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How To Get Rid of Dark Underarms: A Complete Guide

before and after dark underarms

There’s nothing that darkens a sunny day at the beach more than taking stock of your ocean-ready look and realizing that while almost every part of you is glowing and carefree, any time you lift your arms… the sun seems a little less bright.

We don’t often think of our underarms when considering our skincare needs, but dark underarms are a really common problem that many people suffer from.

You’ll be glad to know that dark underarms rarely indicate anything dangerous and don’t pose any health concerns in and of themselves. But they can be a real drag on your warm-weather looks and do some damage to your self-esteem. If you want to improve the appearance of dark underarms, the best place to start is by figuring out what’s causing them in the first place.

What Causes Dark Underarms?

There are actually a lot of things that can cause dark underarms! One of the first things you should check out is whether or not your problem is caused by a product you apply to your armpits.

The most likely culprit is, of course, your deodorant — whether you’re devoted to a brand, or you like to switch it up regularly, allergies can develop at any time. Whereas allergies on other parts of your body may more commonly present as rashes or hives, an allergic reaction local to your underarm could present as darker skin.

The other usual suspect for underarm hyperpigmentation is your razor! If you shave your underarms, you may be irritating the skin, which can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This is much more common in those with deeper skin tones, but it can affect anybody. Another cause of underarm hyperpigmentation that is more prevalent in people of color is Acanthosis Nigricans. It isn’t usually harmful — it just causes areas of your skin to thicken and darken.

Dark underarms can also occur if there’s a build-up of dead skin cells underneath your arms. Too many dead skin cells encourage your skin to create more pigment, making the affected area look darker. Not to mention your diet, which, as you probably know, can also impact your skin health. If your diet is lacking in Vitamin B, that particular deficiency is linked to hyperpigmentation.

If you have another condition you treat with medication, it’s also possible that your dark underarms result from a side effect from the medication you’re on. Birth control, too, can cause hyperpigmentation because — as teenage acne will attest — our skin is really susceptible to being influenced by fluctuating hormones!

Lastly, some more severe conditions can cause dark underarms, but rest assured, the most likely solution is something harmless. Acanthosis Nigricans can sometimes indicate a larger issue, such as cancer or type 2 diabetes, although this is very rare.

What Can You Do About It?

The answer to this question, of course, depends on the cause of your dark underarms. So let’s start from the top.

If you think your deodorant, or another product you regularly apply to your underarms, might be the culprit, the answer is obvious: you need to stop using it. While the idea of quitting on your deodorant can be a daunting proposition, it’s important to get to the bottom of what’s causing the reaction if you’re worried your dark underarms are the result of an allergy.

Try something simple and unscented, without too many hard-to-pronounce ingredients, if you need to switch instead of temporarily stopping usage.

If your underarm is — or was — irritated before the skin starts to darken, you might want to look at your shaving or waxing routine. If you shave your underarms, chances are you do it most days, and it becomes such a mindless part of a routine that it’s easy to forget it can be quite abrasive to your skin. Especially if you’re not using shaving cream or other products to lessen the impact!

Maybe take a break from underarm grooming and spend some time going au natural to allow your skin to recover.

You could also switch to waxing, with a professional or at-home kit, or epilating to remove hair from the root, rather than bothering your skin at the sensitive surface. This is a good option, too, if your problem is actually just a bit of underarm 5 o’clock shadow.

If your hyperpigmentation is the result of a gap in your skincare routine, it’s an easy fix! You’ll want to start by exfoliating on the regular — not just your face or the parts of your body you usually think of, but your underarms, too. This can brighten your skin and clear dead skin cells that may have built up, causing hyperpigmentation. You’ll also want to get a serum, cream, or body wash that contains a good amount of Alpha Hydroxy Acids.

AHAs serve as chemical exfoliants, which help to combat dark spots and blemishes by encouraging the skin to refresh itself and stimulating cell turnover. Even if the source of your dark underarms is something other than general skincare faux pas, using a strong AHA solution can help lessen the appearance of your underarm shadows.

And as many of you know, skin health isn’t just about what you put on your skin — it’s also about what you eat. Make sure you’re hydrating and getting a good amount of Vitamin B in your diet.

As we discussed above, a Vitamin B deficiency can lead to hyperpigmentation… so the best way to treat that is by getting more of what you’re missing! Luckily, Vitamin B is pretty easy to work into your diet. It’s present in fish, red meat and shellfish, as well as basics like milk, eggs and cheese.

If you’re a vegan, though, don’t worry — Vitamin B is also found in many leafy green vegetables. So you have many options, including supplements if you’re not sure you’ll get the nutrients you need any other way.

Overall, though, the best thing we can recommend that you do if you notice your underarms darkening is to speak to your doctor or dermatologist. While improving your overall skincare routine can help reduce the appearance of your dark underarms, there are products you can switch out that may irritate your skin… Many things that cause hyperpigmentation are best left to professionals.

But don’t worry — just because we’re recommending that you see your doctor doesn’t mean you’re in danger or dark underarms are a bad sign. They’re not! Dark underarms are usually the result of very mundane things that pose no real danger to your health.

But because there are several conditions that can have dark underarms as a symptom, as well as the fact that dark underarms can be a side effect from birth control or other medications, it’s worth getting checked out! That way, you’ll know how best to address it.

Can You Prevent Dark Underarms?

Acanthosis Nigricans is sometimes caused by obesity. So maintaining a healthy weight and a balanced diet is a great way to help prevent it from occurring.

Another thing you can do to keep your skin healthy and avoid dark underarms is to have good communication with your doctor and dermatologist. Rather than waiting for a problem to get so bad that you can’t ignore it, pay attention to your skin — if you notice dark patches forming, speak to a dermatologist or doctor straight away.

While we’d again like to emphasize that dark underarms are no reason to panic and are usually quite harmless, it’s better to seek answers early. Otherwise, the best thing you can do is to keep up with your skincare! It isn’t just for your face — it’s for your whole body. You can exfoliate in addition to your usual body cleansing routine when you shower and always apply sunscreen.

Lastly, because sometimes dark underarms can be caused by irritation or less-than-perfect shaving habits, giving your underarms a bit of a break from grooming occasionally may help decrease the likelihood that you’re rubbing your skin the wrong way.

In Conclusion

We tend not to think too much about our underarms, and without realizing it, put them through a lot of abuse: shaving, waxing, epilating, daily deodorant. So if you find that your underarms aren’t glowing like the rest of you, it’s important to give the skin there a bit of a rest and to speak to a doctor or dermatologist to get to the bottom of the issue in case it’s connected to a larger problem.

But with the right information and some good old-fashioned self-care, brighter days are ahead!

By: Ivey Rogers Aesthetician Educator & Community
Engagement Manager