Skincare goes way beyond taking care of your facial skin. Sometimes people tend to forget about taking care of the other part of the skin on their body that needs just as much care and attention. One of them is the skin on your underarms. It sweats more, hairs were plugged or shaved, and a lot of occlusion happening in that area causing a lot of hyperpigmentation that may bother some people. Does this unique skin structure under the arms need different care than our facial skin and how are they different? Let’s learn more about it in this article.
Why underarms skin tend to be darker
Dark underarms, which is a very common occurrence, can be quite bothersome for some people. However, it is important for us to get it straight that it is quite normal for the skin around that area to look darker than the other area of your body just like your elbow and knee appear darker than the other part of your skin due to their unique characteristics. It has a weaker skin barrier,
The reason being that this area is more prone to irritation that stimulates our skin pigment formation. There are several potential causes of darker underarms:
A. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation due to irritation
- ● Deodorants and antiperspirants (chemical)
- ● Shaving, plucking, or waxing
- ● Friction from tight clothing or increased body weight
B. Acanthosis nigricans: a skin condition that causes darker discoloration (thickened) around body fold and creases: armpits, groin, and neck.
C. Hormonal changes (PCOS, Addison’s disease, etc)
D. Medications (insulin, corticosteroids, birth control pills, etc)
Risk for darker underarms:
- ● Darker skin type
- ● Obesity
- ● Genetics (hereditary)
Guidelines to lighten your underarms
If the darkening of your armpits is not caused by any underlying disease or recurring inflammation, here are some tips on how you can lighten your underarms at home:
A. Lighten the hyperpigmentation
1. Exfoliate (2 – 3 times a week)
- Use it with caution and make sure not to over-exfoliate your skin, since the skin around the underarms is delicate which in turn leads to more irritation, inflammation, and even more hyperpigmentation.
- ● Use some gentle scrub or washcloth
- ● Use chemical exfoliators (AHA, BHA)
: You can start using them as a wash-off product, use them before you shower and then rinse it off as you shower. Or, if you want to use them as a leave-on, make sure that you’re using a low percentage of chemical exfoliants.
2. Use gentle, skin-barrier strengthening and brightening products
- You can use your regular facial serum for hyperpigmentation in general. However, since the skin structure is pretty thin and folds onto each other, more of the product will absorb into your skin and double the chance of irritation. It is always advised to start slowly from 2-3 times/week and to just apply a little amount everytime. Here are some of the ingredients you want to look for in your cream product.
- ● Niacinamide
- ● Soy
- ● Licorice root extracts
- ● Azelaic acid
B. Prevent irritation
- 1. Be gentle (or even stop) with shaving or plucking
2. Use moisturizing shaving cream and make sure to use a sharp razor (and change them regularly) whenever you need to shave. Although it is always better to avoid it at all cost and try to gently trim the hair instead. (Or even better, you can opt for a laser hair removal)
- 3. Wear loose-fitting clothes
- 4. Diet (losing weight)
- 5. Switch to fragrance-free deodorants (minimize the irritants)
- 6. Avoid DIY skincare hacks with lemon, vinegar, or baking soda
When you should go to your dermatologist:
If the darkened armpits are caused by an underlying disease or recurring inflammation, it is best to discuss the condition with your doctor for medical attention:
- ● Treatment of underlying causes of dark underarms
- ● Topical cream or lotions: hydroquinone, retinoic acid, corticosteroid, azelaic acid, kojic acid, etc
- ● In-office treatment as an alternative to shaving/plucking: laser hair removal or chemical peels
No matter which treatment route you have finally chosen, it takes time and consistency for it to show results. If you’ve seen any DIY hacks that result in an overnight solution, maybe you’re looking into the wrong tips!