The Truth on Dark Underarms

Summer time on instagram is always full of the bikini pics with perfectly waxed, even skin from head to toe. Now we all know some of that is just excellent (and sometimes not so excellent) use of photoshop. However, some women do have seemingly perfectly even skin. So we all strive for that ideal. In reality that is not the case! A major pain point for a lot of women is armpit hyperpigmentation.

We’re going to let you in on a little secret: It actually does not matter at all if your armpits are a different color than the rest of your body!

The truth is we all have different levels of melanin all over our bodies. In some, it manifests as freckles, while others have differences based on usage and exposure of various body parts, and for some it is due to an underlying condition, like vitiligo.

 

In this post, our goal is to inform and encourage. We are not medical professionals, but we are thorough and educated researchers. As always, if you have a skin concern we recommend scheduling an appointment with a licensed dermatologist.

Rather than focusing on how to even out the skin tone under your arms for the perfect sleeveless looks. We think it is more important to understand what might cause these differences in skin tone and if it is worth addressing at all.


Common causes of underarm skin discoloration:

1. Dry skin and dead skin cells: Just like on your face or any other body part for that matter, malnourished skin often causes a build-up of dead/damaged skin cells resulting in a dark often dull tone. The good news is, this is not a big deal at all, and can be quickly resolved! Try increasing your water and fruit intake and remember that exfoliation is your friend. We recommend both manual and chemical exfoliation, but not all at once. Some easy options are wiping your armpits with exfoliating toners after you shower. It is similar to how you would use it in your face routine, just under your arms. For more on acids check out our guide to acids! Here’s a quick routine that will brighten you up in no time.


Morning: cleanse with warm water, exfoliate using a gentle scrub, rinse and shave or wax.

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Cleanse

use warm water and mild soap

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exfoliate

use a gentle manual exfoliator (sugar scrub or brush)

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hair removal

shave with a fresh razor or try waxing for better results

Evening: Cleanse, skip the manual exfoliation and hair removal, pat dry and tone, apply coconut oil or another oil with antibacterial properties (clove, rosemary, eucalyptus, etc.). Skip the deoderant before bed.

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pat dry

avoid rubbing to reduce irritation

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apply toner

apply an exfoliating toner to treat skin

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moisturize

lock in moisture and stay fresh


2. Hyperpigmentation/hyperkeratosis/allergic reaction: These conditions are often characterized by rough, darkened skin, and are generally derived from similar causes. Typical culprits are from trauma to the skin including:

  • excess sun exposure

  • use of certain internal and topical medications

  • acne/inflammation

  • contact with allergens

  • injuries

In short, your body is trying to protect you and in doing so you are more prone to hyperproduction of melanocytes (these are the cells responsible for melanin production). The best approach to mitigate this is preventative, which includes reducing inflammation and contact with irritants. Follow these 5 steps for the most proactive approach to hyperpigmentation.


3. Acanthosis nigricans (AN): is characterized by dark, coarse and thickened skin with a velvety texture. It is often a sign of an underlying issue like insulin resistance and diabetes. The best resolution is to visit your doctor and treat any underlying issues before seeking topical solutions.

4. 5 o’clock shadow: more apparent in people with darker hair and/or skin. When you shave it cuts the hair, but does not remove the hair from the follicle. As a result, you will see dark spots that are simply your hair that is right under your skin. The best way to avoid these dark spots is to wax instead of shaving. If you hate waxing, scroll back up to see our easy underarm routine. This will help to avoid ingrown hairs and ensure you get a closer shave.


The myths:

Non-natural deodorant and aluminum cause dark armpits and cancer.

We are not sure where this started, but it is not entirely true!

In coming posts, we will break down what you should be aware of and help you to make informed choices for your deodorant.


As noted, some of these symptoms have cures, while others do not. We suggest doing what’s best for you and rocking it! Chances are, most people will not focus on your armpits when you have a beautiful soul!


sources:

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk.html

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/antiperspirants-fact-sheet

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2671833

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30032078

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29224370

Indian Dermatol Online J. 2014 Jul-Sep; 5(3): 239–249.

doi:  10.4103/2229-5178.137765

PMCID: PMC4144206

PMID: 25165638

 

An approach to acanthosis nigricans

Meghana Madhukar Phiske

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144206/

Diagnosis of some common and uncommon hyperpigmentation disorders in children

Author links open overlay panelAlainTaıebabKhaledEzzedineaFannyMorice-Picarda

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsi.2014.08.001

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1027811714000457

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/245081.php

https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/pigmentation-disorders/hyperpigmentation

https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/pigment-disorders/hyperpigmentation

https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/sunscreens-explained

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5206475/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26671210

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144206/

Diagnosis of some common and uncommon hyperpigmentation disorders in children

Author links open overlay panelAlainTaıebabKhaledEzzedineaFannyMorice-Picarda

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsi.2014.08.001

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1027811714000457

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/245081.php

https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/pigmentation-disorders/hyperpigmentation

https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/pigment-disorders/hyperpigmentation

https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/sunscreens-explained

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5206475/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26671210

sources:

https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/antiperspirants-and-breast-cancer-risk.html

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/myths/antiperspirants-fact-sheet

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2671833

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30032078

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29224370

Indian Dermatol Online J. 2014 Jul-Sep; 5(3): 239–249.

doi:  10.4103/2229-5178.137765

PMCID: PMC4144206

PMID: 25165638

 

An approach to acanthosis nigricans

Meghana Madhukar Phiske

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4144206/

Diagnosis of some common and uncommon hyperpigmentation disorders in children

Author links open overlay panelAlainTaıebabKhaledEzzedineaFannyMorice-Picarda

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.dsi.2014.08.001

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1027811714000457

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/245081.php

https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/dermatologic-disorders/pigmentation-disorders/hyperpigmentation

https://www.merckmanuals.com/home/skin-disorders/pigment-disorders/hyperpigmentation

https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen/sunscreens-explained

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5206475/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26671210