15 Weird and Wonderful Facts about Armpits
#1 - Your pits produce different sweat from the rest of your body
The eccrine and apocrine sweat glands are responsible for producing sweat in your body. Eccrine sweat glands are well distributed through your body just below the surface of your skin. They produce clear sweat that contains 98-99% of water plus salt and electrolytes. They are responsible for controlling body temperature.
Apocrine glands on the other hand are larger and are found on the hairy parts of your body especially the armpits and the groin. They start functioning at puberty and produce thicker sweat. They are linked to adrenaline and may be triggered by anxiety, stress or sexual excitement. They dominate the underarm region over the eccrine glands at the ratio of approximately 10:1.
#2 - Children should not have smelly armpits
Underarms are dominated by apocrine glands. They are present since birth but they are not active in children before puberty. While sweating and a little smell is expected especially when children are active, they should generally have odourless underarms especially with proper hygiene.
Early puberty and other issues can lead to armpit odour in kids. If it is not a sign that your kid just graduated into adolescence, then you can have him or her checked for other underlying conditions.
#3 - What are yellow underarm stains caused by?
The apocrine glands are located in the subcutaneous fat, deep in the dermis. Each has an excretory duct that opens into a hair follicle. Apocrine sweat contains water, carbohydrate waste, lipids, ammonium, steroids and other organic products. Ouch! That’s gotta be heavy.
They secrete sweat directly into the hair follicles in periodical spurts. This sweat mixes with sebum and that is why it comes out as thick, viscous and milky. It obviously ends up somewhere. The tell-tale signs are the yellow stains on your white shirt!
#4 - Armpits are home to billions of microorganisms
Did you know that your body is made up of ten times more bacteria than human cells? The various populations are adapted to thrive in specific areas of your body. Billions of these inhabit your wet, warm and dark underarms. Interestingly, different underarms harbour different bacteria.
The diversity and abundance of these armpit residents can be altered by the use of antiperspirants and deodorants. While precise conclusion cannot be made on every alteration, one thing is evident though; use of deodorants and antiperspirants leads to death of some good bacteria, paving way for some odour-causing actinobacteria. Maybe it is time to ditch the roll-ons and sprays?
#5 - Your armpits (and groin) have a right to be smellier than other parts of your body
Regardless of its numerous contents, apocrine sweat is odourless when it is secreted. The moisture, dark nature of armpits and the abundance of ‘food’ works like a magnet for skin bacteria. They thrive well in it until they decompose the sweat into thioalcohols.
These compounds are known to be very pungent and are responsible for smelly underarms. Next time you are riding the elevator with people and there are smells in the leagues of sulphur, onions or meat, don’t blame them, blame the bacteria!
#6 - Armpit bacteria transplant is actually a thing!
If you happen to be among the people whose sweat trail can be picked from miles away, there may be good news for you. Your odour-causing bacteria can actually be replaced with good-scented bacteria. This is according to a researcher Chris Callewaert. It has so far worked on several people.
The effects are not yet permanent but there is hope that they can be optimized. There’s is a catch though; when the same was done between unrelated subjects, the effects did not last more than a couple of days. This is a cue to start mending your relationship with your sweet smelling relatives. You never know when you will need their good bacteria.
#7 - A sniff of a man’s armpits can be an instant turn on for women
If you think your sex appeal is a bit wanting, you can try sweaty armpits. They may be your best shot where other advances have failed. Research shows that a sniff of androstadienone, a compound found in man’s sweat can instantly lighten a woman’s moods and make her sexually aroused.
That’s not all, a woman under the influence of pheromones which are present in fresh male sweat is likely to see a man as attractive whether that’s the case or not. See if you can get her to sniff your pits and watch as the magic unfolds! Unless she is on contraceptive pills which may apparently weaken a woman’s ability to react to natural attraction.
#8 - Extra breast in the armpit?
This is a congenital condition in which abnormal breast tissue forms in the armpit. In many instances, this tissue forms along the embryonic line which extends between the axilla and the groin. Cases of formation on the face, thigh and back have also been reported. It usually manifests during puberty and worsens with pregnancy and lactation.
Polymastia occurs in 2-6% of females and 1-3%of males. It is usually characterised by tenderness of the affected area, difficulty in shoulder movement and irritation from clothing. Polymastia was associated with fertility in ancient times. Artemis, a Greek goddess of fertility was believed to have multiple breasts.
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#9 - Armpit bacteria can be used to make cheese!
