include excessive sweating (axillary hyperhidrosis treated with 10-25% solution or gel of aluminum chloride hexahydrate and 1% hydrocortisone cream), dermatitis, ichthyosis, bites, and stings.

Finally, the reshes could be due to eczema (itchy, red and skin dryness due to inflammation common in children or kids but also adults – male and female get it), impetigo, Lyme disease, pityriasis rosea, Kawasaki disease, psoriasis, acne, cellulitis, hives, among many others.

Can a child get it?

If your child has underarm rashes, the common causes in children or baby include heat rash, eczema, rubella, fungal or yeast infections, seborrheic dermatitis, contact dermatitis, erythrasma, Acanthosis nigricans, psoriasis, ringworms, among others

When Itchy

We have seen most of the causes. We now want to focus on what makes some of the rashes to be itchy and mention something small on treatment.

Some of the typical itchy underarm rashes include shingles, psoriasis, eczema, lymphoma (a cancer type that affects lymph nodes), ringworms, contact dermatitis, deodorant rashes, HIV rashes, fungal or yeast infections, folliculitis, among others.

To deal with itchy ones, you need to treat the underlying cause, i.e., the itchy armpit rash treatment will depend on what causes it.

Also, you can try the various tips and home remedies (discussed later) to help soothe your itchy rash under armpits as well as applying pastes of fruit peels, fresh basil leaves or peppermint leaves. Apple cider vinegar, aloe vera, clay, and oatmeal will also be useful.

Finally, avoid temptations to scratch even when the urge or burning sensation is there, try cold compresses, cold bath, use anti-inflammatory medications, antihistamines, creams such menthol, phenol camphor, pramoxine, diphenhydramine, benzocaine, as well as hydrocortisone containing creams.

Red rash under armpit

Besides being itchy, your rash could also be red (dark red or brownish red). It could have burning sensation (burn), be sore, bumpy, painful or painless, affect male or female or child (toddler or baby), ooze clear or yellow discharge, and affect other areas such as buttock or groin areas.

The exact symptoms that come with a red rash in armpit will depend on what caused it. Some of the common cause of red rashes under the armpit include shaving, fungal infection, candida or yeast, folliculitis, HIV, some deodorant, contact dermatitis, disseminated granuloma annulare, lymphoma, tinea axillaris, shingles, eczema among many others.

If painful or hurts

Sometimes, then it might be tender and sore (or have a burning sensation, i.e., a burning rash under the armpit).

The pain can be a dull, severe or a sharp and the rash could also be red, itchy or bumpy. Some of the common cause of a painful rash under armpit include hidradenitis suppurativa, staph infection, ringworms, shingles (are very painful), and cellulitis, hives, eczema, folliculitis, some allergic reactions among others.

To help relieve it when it's painful, try the various home remedies and some of the general tips to get rid of skin rashes. Furthermore, topical creams to reduce pain, as well as prescribed medications for painful skin or armpit rash will be okay. First, see your doctor if you want prescribed medications.

Underarm rash treatment, remedies, and cures

Having rashes under armpits is not only uncomfortable but also embarrassing and unsightly. They might cause pain, itchiness and a burning feeling.

Therefore, it is essential to ensure you get the right treatment. How you are going to treat underarm rash will depend on what caused it. While discussing each trigger, we already mentioned briefly some of the ways to heal that armpit rash.

In general, to treat ones caused by viruses, antivirals are used, those caused by bacterial require antibiotics while those rashes caused by fungal or yeast will need antifungals.

To help relieve some of the symptoms of underarm rashes, try home remedies, anti-inflammatories, antihistamines (in case it is due to allergies) as well as other over the counter and prescription medications.

 Home remedies

Some of the natural or home remedies to cure as well as relieving some symptoms such as inflammation, itchiness, redness, tenderness or pain include:

  • Icepacks - Applying ice packs (or ice wrapped in a clean piece of cloth) to reduce itching
  • E oil, aloe vera and tea tree oil - Apply vitamin E oil, aloe vera and tea tree oil to soothe and reducing inflammation.
  • Vitamin C intake – increase intake to reduce skin infections
  • Lemon – swipe a slice of lemon under your armpit to help kill bacteria as well as act as a natural deodorant. Don’t do this immediately after shaving.
  • Diluted tea tree oil – apply to kill fungus and reduce itchiness
  • Baking soda – add about a half teaspoon of your bathing water or dust a little baking powder on your underarm to make it drier.

Other helpful remedies for treating this problem include applying a mixture of lavender and coconut oil (gets rid of rash irritation), crushed fresh strawberries and heavy cream (soothes irritation and reduces visibility) and apply neem leaves paste (has antiseptic and antibacterial properties).

use of cream

Since cure method depends on its cause,  the specific creams, lotions, gels or ointments we use depends on the cause. We are not going to list any creams but let you know that antifungal creams treat yeast or fungal and antibiotic cream when the cause is bacterial.

Some of the treatment cream such as hydrocortisone, Benadryl, calamine lotion can soothe your skin after a mild irritation (with itching, discomfort or pain).

General tips to get rid of armpit rash

Besides treatments, creams, and home remedies, here are a few general tips that will help you get rid of underarm rashes efficiently:

  • Keep proper personal hygiene and ensure you thoroughly clean the rash area (use a mild soap to clean it at least twice a day).
  • Wear loose clothing made from natural fibers.
  • Applying cornstarch layer can help dry out the rash
  • Place a thick, soft piece of white cloth to reduce friction as well as skin sticking together especially when sedentary.
  • For speedy recovery, stop using deodorants, antiperspirants, fragrances, body creams or lotions until you get well unless prescribed by a dermatologists or physician.
  • Ensure your room is well conditioned, especially if you have rashes during months that have warm weather.
  • Use anti-chafing powders

Sources and references


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