How to get rid of dark underarms: The causes, risks, and remedies you should consider according to a Singaporean doctor

How to get rid of dark underarms: The causes, risks, and remedies you should consider according to a Singaporean doctor

Pit stop

Text: Emily Heng

We may be staunch advocates for self-love and body-positivity, but we won't deny that the road to total acceptance is a long and arduous one. Society's instilment of unrealistic beauty standards run deep, after all, entrapping us in a tangle of personal hang-ups and insecurities seemingly impossible to shake from. Whether you have beef with your muffin top or turkey neck, we're not here to judge — but, rather, to help. Here's another popular problem-area that doesn't quite get the attention it deserves: dark underarms. According to the Indian Dermatology Journal, it is an affliction dogging seven to 74% of world population. The pigmented area of concern may also itch or emit a foul odour. A medical condition, or simply a case of uneven pigmentation? Is it a cause of concern, health-wise, or this but a cosmetic issue? We break down the pit sitch, below.

What causes dark underarms?

Underarms should — naturally — be about the same shade as the rest of skin. However, dark areas can occur when pigment cells in the skin multiply at an accelerated rate. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons:

  • Excessive shaving with dull blades
  • Excessive use of chemical irritants such as deodorants
  • Dead skin accumulation due to lack of exfoliation
  • Friction from too-tight clothes
  • A medical disorder, acanthosis nigricans, which causes dark streaks along the armpits, neck, groin, and other areas.
  • Genetics

Are certain individuals at a higher risk of acquiring dark underarms?

Yes. Dr Shirley Kwee, resident aesthetic doctor of Privé Clinic, points out that those with darker skin, an insulin resistance, or have family members with the same condition will be more prone to dark underarms. Those suffering from obesity and hormone disorders are at high risk, too, as well as those on medication such as oral contraceptives, high-dose niacin, and corticosteroids.

Do dark underarms pose any threat to your health?

Not for the most part. They are regarded as a form of pigmentation, unless lumps begin to form.

Are there ways to prevent the development of dark underarms?

It's not always possible to prevent dark underarms, though there are certain approaches you may consider to reduce the chances of their development. Medical News Today recommends moisturising the armpit area after shaving or waxing so any skin-related reactions are less likely to occur. It also helps to keep trauma to a minimum when shaving, so make sure to go at it in the same direction as hair growth. Failing that, laser hair removal is also a great option as it results in softer, finer hair, where less shaving is necessary. Opting for looser clothing as well as swapping out your deodorant for a natural option are good suggestions also.

What are the treatment options for dark underarms?

While there are many all-natural, at-home remedies that claim to do the job, most aren't accompanied by scientific or backed by medical research. Dr Kwee recommends laser therapies such as the Revlite Laser instead; it is an FDA-approved treatment that helps lighten pigmentations, minimise pores, reduce fine lines, and even skin tones. Retinoid creams and pills also prove to be a popular option as they can help thin and lighten affected areas. Otherwise, chemical peels containing trichloroacetic acid (TCA) are beneficial too, as they help exfoliate and remove thicker, damaged skin.

When should you seek professional help?

Dark underarms pose no danger to one's health, but it is recommended you seek out a dermatologist or doctor if patches of darkened skin appear overnight; this could be an indicator of larger health issues.