Are your dark underarms embarrassing you in public? Then you might be looking for ways to even out your underarm skin.
Well, darkening of underarm skin is common. But, the bright side is you can manage it easily with homemade hacks, practicing healthy habits, and taking medications.
Scroll down to know more about the common causes of darkening of your underarms and how you can prevent it.
What Causes Dark Underarms?
While dealing with the darkening of your underarms, it is important to understand that the skin of your armpits is very delicate and can be irritated easily. Also the fact that the skin in your armpit folds over itself makes it more prone to hyperpigmentation. Listed here a few possible causes of darkening of your underarms.
Friction is the most common cause of hyperpigmentation of skin. If you wear tightly fitted clothes all day, the fabric chafes the skin of your armpits causing irritation and in turn hyperpigmentation. Wearing comfortably fit clothes and choosing natural fabrics like cotton or silk over artificial ones lets your skin breathe and reduces the chances of irritation.
Shaving is the fastest and easiest way to get rid of the fuzz on your underarms, but it is also the most common reason behind the discoloration of your underarms. Frequent shaving removes the protective top layer of your skin along with the hair. Thus the sensitive skin of your underarms is more exposed to sweat, dirt and skin care products, eventually leading to irritation and discoloration.
3. Underarm Products
While deodorants and antiperspirants do a great job in making your underarms smell fresh, they can be the reason behind its darkening. You may be sensitive to skin care products containing fragrances and alcohol, that can irritate your skin and cause hyperpigmentation. Opt for alcohol free deodorants and antiperspirants and make sure not to spray them directly onto your skin. This can help you to avoid irritation.
If you are someone who sweats a lot, you must be familiar with the odour that usually accompanies it. The bacteria that flourishes in your sweaty underarm not only causes the smell, but can also cause discoloration of your underarms in the long run. 
5. Medical conditions
Although it is not very common, darker underarms might be signs of an underlying medical condition such as acanthosis nigricans, polycystic ovarian syndrome or Addison's disease , , . Obesity and hormonal disorders like insulin resistance or increase in serum cortisol levels can also cause darkening of the underarms.
In very rare cases, dark patches on your skin may indicate the presence of an internal tumorous growth that has become cancerous. These can stimulate the growth hormones which results in hyperpigmentation. 
Certain medications like contraceptive pills, high dosage of niacin (vitamin B3), corticosteroids, etc. may result in hyperpigmentation specially around the folds of the skin like the underarms. If you notice patches of discoloration on your skin do not stop your medications on your own. Consult your doctor for possible alternatives.
7. Genetic Predisposition
The tendency to develop darker underarms may come from your genes. People with darker complexion have a higher production of melanin (the protective pigment that lends the normal coloration to our skin) naturally and are more prone to hyperpigmentation in different regions of the body, such as the underarm, knees and elbows or knuckles.
8. Improper Skin Care
If you do not exfoliate your underarms on a regular basis, there will be accumulation of dead cells and there might be even ingrown hair post shaving. Dead cells are breeding grounds for bacteria which together with the ingrown hair can cast a dark shadow on your underarms. Gentle exfoliation once a week goes a long way to prevent darkening of your underarms.
However, you should keep in mind that excessive or harsh exfoliation causes inflammation of the sensitive underarm skin, leading to increased pigmentation.  Read more about the right way to exfoliate here.
How To Lighten Dark Underarms?
While there is nothing to worry if you have underarms a shade darker than the rest of your body, you can always opt from a range of natural remedies, over the counter products or professional treatments to lighten your underarms. But you should be patient as most treatments may take a while before they show any significant results.
Listed below are some tried and tested solutions for lightening your underarms.
A. Natural Remedies
If you prefer natural remedies from the comfort of your home that will not burn a hole in your pocket you can try one of these.
The humble potato is an excellent bleaching agent as it contains catecholase, an enzyme that lightens pigmentation. Extract the juice from a medium sized potato, apply this on your underarms and leave it for 10 - 15 minutes before rinsing off with water.
Rub a slice of cucumber on your underarms for a few minutes and let it stay for another 10 minutes. You can do this on a daily basis. Cucumbers have vitamins and antioxidants that not only brighten up your underarms, but also helps soothe inflammation.
3. Rose Water And Baking Soda
Make a soothing scrub with a tablespoon of baking soda in rose water and gently apply it on your underarms. Baking soda is an excellent exfoliant which removes the dead cells clogging your pores. Rose water, on the other hand, moisturises and soothes your skin.
4. Turmeric And Fuller’s Earth Pack
This pack is another of grandma’s favorites when it comes to brightening up your complexion. Mix a tablespoon of Fuller’s earth (multani mitti) with a teaspoon of kasturi turmeric in rose water and apply this pack before taking a shower. Let it dry and then wash it off with rubbing motions. Fuller’s earth removes oil and dirt while the curcumin in turmeric brightens up your skin.
