Spaghetti “Fungus”, Philly Funk

[Bottom line: It’s not a fungus. Shave your armpits and keep them dry until it’s gone. ]

While we’re on the subject of armpits, let’s talk about the Philly Funk, shall we? This condition has a lot of names punk circles, probably because it is really common. Like how there are lots of names for dandelions (puffball, clock, &c). I’ve mostly heard the armpit hair stuff called “Philly funk” or “spaghetti fungus”. In case you don’t already know what I’m talking about, it’s when armpit hair (and sometimes groin hair) gets a yellowish or reddish or even black coating of schmutz on it. This changes the texture of the hair, and generally makes the area more smelly than usual. If you are rather observant, you might notice the hair coating swells when it’s wet, becoming more noticeable. It also sometimes leaves yellow or red stains on clothing! So… lots of us have experience with this… what the heck is it?

Despite the name and common assumption, it is actually an overgrowth of bacteria rather than a fungus. Clearly, someone else thought it was a fungus as well, since the latin name for it —Trichomycosis axillaris– means ‘hair fungus of the armpit’. So, everyone can be surprised to find it’s a bacteria. Why do we care about the difference? Because you do different stuff to get rid of it. If you read the previous post, you will already understand that bacterial poop is what makes the armpits smelly and thus know that it stands to reason that the Philly funk would be extra smelly. In short, that’s a lot of bacteria, and it’s making a lot of poop, and that makes for a noticeable smell. You might notice smelling a bit different than your normal smell.

Where does it come from? T. axillaris is caused by gram positive bacteria in theCorynebacterium genus who love warm, consistently moist conditions. Not bathing much, not shaving the armpits, and otherwise being a radical armpit, really sets these guys up nicely and they take off encrusting everything!

Here’s how to get rid of it… Have a clean shirt ready. Shave your armpits (I know, I know. I promise it will grow back) if you can’t shave them for some reason, carefully removed as much hair as you can with scissors. Put on that clean shirt. Don’t put on any shirts you haven’t just washed or get in any bedding you were in before you shaved those pits. Wash everything first! Shaving your pits and washing your clothes and bedding alone might do the trick especially if you wear anti-antiperspirant every day, but honestly, you’d be lucky if that’s all it took. To really send it running, splash your armpits with rubbing alcohol after showering, and every day for a while, maybe a week or two. Wait an hour or so after shaving before applying rubbing alcohol to avoid the sting. An alternative to alcohol is to wash your (hairless) armpits daily with benzoyl peroxide. This is an ingredient in some face washes (like Neutrogena Clear Pore). Try to keep the area as dry as possible, by using an anti-antiperspirant for a while, or a drying powder. If you don’t want to do either of those things, change clothes often to keep pits as dry as you can. The same procedures can be used on the groin area, though I don’t think you ought to be putting antiperspirant down there and a benzoyl peroxide cleanser might carry less sting than rubbing alcohol. This should do the trick! If it doesn’t, of course you may have misdiagnosed it. Or, if you have a really persistent case, you might need a topical antibiotic. As always, see a healthcare professional whenever you can instead of taking advice from blogs. For real. It may not be as expensive as you’d think, and getting regular checkups is worth every penny. Those folks go to school for a long time, and even after all that school, diagnosing things correctly is still one of the most difficult skills they develop. To think we can do it without any training and by using the internet is actually pretty foolish, but I digress. This regimen ought to beat the Philly Funk, good luck!! Leave a comment if you’ve heard another name for this!




3 thoughts on “Spaghetti “Fungus”, Philly Funk

  1. Because of the way they grow and look, I have called them stalactites.

    Also, I’ve had some successes with apple cider vinegar instead of alcohol.

    Thanks for the post. Most informative.

  2. I used baking soda to wash the fungus off, and it worked like magic! No shaving necessary. It stung a bit, but it has been a couple days and I haven’t seen any symptoms of it returning.

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