This sounds gross, right? Who does this? Scientist Christina Agapakis and scent expert Sissel Tolaas did it for a cheese project they called ‘selfmade’. They made cheese for an exhibition with starter cultures collected from human skin. These were from a foot, a belly button and armpits.
The two made 11 cheeses which they said reflected the flavours and the unique odours of the humans they belonged to. Just before you decide to adopt a cheese-free diet, the cheeses were not made to be eaten; they are supposed 'to inspire new conversations about our relationship to the body and to our bacteria.'
#10 - Removal of armpit hair goes way back...
Since ancient times, shaving body hair has been linked to cleanliness, religion and decency. This has been to a large extent as far as women are concerned. In ancient Egypt, seashell, stone and pumice tweezers were used to remove body hair. In the Roman Empire, hair removal signified class, but only for women
By the 1900s, fashion was already exerting lots of pressure for women to shave their underarms. The campaign was further reinforced by the invention of a safety razor specifically meant for women in 1915 and the growing popularity of sleeveless dresses by 1920s. By then, hairless armpits had become a necessity.
#11 - Hairy armpits are popular these days
Despite all the efforts put into supplying the demand for hair removal products, the number of women who have decided to ditch the razor is on the rise. Between 2013 and 2016, the percentage of women who shaved their armpits dropped from 95% to 77%. This can also be confirmed by the drop in sales of hair removal product by about 5%.
Whether you are growing out armpit hair to ‘empower women’, protest to something or because you are too lazy to shave; you are not alone. Celebrities like Jemima Kirke, Miley Cyrus, Madonna and Paris Jackson are some that have no qualms about flaunting hairy pits.
#12 - Your underarm odour speaks volumes about you
Research suggests that you can communicate moods such as fear, disgust and joy through ‘chemosignals’ or volatile compounds in your underarm sweat. That’s not all. Your body odour can also be used to detect illnesses like cancer.
Did you know that your body odour is as distinct as your fingerprint? Indeed it is. And don’t think that there are special people who are supposed to decode what your body is saying, apparently, your sense of smell is strong enough to distinguish gender, age, illness and other characteristics of others by sniffing them out. It is just a matter of sniffing each other away...
#13 - Armpit fetish is real
Armpit fetish or maschalagnia is having intense attraction to or interest in armpits in a sexual way. This can be triggered by visual perception of the armpit as female genitalia, whether shaved or hairy, smelly or clean, sweaty or dry. Fetishism is accompanied by activities like licking, sniffing, kissing, tickling, and armpit sex.
It is however different from being turned on by armpits; it is an obsession that can lead to complete replacement of regular sex with armpit sex. Is fetishism a problem? Yes, if it affects normal sex in such a way that arousal is not possible without the fetish object, armpit, in this case.
#14 - Your armpit is home to scores of lymph nodes
Lymph nodes are bean shaped structures that help in filtering impurities from the lymph and producing lymphocytes which are responsible for fighting infection. Your underarm area has at least 20 of these bean shaped structures. You should not expect to feel them though; unless they are swollen.
When breast cancer develops as a lump in the breast, it accesses the lymphatic system via the axillary lymph nodes to spread to the rest of the body. During lumpectomies, mastectomies and other surgical procedures to get rid of breast cancer, axillary lymph nodes are dissected to check the extent and the stage of the cancer.
#15 - Armpit lumps as a warning of cancer
Armpit lumps are very common and as many as their different causes, they can be signs of minor issues like a reaction to deodorants, a swollen lymph node or signs of others that require medical attention like cancer. If they go away with treatment or on their own, then they are nothing to lose sleep over.
On the other hand, lumps that do not go away or gradually increase in size could be a sign of breast cancer, lymphoma or leukaemia.
Women should treat all lumps with suspicion; it is better to be safe than sorry. Additionally, successful remission or treatment of serious illnesses like cancer may depend upon early detection.
Now you are up to speed with everything about armpits. In a nutshell, smelly armpits and yellow underarm stains are reserved for adolescents and adults. This is because armpits are home to sweat glands that produce cloth staining substances and bacteria that decompose them to produce that awful odour. Surprisingly, your armpit odour is unique to you and it has the ability to attract others especially from the opposite sex and reveal one or two things about you.
If you don’t like it, Dr. Callewaert can always swap your bad bacteria with some good smelling one and oh, keeping your armpit hairless or hairy is no big deal; you are not alone anyway. One last thing, your armpits can keep you up to speed with your health. Be on the lookout for any lumps under there!
Sonia Knight is the founder of be:skinformed.Apart from having her own experience with hyperpigmentation, Sonia has gained vast knowledge in the dermatology field. For more info on this, check out our about us page.