Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Nancy Agrahari (Journalist)  on  21st Sep 2020

How to Get Rid of Dark Underarms: Causes & Treatment

How to Remove Dark Underarms

Raise your hands if you have hesitated to wear that perfect sleeveless dress or blouse to avoid showing your black, darken underarms. Black underarms for some people can be an embarrassing aspect of their bodies. While dark underarms aren't a bother for some people, for others, it's the sole reason to avoid some styles of clothing. If you have ever felt bothered by the presence of dark underarms, and look for treatments to address this, then you have landed at the right place. This guide will help you understand the cause and give you simple tips on treating and preventing black underarms.

We'd like to believe that our world is full of acceptance and conviction. When it comes to armpits, some people embrace the hair growth and hardly visit the salon whereas, for some, waxing or laser appointments are a must. The same goes for maintaining them. While some choose to use spray, others use a roll-on. This use of perfumes, deodorants, sweats, and excessive shaving leads to hyperpigmentation or darkening of underarms.

Black underarms are a common problem, and there are enough do-it-yourself hacks across the internet. Some of them are disasters that you should never try out. In the world, where every second person has an opinion, look for treatments backed by science or credibility. We have a list of credible treatments that will visibly brighten darken underarms in weeks. No more DIYs, just actual results. 

What Causes Skin to Darken

Skin darkening is sometimes caused by a condition known as Acanthosis Nigricans (AN). In AN, the skin thickens and darken in folds around the body. The most common areas where the skin thickens and darkens are armpits, elbows, back of the neck, or knees.

Acanthosis Nigricans is also the reason you experience foul odor/smell around the area. It is often characterized by dark skin, which is often velvety in texture. It is so common that around 7% to 74% are affected by AN. People suffering from obesity, diabetes, age, or race are at greater risk.

What Causes Dark Underarms?

Your underarms should be the same color as the rest of your body. If that isn't the case, then skin darkening or hyperpigmentation can be due to Acanthosis Nigricans. Or your darken underarms could be due to -

  • Deodorants
  • Excess shaving
  • Accumulation of dead skin cells
  • Obesit
  • Melasma
  • Smoking or 
  • Acanthosis Nigricans

The change in skin color happens because of melanocytes. Melanocytes are melanin-producing cells located in the bottom layer of the epidermis. Excess production of melanin leads to skin darkening.

So, if you have been shaving regularly, then it gives the brain the signals to produce more melanin. This excessive production of pigment cells leads to darkening armpits.

Another cause of dark underarms could be a due accumulation of dead skin cells or the application of different deodorants. You can get rid of black underarms by using exfoliants like Kojic Acid, Alpha-hydroxy acids, or beta hydroxy acids. Or you can use easy home-remedies with lemon, aloe vera, or opt for other treatments.   

How to Get Rid of Dark Underarms

How To Treat Dark Underarms 

There are various ways you can brighten those dark armpits without spending a fortune. If there isn't an underlying condition, then the following tips can definitely help you. In the case of Acanthosis Nigricans, you can try to switch to a healthy lifestyle. Other ways you can get rid of those dark/black underarms are- 

Look For Exfoliating Acids

Direct acids like the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) or beta-hydroxy acid (BHA) effectively remove dead skin cells and boost collagen. If you are new at using direct acids, look for gentle exfoliators like AHA 30%+BHA 2% to brighten the armpits. A mix of AHA and BHA in a product will provide multi-level exfoliation, giving you brightened, smooth underarms. You can also use them as a peel to remove the accumulated dead skin cells from underarms for cleaner, smooth skin. 

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Retinoids are the right choice

Retinoids, a Vitamin A derivative is known for their extraordinary ability to promote cellular growth by fighting the photoaging cells to promote a brighter, smoother looking skin. It can also be used to treat Acanthosis Nigricans or hyperpigmentation. The best way to enjoy the benefits of retinoids is to use them regularly in darkened areas to promote skin cell proliferation. This can result in soft, clean underarms. 

Try Kojic Acid

When it comes to reducing dark spots and blemishes, no ingredient does a better job than Kojic Acid. Kojic Acid reduces excess melanin production and evens out skin tone. It is an effective treatment for reducing hyperpigmentation, dark spots, or blemishes. The ability to reduce melanin production makes Kojic Acid a good choice for reducing dark armpits.  

Regularly Moisturize your Underarms

Once you have shaved or plucked that hair from your underarms, clean the armpits, and apply a generous amount of moisturizer. It would be best to look for creams or moisturizers that are organic, fragrance-free to avoid any irritation after shaving. Moisturizing also helps to balance the skin tone of the armpits.

Shave the right way

If you like your armpits hair-free and would like to avoid spending money on laser hair removal, then it is time to reassess the way you shave. Often, in a rush, we shave our underarms without using any cream or shaving gel. This leads to the tugging of the hair follicle resulting in excess melanin production.

Avoid excess shaving and instead, wax the area for cleaner armpits. When you shave the underarms, apply a gentle/conditioning shaving cream and then shave the area. You may also want to avoid dull, overused razor blades that will result in continuous swiping, which may further irritate the skin.

When you are shaving the underarms, have a good look at the hair growth side and shave in that particular direction. This will quickly get rid of the hair and won't leave tiny hairs. The upward motion will also prevent you from tugging on the hair follicle, resulting in cleaner armpits. 

Select Fragrance-free Deodorants

To prevent further damage to the already darkened area is to avoid any irritation. The first step towards anti-irritation is to buy fragrance-free, natural deodorants and products. You can also look for deodorants that instantly brighten the skin, minus irritation. 

Hydroquinone creams for skin lightening

For reducing dark spots under the arms, you can also look for products that contain hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is often used as a primary ingredient by over-the-counter products for skin hyperpigmentation or to reduce the dark patches of the skin.

We recommend a patch test before using it on underarms. There are few side effects of the cream, which include skin reddening or dryness. 

Tips to Prevent Black Underarms

Preventing underarms from hyperpigmentation or skin darkening typically involves avoiding products, services, or tricks that cause black underarms. The top tips to avoid skin darkening can be-

  • Avoid deodorants that may contain alcohol, aluminum or other unwanted ingredients.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes to prevent friction.
  • Regular exfoliation to remove dead skin cells.
  • Prefer waxing over shaving. (In case you are shaving, use shaving cream before it, and then moisturize your skin)
  • Avoid dull, not-so-sharp razors.
  • Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. 

Look for Dermatologist

Skin darkening under the armpits is a common occurrence. You can try exfoliation, home remedies for antibiotics to reduce hyperpigmentation. If you still feel concerned about your skin is darker than the rest of your body, talk to your doctor. In case there is no underlying condition, you may be prescribed a skin brightening cream.

The Takeaway

Preventing your underarms from harsh deodorants, excessive shaving, and tight clothes will help reduce skin discoloration. As part of preventive measures, look for exfoliating your dead skin cells with AHAs or BHAs or Kojic Acid for reducing dark spots. You can also use home remedies for the same. Whatever you choose, stay healthy and eat green for a healthy, glowing body and mind. As the saying goes- you become what you eat!