Many women suffer from underarm discoloration. While this isn’t a burden in the wintertime, when cozy sweaters keep dark armpits under wraps, Spring and Summer are a different story. Many women feel self-conscious wearing sleeveless tops and armpit bearing sundresses. Thankfully, there are several ways to get rid of unwanted armpit discoloration, and prevent it from returning.
What Are The Causes Of Dark Armpits?
Dark underarms can affect all women, but tend to affect women with darker skins more. That’s mainly because people who have darker skin tones are better at producing the pigment that creates our skin color (melanin).
When our skin cells produce too much pigment, this is known as hyperpigmentation. This can happen for various reasons. Armpits can become hyperpigmented because of repetitive friction. Shaving, waxing, and just the friction caused by skin rubbing together can lead to irritation and mild skin trauma. The skin responds to this trauma by becoming thicker as a protective measure. Thicker skin goes hand in hand with hyperpigmentation and darker underarms.
While friction and irritation are the most common causes of discolored armpit skin, this condition can also be caused by genetics, diabetes, or hormonal problems. They can also be caused by allergic reactions to deodorants.
Should I Stop Shaving?
One of the best ways to reduce the appearance of dark underarms is to treat the area with a little TLC. If you’re dealing with underarm hyperpigmentation, you may want to lighten up on your shaving regimen.
Unfortunately waxing isn’t much better, as ripping hair from the follicles is not a gentle way to treat your armpits. It can cause significant skin irritation. People prone to ingrown hairs should avoid waxing anyway, as the resulting inflammation (known as ‘pseudofolliculitis barbae’) caused can lead to skin discoloration.
Instead of waxing or shaving, people who want to get help lighten their underarms may want to invest in laser hair removal instead.
What Do Dermatologists Say?
Dermatologists often recommend laser hair removal because it’s an effective way to reduce underarm irritation. This treatment uses light beams to stop hair growth on a follicular level. The hair follicles are damaged by the light, and hairs grow back thinner and lighter until they eventually stop growing back at all. For full results, patients often have to undergo several rounds of laser hair removal treatments. Some women might balk at the price tag and time commitment, but laser hair removal is a great way to minimize the irritation which can lead to lighter colored armpits.
What Are the Typical Results of Laser Hair Removal?
Many people have to have 4 to 6 laser hair removal treatments to achieve full results. After only one treatment, hair will start to become thinner and sparser. At the end of the full treatment, most women will experience totally hairless underarms. Once the underarm skin is no longer affected by unnecessary friction, the skin can start to recover. After a few months of no shaving, the skin will hopefully begin to lighten and heal itself. If not, or if that’s too slow a process, there is more you can do.
What Are the Alternative Options to Laser Hair Removal?
Women who don’t want to go under the laser, or are impatient as Summer draws near, can still reduce the look of dark armpits.
If you want to shave, make sure you take time and do so carefully. Never shave ‘against the grain’ of the hair – it may get a slightly closer shave, but it causes a lot more skin damage. It also greatly increase the chances of ingrown hairs as it can cut hair just below the surface of the skin.
You should also use a good shaving cream to keep the skin moisturized and well lubricated while shaving. This will help minimize irritation. And then apply just a dab of moisturizer after shaving. Use something gentle, preferably without alcohol derivatives, and ideally with something soothing like aloe vera. Wait at least 10 minutes for it to absorb before applying deoderant.
Can Creams Whiten My Armpits Faster?
Typically yes, because dark armpits are caused by hyperpigmentation, so using products that have certain skin lightening ingredients can yield really good results.
Dermatologists often prescribe products containing retinoids and/or hydroquinone.
Retinoids are derived from vitamin A, and include some names you have probably heard of such as retinol or tretinoin (also called Retin-A). These are better known for their anti-aging properties though as they have been shown to smooth facial wrinkles, firm the skin, and give the skin much-needed antioxidants. They do however help with skin turnover too so can help speed up skin lightening.
Hydroquinone on the other hand is more of a ‘bleaching’ agent. That is, it will whiten the skin in as little as a couple of weeks. There are some concerns however with hydroquinine use (some countries have even banned it completely for cosmetic use).
More natural alternatives have now been developed (check our skin lightening cream reviews here), and hydroquinine appears to be in decline. This is probably a good thing, particularly as a lot of hydroquinine products are not used under supervision of a doctor or dermatologist.
There is a whole list of natural skin whitening ingredients that include arbutin, mulberry, niacinamide, kojic acid and many more. These mostly act to limit the production of melanin which is the pigment responsible for our skin color.
What Are the Typical Results Of Whitening Creams?
Just be clear that there are no ‘overnight’ results. Any lightening cream whether prescription or over the counter is going to take a little time. So you need to allow a couple of weeks to start seeing results, and up to a couple of months for the full effects to really be seen.
Also be aware that as your skin lightens this will naturally increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight. This is rarely a problem for underarms, but it’s worth being aware.
Do Any Of Those ‘Home Remedies’ Really Work?
There are a number of home remedies that purport to solve the problem of dark underarms. Unfortunately, they rarely have positive effects.
Lemon juice is one of the most popular home remedies. Some people believe that rubbing a few drops of lemon juice directly onto the armpits will lighten the area.
While lemon juice does contain some skin lightening ingredients, the risks outweigh the benefits. Lemon juice is actually very acidic.
So it can actually irritate the skin, thanks to the psoralen and citric acid it contains. These compounds can cause itchiness and redness when used on the skin. They also leave the sun more prone to sun damage, which can in turn cause hyperpigmentation. In short, dousing your armpits in lemon juice might smell quite nice but it simply isn’t worth it.
Can You Prevent Dark Underarms From Coming Back?
If you’ve now found a way to lighten your underarms that works for you, congratulations. Break out the sundresses in celebration! If you want to prevent hyperpigmentation from returning, however, you have to be kind to your skin. Don’t try weird home remedies, avoid unnecessary friction, and keep your underarm skin moisturized and away from the sun – not so tricky on that last one, just don’t sunbathe with your arms over your head 🙂
This should help you keep your armpits happy, healthy, and hopefully hyperpigmentation-free.