Many different things can cause underarm bumps, but Cassandra wants to specifically speak about pseudofolliculitis barbae (aka razor bumps). This is common around the armpit or axillary area. It can also happen on the legs and groin area. Many different things cause bumps under the armpit area, and it can range from things like HS (hidradenitis suppurativa) to KP (keratosis pilaris). KP is known as chicken skin or strawberry legs. But when it comes to the underarm area or the beard area, shaving the hair properly is very important because those little bumps left behind can be very painful. So, today, we are talking about the axillary or underarm area though because that is what Cassandra has been struggling with. So, let’s talk about specifically what she does for that area.
From using shampoo and conditioner in her armpit area to the actual razors that she uses, Cassandra’s routine has changed quite a bit. Now she uses an IPL device called Ulike with sapphire (yes, the use 2 p’s, lol) technology. This is basically an IPL (intense pulsed light) permanent hair removal system that is cooling. As you know, Cassandra has used and tried some other IPL hair removal and settled on Kenzzi. But, she has updates. Kenzzi IPL is something that Cassandra used to use for her legs, but she couldn’t use it on more sensitive areas. It never burned Cassandra’s skin, and it never felt uncomfortable. But, the kenzzi IPL was just not as versatile. On the other hand, the Ulike is more multi-use because of the Sapphire technology. The device has a cold setting or a button with a snowflake on it. With this setting in use, the device does not heat up, but it still uses IPL technology to target pigmentation in the skin and zap it away.
But, before we get into products, we should talk about what causes bumps, specifically the most common ones related to shaving. We mentioned pseudofolliculitis barbae which are those bumps that appear after shaving. There’s also folliculitis barbae, and that’s a little different because it's normally caused by bacteria which can happen if you keep your razor in the shower.
Pseudofolliculitis barbae (razor bumps) doesn’t have the same bacteria, and it doesn't center around infection. It just looks and feels irritated, itchy, and annoying. Razor bumps are often the result of inflammation from ingrown hairs. These are super painful and specifically, happen to people who have more curly hair. Cassandra is a curly-haired girl, and when we shave or razor off curly-hair they can curve back in. This is a common issue for Cassandra. On top of that, there ingrown hairs can literally curl up underneath the skin.
Basically, the hair never makes it fully out. And if you’re someone who likes to get a close shave, meaning you like to pull the skin and shave in the opposite direction, this can happen. Also, this may occur, especially if you don’t exfoliate after shaving. The hair coils up underneath the skin, and it can’t escape. So, it often looks like acne when in reality, it’s an ingrown hair.
So, how do we treat ingrown hairs, infected bumps, or the hyperpigmentation that comes from chafing or shaving?
Do not keep your razor in the shower
This is something that Cassandra did for years, but it dulls your razor and causes rust to happen. It harbors mold and bacteria that you could get under your arm and cause folliculitis barbae. Lastly, a dull razor is more likely to shave unevenly and cause irritation.
Billie Razor Starter Kit - $10
Cassandra has been using these for two years. You want to make sure your razors are sharp, and that you apply lubrication. This helps the razor glide, and it prevents ingrown hairs.
Don’t shave against the direction of growth
Cassandra goes with the direction of the hair, and this causes fewer problems and razor bumps.
Wash your skin before shaving
What helps even more are the cleansing products you use before shaving.
The Inkey List 5% Benzoyl Peroxide Cleanser - $17.99
This is an Inkey List Face Wash. This is a great alternative to the PanOxyl which is what Cassandra used to use on her armpits. Benzoyl peroxide kills bacteria, and that’s why it kills acne. There is bacteria beneath our armpits that ferments sweat. So, Cassandra has been using PanOxyl under the armpits for some time now, and it’s worked very well for her. Cassandra loves this from the Inkey List, and anything with benzoyl peroxide will kill bacteria. So, even if there’s something on the razor, it will kill the bacteria. Likewise, this is what Cassandra uses to cleanse her armpits, but it's is not what she actually shaves with.
For shaving, Cassandra actually uses The Ordinary shampoo and conditioner. Cassandra has tried so many different body shaving creams, but she hasn’t found any that she absolutely loves. Cassandra finds the shampoo to be awesome. It doesn’t sud up very much which works well when you’re trying to see what you’re doing and whether the hair is gone.
