Am I not looking after my underarms well?

For hygiene purposes, I regularly shave my armpits and pubic hair; I use a shaver and shaving cream to lubricate. After shaving I use after shave to disinfect and avoid rashes, but still, I experience rashes, itchiness that leaves behind blisters. I was once advised to use mentholated spirit to ease the itching and rashes but nothing has changed.

For hygiene purposes, I regularly shave my armpits and pubic hair; I use a shaver and shaving cream to lubricate. After shaving I use after shave to disinfect and avoid rashes, but still, I experience rashes, itchiness that leaves behind blisters. I was once advised to use mentholated spirit to ease the itching and rashes but nothing has changed.

Nowadays it is so bad that I dread shaving but I have to as I am dating and wouldn’t want to put my boyfriend off with the hair. I am 23 years old.

 

Is there a recommended substance I should use to stop the rashes and the itching? Have I been doing it wrong?

 

Joan, Nyarutarama

 

Dear Joan,

When you shave the armpits and pubic hair, there is irritation of the underlying skin. Whatever means is used; there is risk of minor trauma when hair is pulled out. This leads to sense of irritation and discomfort.

Moreover the residual hair left behind would give a feeling of discomfort and being hard like the stubble of men’s beards after being shaved regularly. The micro injuries caused lead to irritation, redness and pain and also expose one to the risk of viral and bacterial infections.

Studies have shown greater number of cases of molluscum contagiosum (a viral infection normally sexually transmitted) since the trend of removal of pubic hair has increased both in men as well as women. This manifests as small blisters and discomfort over the affected area.

Once acquired through shaving, it can be transmitted to a partner sexually. Bacterial infections, if they occur, can cause itching, rashes and small painful boils.

Sweating and urination cause dampness in underarms and pubic parts, which carries the risk of fungal infection. Nylon undergarments increase this problem. Fungal infection causes rashes, itching and irritation which increases when the razor is used over that part.  

If one shares the razor, there is the risk of acquiring and transmitting serious systemic infections like hepatitis B and C and even sinister HIV/AIDS.

The itching and irritation which you experience could also be due to allergy to one or more chemicals present in the lotions and moisturizers which you use after shaving. Risk of breast cancer is increased due to the use of deodorants containing parabens. This risk is said to be increased after shaving.

Waxing is another option to shaving but again carries risk of infection if the strips used for waxing or the hands doing it are not clean enough.

Laser removal of hair is yet another technique being used, but needs expert professionals to do it. It is also much more expensive.

Pubic hair and underarm hair are protective for that delicate part of the body. They trap germs outside, which would otherwise go inside. They also protect against trauma. It is a false belief that shaving pubic hair protects against sexually transmitted disease, rather the risk is increased.  

As a hype, both men and women have started cleaning this hair in a bid to be hygienic and clean. If they are left, there is no problem. 

But still if one desires to keep these parts clean, trimming the hair is a better option than shaving.

For now you can take some antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines.

Dr. Rachna Pande is a specialist in Internal Medicine at Ruhengeri Hospital

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