Q. This summer I told a friend I was having trouble with a persistent itchy rash under my breast. She said she too was bothered with an under-breast rash and mentioned that a third friend with such a rash put antiperspirant on it and it went away.
I tried this and it worked! I am now rash-free. I rub the antiperspirant on at the same time I apply it to my underarms. Now, I don’t need the antifungal creams or powders my doctor prescribed.
A. Many women complain about fungal infections under their breasts. Damp, warm skinfolds may invite such problems, which is why some people have turned in desperation to using an antiperspirant to dry the area.
We urge caution, however. Antiperspirants contain aluminum. A review of research shows that aluminum in concentrations found in breast tissue may be problematic (Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, online July 13, 2013). The investigators raise concerns that the cellular changes aluminum triggers may increase the risk of breast cancer. You can read more about it here.
A number of readers have shared their remedies for this surprisingly common problem. They include antifungal creams such as clotrimazole as well as products designed for completely different purposes, such as diaper rash cream or dandruff shampoo. Some women find that Listerine can be helpful, while others prefer a drying powder such as Zeasorb.
Here are a few of their stories. SC said:
“I have had trouble with red sore patches under breasts, belly and in the groin area. I tried tea tree oil which helps but it comes back again. BUT at last I have found a very cheap and great way to help this problem BABY WIPES. I use them daily after showering and drying and like magic I am free of the rash and itching. I was amazed but if it does for babies why not grown- ups! Give it a try. It worked for me and can be used daily.”
“I use Vicks VapoRub to keep the rash under control.”
“Wash under breasts with soap and water, rinse well, use a fresh towel after each shower to dry and then use a hair dryer under breasts to thoroughly dry area. This is very helpful!”
Some women have found that diet makes a difference. Here’s Susan:
“I had this problem for several years. I was sent to a dietician for “nutritional counseling” (which my insurance pays for) and the yeast infections in the folds of abdominal skin stopped when I followed the eating plan she set up for me. Blood sugar control is essential for getting rid of persistent yeast infections. The anti yeast medications did not permanently eradicate the infection. My blood pressure has gone down 15 points, my sugar is under control and I have more energy and the yeast infections are gone!”
Sarah also got help from changing her diet:
“I’ve had the exact same thing for years and years, and finally discovered that it’s caused by my allergies to wheat, eggs and dairy. My dandruff and various skin rashes–which I thought were eczema–are also caused by eating foods I’m allergic to.
“I figured this out when I went to buy a fungal cream at the pharmacy, and the pharmacist took one look at my rashes and suggested that I have allergies. I didn’t believe him, because I was eating a clean paleo/perfect health diet, but my diet included yogurt (made from raw goat’s milk), free-range eggs, and grass-fed butter. When I finally cut those out, I was astonished at my skin changes.”
You will find more suggestions for controlling fungal infections in our Guide to Skin Care and Treatment.
You may also want to rethink your use of aluminum-containing antiperspirants. Although the FDA seems to think aluminum is completely safe, and in fact requires all antiperspirants to contain some form of aluminum, we are becoming concerned as data about the dangers of aluminum accumulate.
European researchers have been writing about this potential problem for the last few years. Until aluminum is proven 100 percent safe when applied daily to underarms, we ourselves are using aluminum-free deodorants. Should you also be interested, here is a link to aluminum-free, magnesium-containing products we have helped create.