Most people don't spend a lot of time closely examining their own armpits, so discovering a pimple-like bump under the arm while showering can be unnerving. Unlike hard or rubbery lumps, which should be checked out by a medical professional, pimple-like bumps are typically benign and fairly easy to treat.
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Identifying Underarm Pimples
Pimple-like bumps under the arms may be caused by one of two problems. Most commonly, they're the result of ingrown hairs causing inflammation. Ingrown hairs can happen when a hair tip turns back into the skin, creating an inflamed bump. For people who regularly shave under the arms, ingrown hairs can be the most likely cause of bumps in the underarm area.
For those who don't shave their underarms, but experience armpit bumps that are hard like a marble; those bumps could be caused by an epidermoid cyst ( noncancerous small bumps beneath the skin ), according to the Mayo Clinic.
Hair Type and Ingrown Hairs
For those of African American or Hispanic descent and anyone who has naturally curly hair, there may be a greater tendency to develop ingrown hairs under the arm (and on other parts of the body), according to the Johns Hopkins Medicine Health Library. This may be because a curved hair follicle is more likely to twist back on itself, penetrating the skin to create a raised bump.
Read more: Badly Infected Ingrown Hairs
Prevent and Treat Underarm Bumps
The most effective way to prevent bumps caused by ingrown hairs could be to stop shaving under the arms, but if that's not an option, then using a hair removal cream may help. Of course, there are also other measures that can be taken to prevent or treat bumps under the arms.
Using a moisturizing shave cream and a new razor pressed lightly on the underarm area could prevent ingrown hair by cutting hair better while making it less likely that bacteria is pushed into the skin (causing infection).
Although, according to Harvard Health, there is no way to prevent the appearance of epidermoid cysts, however the risk of developing one might be reduced by exfoliating the armpits regularly and using body creams and deodorants that are specifically formulated to not block pores.
Read more: Does Diet Cause Sebaceous Cysts?
Treating Ingrown Armpit Hairs
For individuals experiencing ingrown hairs under the arms, scrubbing the area gently with a coarse, wet cloth once or twice a day may help exfoliate the skin cells holding the trapped hair in place.
A good idea might be to treat an area irritated by ingrown hairs by dabbing a little over-the-counter cortisone cream directly onto the bumps that are causing discomfort, recommends Debra Wattenberg, MD, assistant professor of dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
There's no real treatment that works for cysts, if they're causing your bumps — most people just have to learn to cope with them unless they want to have them removed by a dermatologist, says Mansberg.
When to See a Doctor
Because the underarms don't get a lot of sun exposure, skin cancer is rare there, but not impossible. If bumps in the armpit area are sore, bleed, itch or don't heal for a long time, it could be a good idea to see a dermatologist and make sure they're not caused by basal cell carcinoma, a common and treatable type of skin cancer.