It's not a one-size-fits-all solution for how to treat your underarms. While some proudly display their body hair, others schedule regular laser sessions. If that sounds more appealing, you could use an antiperspirant spray instead of a natural deodorant stick.
Hyperpigmentation, or darker skin, is another issue that can divide opinions. While some might not find this natural (albeit frequent) occurrence bothersome, you might be looking for a method to even out your skin there. That adage holds: ''To each their own."
Time-lapse videos on Instagram may have shown you how to use lemon masks and sugar scrubs to brighten your underarms. But it's important to know if these natural compounds work. In this article, dermatologists will answer any concerns you may have concerning underarm hyperpigmentation.
Why do we have dark underarms?
Dermatologists Sheel Desai Solomon, MD, and Candrice Heath, MD, say that black underarms can occur for a number of different reasons. Like the darker skin on your elbows, knees, neck, groin, and underbelly, darkening pigmentation can develop under your armpits.
Dermatologist Candrice Heath, MD, says dark underarms are more common in people with darker skin because darker skin is more prone to hyperpigmentation. It's worth noting that, like other skin changes, darker pigmentation under the arms can run in families.
Skin changes could be related to your overall health. Since scientists have discovered a link between pigmentation and diabetes, having darker armpits may be seen as a possible early indicator of the disease. Dr. Solomon explains that insulin can alter skin pigmentation and why people with diabetes are more likely to experience this.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disease that can lead to excess facial hair and darker skin due to an insulin imbalance. In both situations, a dermatologist should examine acanthosis nigricans, the cause of black underarm skin.
Some environmental factors, besides heredity and underlying health concerns, should be considered if you notice a darkening in the area. Inflammation and thickening (and darkening) of the skin are long-term effects of deodorants and antiperspirants that may contain skin-irritating chemicals. Dr. Solomon says aluminum, a common antiperspirant element, can clog sweat glands and cause skin irritation.
In addition, scent and alcohol are known irritants that should be avoided in these products. The razor you use could also be irritating. Over time, shaving can cause the skin to darken and thicken, especially if done on dry skin or with a dull blade.
What Can You Do to Eliminate the Darkness in Your Underarms?
The skin on your underarms is extremely thin, even thinner than on your eyelids. This skin type is sensitive and might get more discolored if agitated. The skin in this region also folds inward, which increases the absorption of any topical treatment. Products formulated to reduce hyperpigmentation can irritate the skin, so it's vital to strike a balance when using them.
Realize that more is not necessarily better in every situation. Minimizing inflammation in the region is essential if you want to see recovery without additional aggravation. It may be necessary to be patient, as results may take longer to show the longer the pigmentation has been present. The trick is using less of a product and having patience.
With that said, you will discover seven of the best ways to treat and brighten underarm hyperpigmentation.
1. Bring in Some Mild Chemical and Physical Scrubbers
Do not scrub your underarms vigorously if you are trying to treat hyperpigmentation. This strategy doesn't help and is likely to aggravate the situation further. Try including a mild chemical and physical exfoliant in your routine once or twice a week. Effective ingredients include those containing lactic, glycolic, and salicylic acids.
2. Make Your Shaving Process Better
When shaving, keep in mind that doing so without shaving cream can lead to irritation. Shaving cream is best used after being left on the skin for 15–30 seconds. You should replace your razor blades regularly to prevent cuts from the blades' dull edges. There may be an allergy to the metal in your razor if you develop a rash around your belt buckle or other jewelry. While a nickel allergy has been suggested as a possible cause of dark underarms, more studies are needed to pinpoint the cause. Waxing and laser hair removal are two alternatives that could work better for you if this is the case.
3. To Avoid Irritation, Try a Hypoallergenic Deodorant Instead
A condition known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can develop if you're irritated. You should start by eliminating anything contributing to or exacerbating the problem. Remember that some all-natural deodorants have solid smells and may not be effective in stopping sweat. Plant-based scents might trigger skin reddening and itching in sensitive individuals. Further,
some people who sweat often develop rashes or other skin irritations. If you've noticed a change in the color of your underarms after using a new deodorant, try a hypoallergenic antiperspirant instead.
4. Topical Prescriptions: Talk to Your Dermatologist
Consult a board-certified dermatologist to discuss prescription-strength topical solutions if you feel your progress could be faster with the preceding strategies or want to save time from trial and error. Due to the delicate nature of the area, the dermatologist can advise you on the best frequency with which to use products. Prescription hydroquinone (in a calming gel form), azelaic acid, and tranexamic acid are some of their preferred topical therapies.
5. Professional Laser and Microneedling Treatments Can Help
Since all topical medications tend to be irritating, a procedure-based approach may sometimes be preferable. Treatments, including micro-needling, chemical peels, and low-fluence laser therapy, are also possibilities. However, it is important to remember that you will likely need numerous operations to see a noticeable difference. Due to the delicate nature of the skin there, at-home chemical peels are not advised. Professionals should be entrusted with this responsibility.
6. Be Cautious When Using Common Hyperpigmentation Treatments
Serums designed to treat hyperpigmentation on the face are safe to use on the underarms, but you should still take precautions. The skin under the arms is thin and folds in on itself, making it more likely to absorb the substance than when applied to the face. It's best to take it easy at first and use the ointment no more than twice a week to prevent any irritation. Always start with a little layer and wait for it to dry before lowering your arm. If your skin responds well, you can progressively increase the frequency to once a week. It could take a few weeks until you feel comfortable using the product once or twice daily.
7. Adjust Your Goals
The underarm area is quite sensitive, so there is no easy solution to this problem. Intense discomfort and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation might be made worse by rushing the process. Multiple months of intermittent in-office and/or at-home treatments are required to see notable effects. It's crucial to step back and reevaluate your current treatment plan and objectives, as you may be pushing yourself too hard.