October 3, 2022

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By now, you probably know exactly what masks work on your face, hair, and, heck, even your hands and even your feet. Masks have become an essential part of skincare routines because many of them are filled with active ingredients that remedy a slew of beauty-related concerns. A recent scroll on TikTok’s FYP has convinced users there’s another area to mask: the armpits.

This new theory, which involves applying a DIY mixture or charcoal-based mask under your arms, became the latest viral trend on the app and is now known as an armpit detox. Still, with most buzzy trends on the web, there’s room for questioning whether it’s necessary (or good for you).

Users fond of the step claims it helps reduce odor, sweat, and speed up the detox process commonly associated with the transition from aluminum-based deodorants to natural formulas. The hashtag, #armpitdetox, has garnered over five million views on the app and continues to gain more reviews daily. Ahead, we spoke to leading dermatologists and experts to weigh in on if you should be slathering masks on your armpits.

What Is an Armpit Detox?

As consumers become more conscious about ingredients and how products impact their bodies, there’s been an uptick in people switching from traditional deodorants to more natural formulas free of aluminum, which is used to stop sweating. “Aluminum is used in deodorants and antiperspirants to plug up your pores in your underarms to stop you from sweating,” Shuting Hu, Ph.D., a cosmetic chemist and founder of Acaderma, says. “Antiperspirants will contain aluminum salts that ‘melt’ into your pores after application.”

When you decide to stop using deodorants that contain aluminum properties, it is natural for your body to go through a detox or cleanse for about a month. During this time, things may get a bit sweatier and smellier, which experts say is caused because underarm pores are no longer clogged by aluminum.

TikTok creator @Melodeerosemiller’s video (which currently has over 190k views) explains how she’s been battling body odor since switching to an aluminum-free deodorant. She shared her “detox recipe,” which consists of mixing apple cider vinegar into a bentonite clay mask to combat this. Her comments section was flooded with TikTok users thanking her for sharing her experience with detoxing, with some saying they’ve been able to forgo the deodorant step altogether.

What Experts Say

Aluminum in deodorants and antiperspirants can cause an imbalance of bacteria in your armpits, which can cause even more odor. Still, experts are split on the masking step. Jessie Cheung M.D., a board-certified dermatologist, says that using a mask with ingredients that kill bacteria (like apple cider vinegar) can help eliminate bacteria buildup and reduce unwanted odor.

Still, Dr. Ciraldo says it’s important to manage your expectations. “A mask can’t reduce sweat since you would need to penetrate into the sweat ducts, and there aren’t any masks that have clinically proven sweat reduction,” she says, cautioning that if you’re using a mask formulated for facial skin, you should use it for half the directed time.

Another option to reduce body odor is adjusting your diet, attending to your gut health, and managing your overall microbiome. “Try consuming probiotics and mostly green, leafy vegetables which contain chlorophyll and can have a deodorizing effect in the body,” notes Tara Pelletier, co-founder of Meow Meow Tweet. Ultimately, if you have concerns about sweat, odor, or the overall health of your underarms, talk to your board-certified physician or dermatologist.

What Ingredients to Look For?

Many people posting armpit detox recipes on TikTok use ingredients like charcoal and malic acids for their impurity extracting properties. Still, if you want to experiment with the treatment, Dr. Hu says to make sure your formula is balanced with soothing ingredients. “If you have sensitive skin, look for masks containing coconut oils, vitamin E, and chamomile to soothe and calm the skin of any irritation.”

Is Armpit Masking Safe?

The short answer is yes. Still, like with any beauty treatment, it’s encouraged to start easy to avoid irritation. “Armpit skin is occluded by folding upon itself, so products applied will penetrate deeper, and the chance for chemicals to cause irritation increases,” explains Dr. Cheung. She says it’s essential to not overuse clay, enzymes, or glycolic masks with a concentration of 4% or more because you can irritate the underarm skin and cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Dr. Ciraldo also says to avoid masking too frequently and skipping the step after waxing or shaving when the skin is most sensitive.

Final Takeaway

While you may see immediate topical changes to your armpits after using exfoliating, hydrating ingredients, Dr. Cheung says it’s important to understand that eliminating aluminum in the body happens from the inside. “Your kidneys are responsible for removing aluminum from inside your body,” she says. “The superficial aluminum that accumulates in your sweat glands from antiperspirants is eliminated from your body over a few weeks as your skin cycles.” So while some people believe you need an armpit detox, your body ultimately does it for you. If you need to speed up the elimination of body odor, a detoxifying mask can aid in cleansing odor bacteria from the skin. Still, Dr. Hu explains it’s not proven to eliminate the aluminum properties found in the skin. So, if you must mask your pits, it’s important to manage your expectations for the safest results.