5. Orange Peels
Mix a tablespoon of powdered orange peels in milk or rose water and apply it on your underarms. Leave it for 10 mins and wash off with cold water. The goodness of vitamin C from the orange peels will make underarms ready to be flaunted again.
6. Milk Thistle
Milk thistle extract can lighten your dark underarms. Studies have shown that silymarin, one of the active ingredients present in this extract, inhibits the production of melanin thus preventing hyperpigmentation. 
7. Coconut Oil
You can also choose to use coconut oil to lighten your underarms. Coconut oil has Vitamin E that is known to lighten skin. Massage a few drops of coconut oil onto your underarms and wash it after 10-15 minutes. Use lukewarm water to wash it. You can try this 2-3 times in a day.
8. Baking Soda And Lemon
Mix a tablespoon of baking soda and lemon to make a paste. Massage it over your underarms for about a few minutes and then wash it off using lukewarm water. Baking soda is an excellent exfoliator while lemon is a natural bleaching agent. Both work great in lightening your underarms.
This remedy might sound unusual yet it is quite beneficial when it comes to treating your dark underarms. Choose a toothpaste that has baking soda and less amount of fluoride. Apply a thin layer on your underarms and let it sit for 10 minutes. Later wash it off with water.
10. Activated Charcoal And Honey
Mix a tablespoon of honey with activated charcoal powder and apply this paste onto your underarms. Keep it for about 20 minutes and later wash it. Activated charcoal helps to manage body odour and fights off the impurities from your underarms. Whereas, honey releases hydrogen peroxide that helps lighten the skin of your underarms.
11. Tea Tree Oil
Try tea tree oil to lighten your underarms and let them smell fresh. Tea tree oil is rich in antioxidants that helps in skin brightening. Mix 5-6 drops of tea tree oil with a cup of water and keep it in a spray bottle. Use it on your underarms and let it dry.
B. Over The Counter Products
1. You can choose from a range of skin brightening topical creams in consultation with your dermatologist. You can opt for creams or lotions with hydroquinone, retinoids, tretinoin, azelaic acid, kojic acid, or steroids according to your skin requirements. To know your skin better and choose the right product for your skin you can try SkinKraft’s AI enabled SkinIDTM quiz.
2. Chemical peels are gentle exfoliants that are perfect for the delicate underarm skin. You choose peels with AHA (alpha hydroxy acids) or BHA (beta hydroxy acids) which gently exfoliates your armpits revealing the healthy, glowing skin beneath.
C. Professional Treatments
1. Laser Treatments
Laser treatments are more effective but costlier options to brighten up your underarms. You can opt for a laser therapy to reduce hyperpigmentation. Alternatively, you can also get a laser therapy done for hair removal. This will not only remove the dark hair from your underarms but also eliminate the need of shaving which is a major cause of its discoloration.
This is a skin resurfacing procedure wherein the dermatologist or plastic surgeon will ‘sand’ the top layer of your skin using specialised instruments.  This will remove the dark, uneven patches on your skin and stimulate the appearance of fresh, new skin cells. It may take a while to heal after this procedure and it works better if you have lighter complexion.
Word Of Caution:
If you have rashes on your underarm you need to take care of that first. Rashes are signs of inflammation. It is best to get checked by a dermatologist and treat the rashes before you decide to lighten your underarms.
Tips To Prevent Underarm Darkening
- Keep your underarms clean to avoid sweat buildup that in turn leads to darkening skin
- Moisturise your underarms daily as dry, flaking skin can lead to discoloration. You can use coconut oil, or vitamin E on your underarms to keep them soft and healthy
- Avoid shaving your underarms too frequently and do not forget to lather some shaving gel before the razor. Waxing your underarms may be a choice for hair removal as it also exfoliates your skin
- Maintaining a healthy body weight is an absolute must. Obesity not only contributes to hyperpigmentation but may also lead to hormonal disorders
- Avoid smoking to prevent skin darkening
- Wear loose fitted clothes to avoid excessive sweat
When To See A Doctor?
If your dark underarms are due to medical conditions like diabetes, PCOS etc., you should see a doctor to treat the underlying cause first. If you have bacterial infections on your underarms, your doctor will prescribe an oral or topical antibiotic to treat it. A sudden darkening of your underarms which refuses to go away may indicate the onset of cancer and requires immediate medical attention. Treating the underlying causes is the first essential step to prevent hyperpigmentation in part of your body.
Dark underarms are a common phenomenon that might result from a number reasons starting from your skin care routine or your skin type. There are a number of at home remedies or professional treatments available to brighten up your underarms. However, it is good to remember that each of us have a unique skin and thus its requirements are also different. So find out what works best for you and be patient while trying out a skin brightening option for the first time.
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