Armpit Detox: Why People Do it, How it Works & What the Science Says

I know what many of you are probably thinking…

“Really? Another detox?” 

I get it!

From digital detoxes to cellular detoxes & juice cleanses, everyone seems to be talking about detoxing lately. 

But an armpit detox?? Huh?

Well, some people swear by it while others scough at it. 

Let’s dig a little deeper and answer a few obvious questions: 

  • What’s it gonna do for you? 

  • Does it even work? 

  • How does it compare to other detoxes?

And… how the heck do you detox your armpits anyway? 😂

What is an “Armpit Detox”? 

Simply stated, an Armpit Detox involves applying a mask to your armpits, just like you would to your face. The mask usually contains charcoal, clay, and apple cider vinegar. The whole idea behind an armpit detox is to help you make the transition from antiperspirant to natural deodorant easier. 

If you’ve ever made the switch before, you probably noticed (like thousands of others sharing their experiences on the internet) that you sweat and stink more than ever the first few weeks after making the switch. It’s definitely not pretty, but it’s normal. 

In a study conducted by the NC Museum of Natural Sciences’ Genomics & Microbiology Lab, it was found that there was an increase of certain bacteria responsible for the ‘smelly-ness’ in the armpits of people who used antiperspirants as soon as they stopped. [1] 

So why does this happen?

Well…when you use antiperspirant regularly, your body becomes dependent on it. So when you stop, the bacteria in your armpits experience a shift that is definitely noticeable in the odor you’re carrying around.  

So how can we help fix this problem?

Enter: The Armpit Detox.

Some people swear it’s the key to making the transition smoother (and less smelly). 

So, Why Do People Transition to Natural Deodorant in the First Place?

Before I answer that question, let’s clear up the difference between antiperspirant & deodorant. Because the two are often used interchangeably (but shouldn’t be).

Antiperspirants are designed to stop you from sweating by blocking your pores so sweat can’t come out. Deodorant, on the other hand, just makes the sweat smell better by reducing odor-causing bacteria (or masking the smell).

This is a key difference that many people don’t even realize! 

And it leads us to one of the bigger reasons people choose to move away from antiperspirants. 

It turns out that stopping your body from sweating may not be the best thing for your health (surprising? Maybe not). 

Sweating is a natural bodily process. If we can’t sweat, we can’t cool ourselves down, and that can be dangerous. 

Not to mention, antiperspirants can significantly change your armpit’s microbiome by altering the bacteria that live there. Heavy metals (aluminum) and parabens are not the best food for your good bacteria!

And, even if you’re using a deodorant (as opposed to an antiperspirant), many conventional brands include toxic ingredients, which only adds to your body’s toxic burden. [2] 🙅‍♀️

So, it’s not surprising that so many people are making the transition to natural deodorant.

What Is an Armpit Detox Supposed to Do?

I talked before about why someone would do an armpit detox (again, to help transition from using antiperspirant to natural deodorant). 

But what does this detox specifically claim to do?

An armpit detox claims to accomplish a few things. 

Let’s break them down and check for validity. 

1. Balance your microbiome.

This is perhaps the most important part of an armpit detox, and I do believe it can be beneficial! 

Apple cider vinegar and charcoal (common ingredients in armpit detox masks) have naturally occurring antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. [3] [4] 

This will help bring the armpit’s pH back to its natural state, balancing your beneficial bacteria and hopefully reducing smell! 

[pro tip: it’s best to whip-up your own fresh armpit mask for best results, and I’ve included a recipe down below].

2. Pull toxins out of the body.

Now… this is where it gets a little far-fetched. 

Your sweat glands are not connected to any waste elimination system in your body (kidneys, liver, lymphatic system, etc.), so your armpits don’t detox a significant amount of toxins.

If you’re wanting to support your body in helping it eliminate toxins, an armpit detox would certainly not be at the top of my list of recommendations. You would need to actually move your body & break a sweat to facilitate that. Rebounding is an excellent option because it supports your lymphatic drainage system (I love the Jumpsport brand if you’re looking to get started). 

3. Heal skin irritation.

This I can absolutely get behind! 

The aluminum in antiperspirants can cause skin irritation like rashes, and a good mask can certainly help calm things down. Activated charcoal (a common ingredient in armpit detox masks) has antibacterial properties and has been shown to soothe irritated skin.

So, does it work?

It depends on what your goals are. 

The reality is there’s not a ton of evidence proving that an armpit detox will help reduce sweat & odor. But, if you’re looking to lower your toxic burden by switching to a natural deodorant, there’s a good chance an armpit detox will help you rebalance your microbiome.

How to make your own armpit mask.

If you’re ready to transition to natural deodorant (& say goodbye to the harmful effects of antiperspirants) here’s the DIY mask that I recommend starting with. 

DIY Armpit Mask

1 tsp. apple cider vinegar

1 Tbsp. bentonite clay

2 tsp. water

Mix these ingredients together well. Then gently wipe the mask onto your armpits. Keep it on for about 10-20 minutes and wipe clean. Repeat for a few days, and you should be good to go! 

If you don’t feel like getting messy, you can also purchase an armpit detox mask online.

But do note that most store-bought masks (including the one above) don’t contain apple cider vinegar, which is the most important ingredient, in my opinion! 

The bottom line.

Every person (unless you’re some special outlier, defying science) experiences the unpleasant smell during the transitional period when switching from antiperspirant to natural deodorant. But it won’t stay like that forever! 

Whether you choose to try an armpit detox after hopping off the antiperspirant train or not, those “sweating like crazy” days will end. 

Just give your body some time to rebalance. 

And lastly, here are three natural deodorants I recommend trying: 

There are plenty of options out there when it comes to keeping your armpits fresh. Hopefully these resources help you find a natural winner!

Resources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4741080/  

  2. https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates/blogs/health-and-wellness/2019/june/deodorant 

  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323721#antibacterial-properties 

  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5788933/ 

  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6773238/#:~:text=For%20instance%2C%20sweat%20glands%20are,and%20toxicants%20from%20the%20body

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