Take a quick look at your underarms. Are they uneven or darker than your normal skin tone?

Unless you are abundantly blessed, you will notice that the area surrounding your underarms is darker than the rest of your complexion. They are not the prettiest part of your body, and you’ve probably been wondering how you can lighten them.

You could probably restrict yourself to wearing long sleeves; unfortunately, hiding dark underarms under long sleeves is not a very practical solution. Wearing long sleeves in hot blistery weather may even aggravate the discoloration.

What causes dark underarms?

To remedy any condition, it is important to know what causes it in the first place. There are quite a few reasons why your underarms turn dark.

Acanthosis Nigricans: Darkened underarms could be caused by a medical condition known as Acanthosis Nigricans. The condition usually affects individuals with insulin disorders, diabetes, pituitary problems, hypothyroidism or Addison’s disease. If this applies to you, seek advice from a qualified doctor on measures you can take to minimize the appearance of the condition.

Shaving: Sometimes you will notice darkness a few days after you’ve shaved. The darkness you see after shaving is usually an indicator of subsurface hair follicles. A razor only cuts hairs that are on the surface of the skin. If your underarms appear very dark after shaving, you may want to consider waxing or plucking.

Your skin’s reaction to deodorants: A lot of antiperspirants contain harsh chemicals (aluminum chloride) that lead to hyper pigmentation. If you notice skin discoloration after using a deodorant or antiperspirant, you should probably switch brands.

Excessive sweating coupled with poor hygiene: Improper hygiene may also contribute to dark underarms. Make sure that you take a shower and wash your underarms thoroughly. It would be better to use a whitening scrub to clean the underarm area.

Androgen-based contraceptives and Pregnancy: Hormonal fluctuations arising from the use of contraceptives or pregnancy cause darkened armpits in some women.

The buildup of dead skin: According to dermatologists, darkened armpits could be an indicator of accumulated dead skin cells. If you have exfoliated in the recent past, you should probably do so now.

Too much friction from wearing tight clothing: People who consistently wear clothes that are tight around the armpits are at an increased risk of developing darkened armpits.

How to lighten dark underarms:

I like to categorize underarm whitening solutions under two broad categories:

  1. Home-based solution
  2. Clinical solution

Home-based solution:

For obvious reasons, I am not a big fan of home-based underarm lightening solutions; there is no guarantee that they will work, and if they do, they take longer before you start seeing solutions. I prefer to use clinically proven deodorants and creams.

The only catch with using commercial armpit lightening solutions is that you have to be extra careful when shopping for one. Many substandard creams and deodorants are peddled as the ultimate solution to dark underarms while in the real sense they rarely work. Others may contain harmful ingredients. They will have nasty side effects and may even end up increasing the discoloration in your armpits.

Clinical solution:

Aside from price, one of the most important factors that you have to consider when choosing an underarm whitening cream or deodorant is the ingredients. A product will only be as good as the ingredients that compose it. Some deodorants and creams contain ingredients so mild that they do not work while other contains very harsh ingredients.

Many skin lightening creams contain hydroquinone, a harsh skin bleaching agent that has been linked to causing liver damage, cancer, and other diseases. You should avoid any product that contains even the slightest concentration of hydroquinone. Safer alternatives to hydroquinone include glycolic acid, niacinamide, alpha arbutin, kojic acid and papain.

Also, beware of underarm lightening products that contain mercury. In 1990, the FDA banned the use of mercury in skin lightening products, but there are still a few products that contain mercury in cosmetic stores. These products are manufactured elsewhere and imported into the country. Read the label carefully. Your safety comes first.

How to get rid of dark underarms:

Depending on how persistent the darkening under your armpit is, you may find the following 3 options practical:

1. Try using kojic soap twice a day.

Kojic soap is a potent skin lightening soap that is made from kojic acid. It aggressively exfoliates the top layer of the skin, which is often made of dead skin cells, revealing a healthier and evenly toned skin underneath.

Apart from its skin whitening properties, kojic soap also gets rid of hyperpigmentation and has been shown to be effective in treating melasma. Consistent use of kojic soap produces results similar to using chemical peels.

2. Use a lightening deodorant everyday.

Many skin whitening products in the market promise to restore even complexion around your underarms; however, most of them lack the necessary potency. The best underarm whitening deodorants are made of niacinamide, alpha arbutin and a few other ingredients that increase their effectiveness. These deos are specially made for individuals with dark underarms. When consistently used, they even the skin tone in the armpits. For the best results, you will want to use a whitening deodorant every day.

3. Use a lightening cream at night.

Use a whitening cream that’s made of a strong concentration of alpha arbutin and niacinamide. Alpha Arbutin depigments the skin, leaving behind a smoother and evenly toned skin while niacinamide helps with the whitening. Avoid using creams that contain glycolic acid, kojic acid and papain in your underarms as it could cause irritation and more darkening. These ingredients are powerful and potent but it should not be used in ‘hot’ areas like underarms.

For the best results, you should use a lightening cream twice every day. With consistency, patience and persistence, you should be able to bring your underarms’ complexion to match the rest of your body.

TIP: Try using an underarm whitening kit (Marie France, $63) that contains all of the products recommended above.

How to prevent dark underarms:

Is there anything that you can do to prevent the formation of dark underarms?

If you are like me, you’d probably want to get rid of dark armpits before they even happen. There are a few precautionary measures you can take to keep the complexion under your arms intact.

  1. Alternative Hair removal methods: If you’ve been shaving, consider waxing or laser treatments. Both options are less invasive and are done less frequently than shaving.
  2. Exfoliate your underarms: Exfoliation removes any dead skin cells that might have started forming under your arms. Try exfoliation at least two times in a week.
  3. Stop suffocating your skin with harsh deodorants and soap: If a soap or deodorant is causing dark underarms, the only choice you have is to ditch it for milder alternatives. Using aluminum-free deodorants and kojic soap helps to keep the skin around your armpits even.
  4. Choose your clothes carefully: Avoid wearing clothes that are tight around the armpits as they rub against the armpits, causing them to darken. If you have the option, you may consider wearing all clothes that are made of natural fibers.

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