The Ordinary Sulphate 4% Cleanser for Body and Hair -$8
Cassandra also finds that the conditioner works well. It really softens the hair, and it lets the razor glide smoothly. Many of the ingredients in this conditioner are similar to shaving cream or gel. She uses the conditioner to soften the armpit hairs, and sometimes she’ll use the shampoo while shaving.
The Ordinary Behentrimonium Chloride 2% Conditioner -$8
Now, the skincare you use after shaving is just as important. Just the way you moisturize your face after cleansing, you should moisturize your body.
What should I put on my armpits after I shave?
Dr. Sam Bunting Flawless Body Therapy - $36
Cassandra loves a bunch of different moisturizing products, but she specifically uses this one under her arms. The incorporation of lactic acid and bakuchiol is the primary reason why. It’s also got shea butter and niacinamide, and for Cassandra, this hit all of the nails. This is phenomenal, and it’s what you should look for in an after-shave cream. Generally, you should look for something that (1) doesn’t burn, (2) something that moisturizes because shaving is literally a form of exfoliation, and (3) something that’s going to nourish the skin.
Since this has lactic acid, it’s a mild exfoliant, but it’s a more hydrating exfoliator. And because of that, it can protect you from this like KP in the underarm area. Also, because it gives you regular exfoliation, it allows the skin cells to turn over frequently. Furthermore, bakuchiol is often compared to retinol as it does something similar. Cassandra believes bakuchiol does bind to some of the same receptors, but she has found that it’s not as potent. But, for delicate, sensitive areas like the groin or armpit areas, Cassandra finds that bakuchiol works very well.
The niacinamide is also fantastic. As you know, niacinamide is one of our B vitamins and a beautiful antioxidant that helps with sebum regulation. It’s really great for acne-prone skin, but it’s also wonderful for hyperpigmentation because it tells your body not to spread pigment.
If you’re someone who struggles with hyperpigmentation, underarm discoloration, or discoloration between the legs, this is absolutely one of Cassandra’s favorites and a top recommendation. Dr. Sam is a cosmetic derm from the UK, she has a YouTube channel, and her products are wonderful.
Can I do permanent hair removal at home?
Ulike IPL Hair Removal Handset - $359
Then, Cassandra goes to the next step of IPL. This is an IPL device, and IPL stands for intense pulsed light. This is very different than laser, and you do have to do this along with shaving. But, over time, this is supposed to replace the need for shaving because it is permanent hair removal.
Getting IPL professionally can be really expensive, and Cassandra thinks this is a much less expensive option.
What is IPL?
IPL targets contrast on the skin. It is looking for dark wiry hairs that greatly contrast with the skin’s surface. So, unfortunately, it doesn’t work for all skin types. Plus, this is not going to target baby peach fuzz. The IPL targets the papillae (root) of dark hairs, and people see results after two and four weeks whereas if you go in professionally, you have to do it 6-8 times.
When Cassandra was doing her legs, it took about 8-12 weeks for her to see results with the Ulike. But within the first four weeks of using this, 90% of male and female people saw their hair density decrease, and their hair length decreased by about 78%. And after four weeks, hair growth still continued to decrease.
Once again, this may not work for all skin types, however the Ulike doesn’t burn the skin regardless. In one setting, Cassandra was able to use it continuously without burning her skin. The “on” button is on the side, and the Ulike has a “cool” setting. This doesn’t get gunky as opposed to the Kenzzi. Because of the cool setting, you can use it on the face, the groin, and the armpits. The sapphire cooling technology works through thermal conductivity.
This refers to the way heat is transferred from the device to your skin. It says that their device lowers the epidermal skin temperature. They have worked to get international safety approvals as well. And because of the safety testing and approvals, yes, it can be used on the groin, the armpits, and on the face. Nevertheless, be careful around the eyes. Cassandra does have IPL-safe goggles that she’s used in-clinic.
Overall, this is the number one IPL device in Korea, and Ulike has been in business for years. This is the sixth model, and the wavelengths that come out are 550 to 1200 nanometers. This is a very good spectrum and very comparable to what’s being used in-clinic.
Coverphoto cred: Gillette Venue UK