Dermatologists say TikTok-famous armpit detoxes can cut odor but won't detox anything
- Armpit detox masks may help cut down on bacteria, moisturize skin, and reduce irritation.
- They can be made from apple cider vinegar, bentonite clay, coconut oil, and more.
Armpit detoxes are homemade masks made from ingredients like bentonite clay and apple cider vinegar. You may have seen them on TikTok or other forms of social media.
They're meant to deeply cleanse your armpits of any built-up bacteria or chemical residue — especially during the process of switching from an antiperspirant to a more natural deodorant.
Though the masks may clean your armpits, some experts question whether they really offer any detoxifying benefits.
Here's how armpit detoxes work and how to make your own.
What is an armpit detox?
There have long been rumors about potentially toxic ingredients in deodorant and antiperspirant, and many have decided to make the switch to more "natural" options with simple plant-derived ingredients.
For example, some have pointed to butane in spray deodorant and aluminum in antiperspirant as potentially harmful to the body. However, experts say that these chemicals don't enter your body in large enough quantities to cause any issues.
If you do decide to make the switch to natural deodorant, especially from an antiperspirant, you may be in for some extra body odor during the transition.
In addition, "this period may be characterized by an increased amount of sweating, which is to be expected, as you are no longer blocking the release of sweat with an antiperspirant," says Dr. Marisa Garshick, a dermatologist and professor at Weill Cornell Medicine.
That's where armpit detox comes in — its supporters say armpit masks can help cut down on the bacteria that cause your sweat to smell, along with several other benefits.
Benefits of armpit detox
There are several different options for how to make an armpit detox mask, but some of the most common ingredients found in masks include:
- Bentonite clay
- Apple cider vinegar
- Coconut oil
- Activated charcoal
The benefits of the mask depend on which ingredients you use.
Apple cider vinegar can help in several ways:
- Balancing out the levels of bacteria and other microbes in your underarm area — this is because apple cider vinegar has a low pH, similar to the natural state of your skin.
- Reducing body odor by killing bacteria.
- Soothing any skin irritation with its anti-inflammatory properties.
Coconut oil offers these benefits:
- Moisturizing your skin if it has been dried out by antiperspirant products.
- Soothing irritation by strengthening the skin barrier and keeping irritants from entering.
- Killing odor-causing bacteria and fungus.
Bentonite clay can help by:
- Deep cleaning your skin by drawing out impurities such as build up, bacteria and dirt from your pores.
- Absorbing excess moisture and oil.
Activated charcoal works similarly to bentonite clay by:
- Clearing impurities from your pores.
- Absorbing excess oil on your skin.
- Exfoliating your skin and removing dead skin cells with its gritty texture.
Potential drawbacks of armpit detox
Dr. Daniel Friedmann, a board-certified dermatologist at Westlake Dermatology & Cosmetic Surgery, agrees that armpit masks can help cut down bacteria and clear away dead skin cells.
But when it comes to detox benefits, "they do absolutely nothing to extract or expunge 'toxins' from the skin," Friedmann says.
According to some experts, the idea that your armpits need to be detoxed — instead of just cleaned like any other area — is also up for debate.
Your body generally gets rid of any harmful chemicals through processes in your liver and kidney — then gets rid of them through your sweat, urine, and stool.
And though an armpit mask may help keep your armpits clean and cut down bacteria, there's no evidence "that a mask would be better at washing out impurities and killing bacteria than your run-of-the-mill antibacterial soap," Friedmann says.
But as long as you aren't allergic or sensitive to the ingredients, there is probably very little risk to using detox masks, Friedmann says.
When trying out a detox mask, it's best to test it out first on a less sensitive area — you can try putting a small dab on your lower arm and leave it for a few hours to see if you have any reaction.
How to make your own armpit detox mask
- Do an arm patch test a few hours before starting to check your skin's reaction.
- Mix these three ingredients together in a bowl or other container:
- Use clean fingers to gently spread the mixture onto your underarm area.
- Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes.
- Rinse it off with warm water.
You can use an armpit detox mask once or twice per week during your deodorant adjustment period, Garshick says.
An armpit detox can help clean your armpits and keep bacteria and odor in check — especially when you're in the process of switching to a more natural deodorant.
But there may not be much support for claims that an armpit mask can remove toxic substances from your body.
Your skin should go back to normal on its own, but if you want to use a mask to help during a deodorant switch, "make sure it is gentle on the skin," Garshik says.
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