Destiny Moreno, 17, drove to a Sally Beauty Supply near her Seattle home last September with a newly hatched plan. She peppered a grandmotherly employee with questions about hair bleaches, developers and dyes, and the woman asked matter-of-factly if she were coloring her hair.
"I was like, 'Oh, I'm dyeing my armpit hair,'" Moreno said. "She stared at me shellshocked for five seconds, and then she started laughing and was laughing throughout the entire interaction."
She settled on Voodoo Blue by Manic Panic, and the next day posted a video on YouTube in which she wears a tank top and proudly raises her arms to show turquoise-colored armpit hair. The video has had more than 264,000 views. After she stopped shaving her underarms a few months before, Moreno drew plenty of negative comments, and dyeing her armpits bright colors - she has since also gone with hot pink, purple, green, neon yellow and orange - has been something of an act of defiance.
"Nobody questions when a guy wearing a tank top does a selfie that shows his armpit hair," she said. "But if I happen to show my armpit hair in a selfie, it's like, 'Whoa, feminist witch asking for attention.'"
The Internet, it turns out, is up to its armpits with women who dye theirs. Miley Cyrus displayed her newly pink underarms in a photo she posted to Instagram on May 1, drawing more than 396,000 likes and more than 30,000 comments. On Instagram, more than 700 photos of women (and a handful of men) have been posted with the hashtag #dyedpits. And a blog post, "How to Dye Your Armpit Hair," by Roxie Hunt, a Seattle hairstylist, has been shared more than 37,000 times since it was published in October.
Five years ago, Hunt, 31, stopped shaving her underarms, which these days are pink (Cleo Rose by Manic Panic). She is a founder of Free Your Pits, a website that celebrates growing and dyeing. "Our goal," write Hunt and Rain Sissel, the site's other founder, in what they call a manifesto, "is to use this demonstration of personal choice and expression to help broaden and challenge the standard of 'beauty' in a society that already places way too many harmful standards on women."
At "pit-ins" in Seattle and Pensacola, Florida, groups have assembled for dyeing sessions. And through Vain, the feminist-leaning salon in Seattle where she works, Hunt also offers the service for $65.
"One woman came in to get them done because she was going on a family vacation and wanted to freak out her in-laws," Hunt said.
Racheal Bennett, 20, who lives in Ottawa and is studying to become a hairstylist, stopped shaving her underarms when she was about 15. Last December, she posted an instructional video to YouTube in which she dyes her armpits with the color Virgin Rose by Special Effects.
"I do it because it looks cool," she said in an interview. "And because I think that people should be able to do what they please, and feel beautiful regardless of what they do."
Not everyone shares her enthusiasm. "My parents think I'm crazy," Bennett said. "They've accepted it, but my dad is still very much grossed out."
Breanne Fahs, associate professor of women and gender studies at Arizona State University, published an article last year about a study she conducted of 62 women who stopped shaving their armpits and legs for 10 weeks, and who kept journals about the frequently negative reactions from romantic interests, friends and family. She welcomes the dyeing trend.
"Probably most women don't say, 'I'm dyeing my armpit hair as a direct act of political resistance,'" Fahs said. "But nevertheless it becomes that, because it really highlights the presence of the hair and the presence of this otherwise sort of silent or erased aspect of women's bodies."
Snooky Bellomo, who with her sister Tish founded the Manic Panic brand when both were ensconced in the East Village punk scene in the 1970s, is delighted that it is a favorite among pit-dyers.
"What a woman decides to do with her own body and her own hair is her own business," she said. "We love defiance, and we love flying in the face of beauty standards."
Because underarms can be sensitive, do-it-yourselfers tend to use 20-volume peroxide to strip the color rather than the stronger 30- or 40-volume that many use on their heads. And to avoid discoloring skin, dyers recommend smearing petroleum jelly along the perimeter.
On Alyssa Bishop, 38, Manic Panic After Midnight, a deep blue, is arrayed like bodies of water on a map. She dyes her shoulder-blade-length hair, eyebrows, armpit hair and below the belt. Bishop, who lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and works in a commercial greenhouse, said her underarms in particular function as a litmus test.
"If people don't think that my blue armpit hair is funny, then they probably aren't worth my time," she said. "It's really great for turning off people who aren't accepting."
And, it turns out, for keeping herself amused.
"When I see myself naked in the mirror, I laugh every time," she said, "because I think it's hilarious and kind of awesome."