Finding Peace With My Pits / by lee tilghman

Let’s face it, it’s very rare to hear someone say, “I love my pits. Have you seen them lately? Look how CUTE they are!”

Our armpits are one of the most neglected parts of our bodies. For starters, they are not particularly known for being “beautiful”, “easy”, or even “sexy”. People call New Jersey the “armpit of America” as a way to criticize it. For a long time, we’ve shunned and bashed our own armpits because they smell, they grow hair, and they get rashes and bumps. They’re just dirty. I even know women who are self conscious of their armpits. We wax them, shave them, pick them apart, buy shirts that hide them. Even the word “pit” is pitiful. 

My Pit History

my Shaving history

When I was 12, my older sister, who was 14 at the time, began shaving. I looked up to my older sister more than anything. Because she was shaving, I wanted to. Could you blame me? I wanted to be a “grown up” more than anything. My mother resisted.

“You’re too young” she’d tell me.

 Barcelona, 2003. 13 years old and rocking the Ralph Lauren tees H&M skirts, and hairy armpits. I had boycotted shaving already.

Barcelona, 2003. 13 years old and rocking the Ralph Lauren tees H&M skirts, and hairy armpits. I had boycotted shaving already.

Like every clever yet stubborn pre-teen, I eventually wore my mother down enough with begs, pleads, and whines until she caved. But then, as soon as I was “allowed”, shaving my armpits lost its allure. It’s almost as if I wanted to do it strictly because it wasn’t really allowed. I didn't really see the point in shaving. A rebel at heart, always and forever.

When I was 13, I went with my family on a European road trip, starting in Barcelona and driving along the coast to Perpignan, France. Before the trip, my mother told me how women didn’t shave (such a blanket statement by the way).

So in the weeks leading up to the trip, I stopped shaving my pits. I didn’t tell anyone because I didn’t want it to be a big deal. I just knew I didn’t want to shave anymore. I also wanted to feel care-free and “liberated” on my trip to Europe, not bogged down by razors or societal norms.  At 13, I was already boycotting shaving for myself.

But, during my trip, my family (lovingly) poked fun at me for my one inch of pre-pubescent black, wiry armpit hair. They thought it was funny and kind of gross. They were lovingly teasing me, but I was uncomfortable with all the negative attention the lack of shaving brought me. I began shaving again when we returned back to the States and thought nothing of it again until my late 20s. 

my Deodorant history

I grew up using regular pharmaceutical antiperspirant/deodorant, switching between brands like Secret and Dove, and even going through an Old Spice stage (that sh!t works, y’all). I’d spend hours coasting through the CVS aisles, sticking my nose into each unused deodorant. I chose my brand solely based on the scent. I loved how I smelled like a cherry blossom when I walked through the halls of my high school, or a dewy mountain waterfall while running laps at field hockey practice.

When I turned 17, I noticed a little lump in my right breast, close to my armpit. It was small, just a little bump, but I knew it wasn’t right. A few months later, the lump started to hurt every time I’d move, so I got it checked out at my OB-GYN.  

Thankfully, the lump was an inflamed lymph node and not cancerous, but because it was causing me pain, my doctor recommended we remove it. 

When I asked why it happened, my OB-GYN informed me that it was probably caused from shaving and applying antiperspirant. Huh? This was the first time I learned that this combination could be bad for me. I was so confused- how could performing general, basic hygienic activities cause me harm? My doctor told me the cycle of removing hair and applying antiperspirant caused the swollen lymph node and recommended that I stop using conventional deodorants with ingredients like parabens, aluminum, triclosan, fragrance, and phthalates in them. These ingredients pose potential harm to the endocrine and reproductive system. 

At 17, I stopped using the toxic antiperspirant and switched to more natural brands.

Fast forward to today in 2018, at 28 years old. I’ve stepped away from using toxic products on my underarms, but was finding little solace in my options. I’ve been rotating through different natural deodorant brands for over 10 years without sticking to one brand for more than three months at a time. I’ve found that deodorants either give me a rash or generally stop working all together after my skin gets used to them, and its only a matter of weeks until I start to smell again. Or, I’m in a workout class and my armpits start itching and burning from the sweat reacting to my natural brands. Even when using the brands with three ingredients or less, my pits just were not happy.

If you watched my natural deodorant rant last month on IG Stories, I was fed up with the natural deodorant world. Essential oils, a homemade blend of coconut oil, extra sensitive baking soda free, cow lard, I’ve tried it all. I think the biggest issue I had with my 11-year-long deodorant saga was how each brand stained my clothes with oil, or with a creamy white residue like a sheet cake at a grocery store.

 
 Most of my clothes look like  this  after I apply deodorant.

Most of my clothes look like this after I apply deodorant.

 

Also, unlike my 16 year old self, I no longer wanted to smell like a green apple orchard or a raspberry shortcake. I wanted to smell like ME.

I had been trying for 11 years to find a scent or blend that would work for me and none of it was working. It occurred to me that it was time to try something drastically different.  I had heard of people training their armpits not to need deodorant, just as you can oil train your hair to last longer between shampoos. I was intrigued. 

 
 28 and finally finding relief.

28 and finally finding relief.

 

New Armpit Rituals

Apparently, I was not alone in my struggles. Many of you guys are dealing with the same pit crisis. But there is hope!

