What Causes Darkened Armpits and Should Lightening Them Be a Thing?

Everyone’s underarm skin looks different. Regardless of your skin tone or type, having a darker armpit area can be a source of insecurity for some, but it’s totally normal says Nanuet, NY dermatologist Heidi Waldorf, MD. “Armpits can look darker from excess pigmentation, thickened skin, or a combination of both. One of the causes is skin rubbing against skin in the skin fold. Alternatively, irritation can also be a cause, for instance if a patient with eczema uses a harsh antiperspirant it can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.” 

Darkened armpits can also be a sign of an underlying medical concern says Melville, NY dermatologist Kally Papantoniou, MD. “It can also be a symptom of diabetes or borderline diabetes,” she explains. “However, most cases of under arm hyperpigmentation are due to genetic factors. In these cases usually there is a strong family history of discoloration under the arms and on the sides of the neck, for example.”

How to Lighten Them 

If the cause is constant friction, Dr. Waldorf recommends using products that decrease friction. “These products usually contain dimethicone, like the ones used for bicycling or running.” To reduce inflammation, she recommends gentle moisturizers, “or over-the-counter strength hydrocortisone cream,” she adds. 

“The skin under the arms can be lightened, but this must be done gently because it is such a delicate area,” adds Dr. Papantoniou. “I typically recommend an exfoliating lotion like Amlactin and sometimes will use a prescription hydroquinone. Potentially light chemical peels can be used to expedite lightning the tone of the skin in this area.”

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Razor burn, ingrown hairs and discoloration take a backseat when using Forgotten Skin Care The Original ($36) underarm brightening deodorant cream. Salicylic acid and vitamin C help even out skin tone while a slew of natural hydrators like sunflower oil and vitamin E sooth and nourish skin.