Here's How to Get Rid of Dark Armpits, According to Dermatologists
Like a bad breakout or upper lip hair, dark armpits can spark insecurities in many of us. It can be hard to love those pesky shadows on our underarms, but it'd be a shame to let this condition have a major impact on our confidence. After all, temps are high AF this summer, and we want to wear all the tank tops and sleeveless dresses our hearts desire without worrying about how our armpits look.
Dark armpits occur for a wide variety of reasons, all of which are explained below. Plus, we've got plenty of advice on exactly how to get rid of dark armpits, according to dermatologists.
Why are my armpits dark?
A wide variety of things could be the culprit behind your dark underarms, from medical conditions, to the types of products you're using, to, simply, genetics. Plus, if you have a darker skin tone or extra sensitive skin, your chances of experiencing dark underarms are higher, according to board-certified dermatologist Dr. Marisa Garshick. "People with sensitive skin who may be prone to irritation can experience post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which is hyperpigmentation that occurs after a rash or inflammation subsides," she explains.
Board-certified dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman adds that people with darker skin tones are more at risk of developing dark underarms due to having "more pigment cells," noting that "when these cells multiply, they can make the skin darker."
Below, Dr. Garshick breaks down six possible dark underarm causes.
- Genetics. Dark underarms simply run in some people's families.
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome or diabetes. "Insulin resistance, which can occur in the setting of diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome, can result in a type of darkening known as acanthosis nigricans," Dr. Garshick says.
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). "Increased moisture in the underarm area can lead to irritation of the skin, which can result in darkening," Dr. Garshick explains.
- Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. "Any type of irritation as a result of shaving or sensitivity can lead to a rash or inflammation, which can resolve and leave discoloration (also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) behind," she says.
- Natural deodorants. "Some antiperspirants or natural deodorants may trigger contact dermatitis (eczema), either allergic or irritant, which can subsequently lead to hyperpigmentation," Dr. Garshick explains.
How to lighten dark armpits:
If the condition is really bothering you, there are several options for how to lighten dark armpits. However, Dr. Garshick warns against trying too many treatment tactics at once. "The skin in the underarm area is thin and delicate, and also folds onto itself which can increase potential absorption," she explains. "So, it's important to be careful when using certain ingredients, since they can lead to worsening irritation if they are used too frequently or if the concentration is too high." Ingredients like niacinamide, azelaic acid, retinol, and hydroquinone are the ones that are actually beneficial for treating dark underarms.
If the issue popped up recently, though, first try eliminating products you use under your arms one-by-one to find a possible culprit; this means everything from deodorant to body wash (if it's a new addition to your routine).
Below, find five more remedies for dark underarms.
- Check your deodorant.
- Mildly exfoliate. "A mild chemical exfoliant like glycolic acid or lactic acid is helpful," Dr. Garshick notes. "However, avoid over-scrubbing the area, as this can actually make things worse."
- Moisturize the area. "Moisturize skin in the underarm area to prevent dryness (which may increase the chance of irritation and darkening)," she advises.
- Shave properly. "Avoid dry shaving in the underarm area," she suggests. "It can increase the chance for irritation, so always make sure to dampen the hairs prior to shaving."
- Laser therapy to remove pigment. "If dark underarms seem to worsen after shaving, turn to laser hair removal, which reduces the need to shave as often," Dr. Garshick says.
- Prescription medication. "In some situations, a prescription may be helpful in reducing inflammation, but this should always be done under the direction of a board-certified dermatologist," she says.
Products for lightening dark underarms:
"Products with niacinamide and vitamin C will help lighten dark underarms," Dr. Jaliman points out. "You don't want to use strong ingredients since the skin under your arms is a sensitive area."
"This cream is gentle and contains vitamin C (which lightens) and vitamin E (which is moisturizing)," Dr. Jaliman notes.
"MegaBabe Happy Pits Underarm Mask contains a blend of glycolic acid and willow bark extract to gently exfoliate, which can help to brighten the underarm skin," Dr. Garshick explains. "It also contains vitamin C, which is an antioxidant also known for its brightening effects."
"This TruSkin product is great because it contains niacinamide, aloe (which is cooling and soothing for irritated skin), hyaluronic acid and vitamin e (which moisturize gently)," Dr. Jaliman says.
"Amlactin Daily 12% Moisturizing Lotion is a great option for those with darker underarms as it gently exfoliates using lactic acid while simultaneously hydrating the skin so it won't leave the skin feeling dry or irritated," Dr. Garshick explains.
"For those with dark underarms as a result of excessive sweating, I recommend Certain Dri Prescription Strength Clinical to effectively reduce the sweating that may be contributing to underarm pigmentation as it contains the same ingredient used in prescription antiperspirants," Dr. Garshick advises. "It's important to minimize irritation and maximize efficacy by applying the antiperspirant at bedtime when the skin is dry."