Dark underarms can be quite embarrassing and prevent you from wearing your favourite clothes with confidence. Those with discoloured underarms usually avoid wearing sleeveless outfits, swimming costumes and other such attire in public. Discoloration and darkening can happen on any part of the body, even something as protected and unexposed as your underarm area. A lot of lifestyles, hygiene and dietary habits are responsible for dark underarms. However, if you are here looking for answers on how to get rid of dark underarms, let us first tell you that this is a very common problem and a lot of women have this concern. There is absolutely no need to be embarrassed. By identifying the causes and adopting the right remedies you can definitely lighten dark underarms.
To learn what may be causing this problem and whether there are any solutions for it, we got in touch with cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Mrunal Shah Modi, Owner & Director at Shine Skin, Hair & Laser Clinic, Mumbai, to get expert insights on the topic. By the end of this article you will know exactly how to get rid of dark underarms, but first, let’s take a look at what causes underarm darkening.
- 1. Causes of dark underarms
- i) Increase in serum cortisol level
- ii) Acanthosis Nigricans
- iii) Deodorants and antiperspirants
- iv) Shaving
- v) Lack of exfoliation
- vi) Friction caused while wearing tight clothes
- vii) Hormonal imbalance
- 2. How to lighten dark underarms
- 3. Home remedies for dark underarms
- 4. Medical treatments for underarm lightening
1. Causes of dark underarms
In order to understand how to get rid of dark underarms, it is important to first learn what causes it in the first place. There’s a reason why some women have absolutely flawless and neat looking armpits, and some don’t. Here’s what Dr. Modi has to say:
i) Increase in serum cortisol level
Medical reasons like increased serum cortisol levels in the blood with deranged serum insulin levels can cause the darkening of the underarms and the neck area. A serum cortisol test can be done to identify if this is causing the darkening.
ii) Acanthosis Nigricans
A common skin pigmentation disorder, Acanthosis Nigricans causes the underarm area to turn dark and thick. Other than the underarm area, it can also appear on elbows, knees, groin, knuckles, palms and soles of the feet.
iii) Deodorants and antiperspirants
Deodorants and antiperspirants can cause irritation in the underarm area as they contain alcohols which can irritate and at times, burn the skin, making it appear discoloured and dark. Avoid spraying perfume and deodorants directly onto skin and opt for alcohol-free products.
In our attempt to look for a solution on how to remove black underarms, we often forget simple hygiene habits like shaving. While shaving may appear a harmless and quick way to get rid of underarm hair, it might be one of the reasons why you have dark underarms. This is because the razor shaves away the top protective layer of the skin along with hair and this exposes the skin to sweat and harsh ingredients from products, causing irritation and discoloration.
v) Lack of exfoliation
Just like your face, the rest of the body also needs to be exfoliated from time to time. Exfoliate once a week and pay special attention to areas like the underarms, the backs of knees and the neck area. Sweat, dead skin accumulation and product buildup can also cause dark underarms. Having said that, don’t be too harsh while exfoliating the skin as this can also irritate the skin.
vi) Friction caused while wearing tight clothes
The pores on our skin need to breathe freely and some fabrics prevent this from happening. Wearing tight clothes creates friction between the folds of your skin and the fabric. This can irritate your skin and may eventually lead to underarm darkening. So, if you want an easy hack on how to lighten underarms, start by wearing loose cotton clothes.
vii) Hormonal imbalance
Women with hormonal disorders like PCOS and an underactive thyroid are also prone to developing dark underarms. Some medications, especially ones that contain high doses of niacin, some birth control pills and corticosteroids may also cause the underarm area to appear discoloured.
2. How to lighten dark underarms
We asked Dr. Modi whether any lifestyle changes can help correct this problem, and here are a few tips that she gave:
- Lose weight if overweight
- Opt for natural deodorants and antiperspirants
- Avoid shaving, if the hair is very thick, laser hair removal is recommended
- Exfoliate your body at least once a week
- Wear loose clothes
- If there is a fungal infection in the underarm area,
- visit a dermatologist Stop smoking
3. Home remedies for dark underarms
Luckily, in your quest on how to remove dark underarms, you don’t have to go very far. Simple home remedies can help correct this problem, all you have to do is learn how to use each of these ingredients correctly to lighten dark underarms.
i) Lemon juice
Do not apply lemon juice on the underarm area directly as the acidic content in it is quite high and may cause skin irritation. Mix the juice of a lemon with equal amounts of water or oil and massage the underarm area for a few minutes before bath. Doing this regularly will give you relief from dark underarms.
Wondering how to lighten the underarm area using potatoes? Simply rub the skin of the potato or grate a potato, squeeze its juice out and apply on the underarm area. This will soothe the skin and make it appear brighter and lighter with regular use.
iii) Coconut oil
Another home remedy is massaging virgin or cold-pressed coconut oil on the underarm area. Do this twice every day until you notice results. It is considered to be one of the most effective remedies.
Add a few drops of water to turmeric powder to make a paste, apply this on the underarm area and rest with your hands up and once dry, wash it off. Make sure you are not wearing any light coloured clothes as they may stain them.
v) Tomato juice
Rubbing a slice of raw tomato everyday on the underarm area, will lighten and brighten the skin and give you quick results. The juice can also be left on the skin overnight.
vi) Milk or malai
Before your bath, massage the underarm area with fresh malai for a few minutes. If you don’t have malai, apply raw milk using a cotton ball. Leave it on for a few minutes then wash off. Repeat everyday for the best results.
4. Medical treatments for underarm lightening
Sometimes, home remedies may not be helpful if the cause of underarm darkening is an underlying health issue. In such cases, it is best to consult a dermatologist who will be able to get to the root of the problem. According to Dr. Modi, here are a few medical treatments that might help get rid of the issue.
1) Visiting an endocrinologist will help if the thyroid, insulin levels or cortisol levels are deranged. They will put you on medicines to solve this problem.
2) Depigmenting creams which have kojic acid, retinoids, hydroquinone, steroids, tretinoin or azelaic acid can be prescribed to treat underarm darkening.
3) Oral vitamin C and vitamin A tablets may be given.
4) Chemical peels containing glycolic acid, lactic acid, retinol peels, or trichloroacetic acid can be used to exfoliate the skin and reveal healthier and brighter skin.
5) Microdermabrasion can be performed to remove superficial dead skin.
6) Laser hair removal is very effective as it removes the dark, thick hair so there is no need for waxing or shaving, thereby eliminating the need for one of the major causes of underarm darkening.
7) Laser therapy for pigmentation to correct uneven skin tone.