Upon further research and recommendations from a majority of my readers, the Thai Crystal Deodorant stone paired with a pH-balancing probiotic spray seemed to be an award-winning, cure-all combo for many. A Thai Crystal Deodorant stone is the most natural alternative to deodorant sticks that would not mess with my natural body odor or stain my clothes. And the probiotic spray is to help restore your body’s natural pH levels. After some research on the best probiotic sprays, I ended up going with Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist

 This is the Thai Crystal Stone.

This is the Thai Crystal Stone.

Thai Crystal Stone

The Thai Crystal stone helps reduce bacteria. It’s made from crystallized natural mineral salts that kill odor causing bacteria. It contains no harmful chemicals, oils, perfumes, or emulsifiers. It’s also free of aluminum chlorohydrate, chemicals, oils, perfumes, and emulsifiers. This is not by any means a new trendy solution, it has been around for longer than 40 years. My father even used one in the ‘90s.

This product does contain natural aluminum, but no studies have shown it to be the harmful kind. The product comes highly recommended from both doctors and EWG (Environmental Working Group) as a safer option than some of the other deodorants on the market today for both our bodies and the planet.

The product is low cost and one stone lasts up to a year. It’s also easy to travel with and does not stain clothes. Win-win? I think so. 

The first time I tried applying this thing, I only swiped the stone underneath my arms a few times. Unfortunately, it didn’t work and I smelt like BO within an hour (thank you kindly, Southern California summers) I did a bit more research on forums and found that you needed to apply up to 40 swipes in order for it to work. 

Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist

Now for the mist part. A few of you told me to pair the stone with a probiotic mist, so I chose Mother Dirt’s because they had the best reviews on Amazon. Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist is said to improve skin’s clarity, tone, and smoothness, and helps fight the body’s dependence on deodorant. It also restores balance to the skin’s microbiome, which can get lost to modern hygiene- i.e. SLS (sodium laurel sulfate - an ingredient that harms our planet and our bodies that is found in most mainstream body products) and other common toxins. Plus, it's non toxic and safe to use on all areas of the body (some use it on their face to control acne, between their legs, or on their feet!) According to the Amazon reviews, 60% of users who use this product regularly were able to stop using deodorant all together. Are you kidding!? This was music to my ears.

Side note: Because the mist has live cultures, it is important to keep it in the fridge. If you keep it refrigerated, the product can last up to six months, versus if you keep it on shelf, it’ll only last four weeks. It arrived safely with ice packs so it wouldn’t heat up in the summer sun. The product stretches over a long period of time, so it’s worth the investment. 

You could use the AO+ mist without the crystal deodorant stone to see how it works for you. 

I started this new regime in June, and it is now August and I am very pleased with the results. 

 
  Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist  - I use this to help balance out the bacteria on my armpits.

Mother Dirt’s AO+ Mist - I use this to help balance out the bacteria on my armpits.

 

The Results

Since using these two products, I’ve noticed a significantly lower amount of smelly sweat coming from my pits.I’ve seen my rashes disappear, as well as redness and itchiness. I have not had a rash since I stopped using creamy or oil-based deodorant. But best of all, my clothes are not stained anymore. I also still sweat, which is good (you never want to not sweat, since sweating is a healthy normal bodily function).

My New Pit Routine

  • After I shower, I dry brush my body (including my pits).

  • Then, I apply 2-3 sprays of the AO+ mist to my armpits, then rub the Thai Crystal on my armpits about 40 times (Yes, 40. I did lots of reading on the best way to apply it and 40 swipes per pit seems to be the magic number. Any less and it may not target the odor-causing bacteria as well). The crystal or the skin needs to be wet for the application to work, so a few sprays of the AO+ mist does the trick alright!

  • I let ‘em dry a bit and then I get dressed and off on my day.

Detoxifying Mask

Another way to care for your pits is by using a detoxifying mask 1x a month. Using a bentonite clay mask on your armpits can help soften the skin, calm it after rashes, and reduce odor and the amount of odor-causing sweat. Any bentonite clay product will work for this. Simply mix 3 tbsp of the dried clay powder with 1 tsp of distilled water, apple cider vinegar, or hydrosol (lavender and palo Santo are two of my skin favorites) and apply on your armpits with hands or a brush.  Leave on for at least 10 minutes but no more than 15 minutes, as clay can severely dry out skin. If you can, lay down on the floor and keep your armpits up so that it dries properly and really gets in there. Rinse off in the shower or wipe off gently with a warm washcloth. 

If you do this regularly, you will find yourself with softer armpits. If you are finding yourself in a particularly smelly time of your life, feel free to repeat 2x weekly until you see results. 

 
 I use  this dry brush  to brush my underarms a few times a week.

I use this dry brush to brush my underarms a few times a week.

 

Dry brushing

You guys already know the power of dry brushing (see my full video tutorial here) but don’t forget to dry brush your armpits! Dry brushing your armpits helps drain the lymph nodes where there can be clogged pores. Women especially have a large amount of glands in the breast tissue and surrounding underarm and chest area that need to get flushed. Since our skin is our body’s largest organ, dry brushing has a very positive effect on the overall function of our bodies. Our lymph nodes are the body’s system for detoxifying internal waste and lay just beneath the surface of the skin.  When dry brushing under the armpits, flow from the arms towards the breast and heart in a circular, clockwise motion. I use this brush from CAP Beauty Daily


How do you care for your pits?

This post is sponsored lovingly by Mother Dirt. Thank you Mother Dirt for making Lee From America possible and helping my pits reach their fullest potential.