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Irritated underarms: how to soothe eczema under the arms?

Eczema is a skin condition that can appear on various parts of the body. Sometimes, inflammation and irritation are localised in the underarm area, leading to itching and red patches. What methods can help to alleviate underarm eczema?

Summary
Published January 22, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 4 min read

Underarm Eczema: What are the Symptoms and Causes?

The underarms are a delicate area of the body and easily irritated. Indeed, they are subject to numerous repeated frictions, caused by arm movements and clothing contact. The underarms also house many sweat glands which are responsible for sweat production. To avoid bad odours, it is common to use deodorants or antiperspirants, but these formulas can sometimes be harsh. Moreover, underarms are often shaved or waxed, which can cause micro-lesions in the skin and increase the risk of irritation.

These various factors make the underarm area a favourable environment for inflammations and eczema. This skin condition is characterised by itching, redness, oozing, and sometimes blisters. The skin is very dry at the site of the eczema lesions (xerosis). Heat or perspiration can exacerbate these symptoms. In the underarm area, two types of eczema can be distinguished.

  • Atopic Eczema: this form of eczema is characterised by an abnormal permeability of the skin barrier and the inadequacy of the immune response to common environmental allergens. Several studies have highlighted abnormalities in the genes coding for filaggrin and other proteins of the stratum corneum. Furthermore, it is observed that about 50 to 70% of children with atopic eczema have a first-degree relative who has also been affected, demonstrating the hereditary nature of this disease.

  • Contact Eczema : Contact allergy can be the cause of eczema in the armpit area. This skin issue is associated with a reaction to a specific allergen. Therefore, it is neither hereditary nor related to an atopic predisposition. Contact eczema in the armpits is often due to the use of deodorants or anti-perspirants. A hair removal cream can also cause this skin rash.

What to do in case of underarm eczema?

If you are suffering from underarm eczema, the first instinct should be to consult a dermatologist-allergist. They will be able to identify whether your eczema is atopic or contact in nature. If you have contact eczema, a series of tests will be offered to determine the offending product. Once you have eliminated it, your symptoms should disappear within a fortnight. If your eczema is atopic, certain daily measures will need to be implemented to limit flare-ups.

The application of dermocorticoids prescribed by your doctor at the onset of symptoms can soothe the skin and prevent overly intense itching. Containing cortisone, these treatments have anti-inflammatory therapeutic properties. You can supplement this routine by daily moisturising of the underarms using emollients with a rich and greasy texture. Emollients will nourish and soften the skin while strengthening the skin barrier weakened by atopic eczema.

Furthermore, certain natural solutions can be used as an additional aid to reduce the sensations of itching. To do this, apply to the underarms cold compresses, thermal water or certain essential oils, such as tea tree, true lavender or Roman chamomile. We also advise you to avoid wearing clothing that is too tight around the arms to reduce friction and to use unscented deodorants, as fragrances are notorious allergens.

Sources

  • GOLDENBERG G. & al. Eczema. The Mount Sinai Journal of Medicine (2011).

  • BORRADORI L. & al. Dermatologie et infections sexuellement transmissibles. Elsevier Masson (2017).

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