Hyperpigmentation (or darkening) of the skin on the armpits is a common cause of concern, especially in people that have skin of colour (darker skin types). There are multiple causes of darkening of the armpits. Take a look at some of the causes and ways to brighten your armpits below.

1. Repetitive friction – frequent shaving and waxing and tight clothes can darken the skin over time.

2. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation – many inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis and allergy to products like deodorant can cause darkening of the skin in the armpits and groin, especially in those with skin of colour. 

Treating the underling skin condition will help improve the darkened skin (pigmentation) in that area. Another far less common condition (though we see and treat a lot of it at Chroma) called lichen planus, can also occur in these areas and can darken the skin.

3. Acanthosis Nigricans – acanthosis nigricans is a condition that causes thickening and darkening of the skin. While this is most commonly seen on the neck, it can also occur in the armpits. It may be a sign of insulin resistance and can be a warning sign for developing diabetes. It can also be seen in people who have underlying medical conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome. Occasionally medications like insulin and steroid tablets can cause acanthosis nigricans too.

4. Genetics – sometimes it’s all just meant to be. Subtle darkening of the armpit and groin skin may run in families and this can become more pronounced as people get older.

SO… WHAT ARE THE TREATMENTS?

First, it is important to see your doctor/dermatologist to work out the cause of your dark armpits (hyperpigmentation in the armpits).

1. Avoid repetitive friction  – Shave and wax less often. Better better still, consider laser hair removal. To read more about safe laser hair removal, click here.

Avoid scrubbing, rubbing and exfoliating the area as this can cause darkening also.

If tight clothes are your problem, you now have a legitimate excuse to do more online shopping to change up your wardrobe.

2. Avoid irritating deodorants and fragrances – some of the ingredients can cause allergy and irritation over time.

3. Treat the underlying skin condition (if there is one to treat) – Diagnosing and treating the underlying skin condition will also lighten and brighten the skin in the armpits. For example, antifungals are helpful for fungal infections and steroid creams are helpful for clearing eczema. Creams or tablets may be used to help psoriasis. It is important to know it may take a while for the skin to normalise in colour after the inflammation is successfully treated.

3. Give exfoliants a (gentle!) go – While topical exfoliants like salicylic acid, glycolic acid and tretinoin can help subtly lighten acanthosis nigricans, it is best managed by trying to keep weight under control with a balanced diet and exercise.

4. Use soap-free washes and daily moisturiser to your armpits – also look for fragrance-free moisturising creams (Cetaphil, CeraVe and QV are some of our favourites) to avoid allergy, irritation and dermatitis in the area.

5. Avoid home remedies – lemon juice, limes and other ‘kitchen concoctions’ were meant to stay in the kitchen. They can irritate and dry the skin and can cause skin reactions in sunlight too which can make skin even darker.

6. Dermatologist-guided treatment may be needed – Skin lightening agents may be helpful – if the underlying skin condition has been treated, skin lightening agents like hydroquinone can be used (but this should be used under the guidance of a dermatologist). Other ingredients like niacinamide and azaelaic acid may help brighten and lighten the area too. Chemical peels and even lasers that target pigmentation can assist in lightening skin in the area when all other measures fail.

We hope this helps you in your journey toward pigment-free ‘pits! 

The information contained in this blog post is intended as a guide only and should not substitute seeking medical attention. Please see your healthcare provider for more information on suitability of products, treatments or procedures.

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