Armpit staph!!!

Originally Published: October 21, 2011 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: May 28, 2014
Share this
Dear Alice,

I read the article regarding staph...but I seem to get these places in my armpits whenever I shave. I went to the doctor and they told me it was staph. What should I do...I can't stop shaving! I've tried throwing the razor away when I use it only once and the problem is still there? What should I do????

Dear Reader,

Staph can be a stubborn bug to deal with. It sounds like you've tried a few strategies to get rid of it, but nothing's working. It may be that you are not giving the infections enough time to fully heal before you shave again. When you shave, micro cuts are opened on the skin. Even the gentlest shave can result in this occurring. If there is still residual staph on the surface on the skin when these micro cuts occur, it will find its way back under your skin. Did the doc provide you with antibiotics? If you are dealing with a stubborn staph infection, you may want to visit your doctor again and see if antibiotics would help get rid of your staph once and for all.  

You mentioned that you don't want to stop shaving. How frequently are you shaving your armpits? Frequent armpit shaving is generally done for cosmetic reasons. It is a bit of myth that shaving one's armpits is more hygienic. Are you concerned about the appearance of fuzz under your arms? If so, what if you wore shirts that didn't reveal the pits for a while?  Giving yourself a good long break from shaving would allow your skin to fully heal and give you plenty of time to kill off all the staph. In addition to taking a break from shaving, here are a few more ideas that might help the situation (and potentially prevent it in the future):

  • With staph, good hygiene is the best prevention and the best cure. If you have recurrent staph infections, try increasing the frequency you bathe. If you currently shower once a day, try increasing to two showers per day and see if that helps.
  • What type of soap are you using? Try using an anti-bacterial soap or deodorant soap. They can be harsh on the skin, so use lotion right when you get out of the shower.
  • Try changing up your deodorant. It may be that you are experiencing irritation from the type you are using now and this may prevent the skin from fully healing.
  • Staph is sometimes caused by skin staying moist and not having room to "breathe". If you wear tight shirts that don't allow much "armpit airing out" opportunity, consider wearing looser clothing or wearing tank tops if the weather allows.
  • Avoid hot tubs, hot springs, and whirlpools until the infection seems to be completely free. These can breed and spread bacteria.
  • Avoid scratching the irritated area, as this keeps the skin open and can spread the infection
  • It sounds like you aren't doing this, but just in case, make sure you aren't sharing towels, razors, deodorant, soap, or any other hygiene items with others in your household or dorm.
  • While the infection is present, avoid drying your armpits with the towel you use for the rest of your body. Instead, when you get out of the shower, dry your armpits with paper towels.
  • Is anyone borrowing your clothing? Try to avoid lending out or borrowing others' clothing until you certain your system has cleared the bacteria.
  • Sometimes, in-grown hairs can become infected. Have you noticed whether or not you have in-grown hairs in your armpits? If so, try wearing looser clothing and try varying the type of razor and the type of shaving cream or shave gel you are using.

Again, if none of these strategies help you, consider making another appointment with your health care provider (which you can do by contacting Medical Services on the Morningside campus or the Student Health Service on the Medical Center campus if you are a Columbia student) to make sure there are no other causes of your irritation or to see if antibiotics may be an option.

Good luck!

Alice