Are dark underarms keeping you away from wearing sleeveless outfits? While dark underarms can lower your confidence, they can also be a sign of internal diseases. But, do not worry!
Simple herbal remedies can lighten your armpits in a matter of days. Read on to know what causes dark underarms and how you can treat them with trusted Ayurvedic solutions.
Our Ayurvedic Doctor Speaks
‘’Underarm darkening, according to Ayurveda, is a hormonal issue linked to insulin resistance. Thus, the treatment is mentioned under Sthoulya chikitsa (treatment for obesity and associated conditions).’’
-Dr. Zeel Gandhi, (Bachelor of Ayurveda, Medicine & Surgery), Chief Ayurvedic Doctor, Vedix
What Causes Dark Underarms?
The skin on your underarms is quite thin and sensitive when compared to other parts of your body. This is why it is protected by armpit hair. The darkening of underarms is often a cosmetic problem and can be resolved with simple skin brightening remedies.
However, it can be a serious issue if the dark patches begin to spread or the texture becomes more uneven, thick, or velvety. This can either indicate a pre-diabetic condition or the onset of malignancy.
As per Dr. Zeel Gandhi, Chief Ayurvedic Doctor at Vedix, ‘’Underarm darkening, according to Ayurveda, is a hormonal issue linked to insulin resistance. Thus, the treatment is mentioned under Sthoulya chikitsa (treatment for obesity and associated conditions).’’
Below, we listed different reasons that can lead to darker armpits, and also when there is a need for medical consultation.
1. Abrasive Effect Of Hair Removal Methods
Many of us prefer clean underarms. But in search of painless hair removal options, we often succumb to inappropriate methods. Improper shaving techniques such as using a blunt blade, shaving in the opposite direction of hair growth, or even shaving very frequently can damage the fine skin in your underarms.
This can also happen if waxing or epilation is not done by a professional. The injury causes inflammation, which in turn stimulates the melanin-producing cells in the area. Eventually, it leads to discoloration and roughness in underarms.
2. Laser Treatments
Laser hair removal procedures provide a permanent solution to armpit hair issue. However, they are not devoid of risks. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation  is one of the most common side effects of laser hair removal treatments, resulting in dark patches in your underarms.
3. Dirt And Dead Cell Deposition
Your skin naturally sloughs off dead skin cells. However, these cells can build-up and give your skin a dull, dark appearance. Apart from dead cells, soap residues and dirt can also make your underarms appear dark. Frequent exfoliation is an easy way to remove such build-ups, giving your underarms a fresh, clean look.
Friction is a major cause of dark underarms. The armpit hair protects your skin from chafing (irritation and redness caused when two areas of skin rub against each other). However, after hair removal, there is an increased risk of skin damage due to friction from tight clothing or excessive physical exercise.
5. Acanthosis Nigricans
Acanthosis Nigricans  leads to hyperpigmented, velvety patchy lesions in creases and folds of your skin such as the armpits, elbows, groin areas, knees, and the neck. The condition is common in people diagnosed with obesity or diabetes. In these cases, the body becomes resistant to insulin, leading to high glucose levels. This in turn triggers excess melanin production, resulting in dark underarms.
Eczema, also known as atopic dermatitis, is an inflammatory condition of the skin that causes a red, itchy, scaly rash. It usually affects the different folds of the body including the armpits. As the eczema lesions begin to heal, they can leave behind hyperpigmented patches leading to dark underarms.
The hot, humid Indian weather often makes the use of deodorants and antiperspirants a necessity. But a large number of chemicals present in your deodorant can potentially cause contact dermatitis, which leads to the darkening of the underarms.
Look out for chemicals like parabens, aluminum, artificial fragrances, triclosan, alcohol, and others that can trigger allergic reactions or burning sensations. Opt for natural deodorants, containing herbal extracts that prevent body odor while being skin-friendly.
8. Hormonal Conditions
Fluctuations in estrogen and progesterone hormones can trigger hyperpigmentation in certain parts of your body. This is known as melasma . The onset of melasma can be during puberty or pregnancy, and it is mainly seen in women who have darker skin tones.
Apart from hormonal imbalance, melasma can also be triggered by genetic factors, stress, or excessive sun exposure. While the face is most commonly affected in the condition of melasma, other areas such as your underarms, pubic areas, and around the nipples can also experience skin darkening.
Erythrasma  is a bacterial skin disease that causes dark patches in the folds of your skin such as the armpits. Caused by the Corynebacterium minutissimum bacteria, which thrives in hot, humid conditions, the disease is more common in people living in tropical climates.
10. Drug Effects
Drug-induced hyperpigmentation  is one of the common side effects observed with certain types of medications. These usually include NSAIDs ( non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), antimalarials, antipsychotic medicines, etc. Hence, if you are on any such medication and notice a sudden onset of dark patches in your underarms, it’s advised to consult your doctor immediately.
Certain OTC skin-lightening creams may contain harmful chemicals such as lead and mercury . Such chemicals can be detrimental to one's neurological system, immune system, lungs, kidneys, and skin health. Hence, always look out for such chemicals in the labels before purchasing.
How To Get Rid Of Dark Underarms?
A. Home Remedies For Dark Underarms
1. Onion Juice/ Potato Juice
Phenolic compounds such as quercetin  in onions and natural enzymes occurring in potatoes serve as perfect treatments for dark underarms.
Blend an onion (red or white) or potato into a fine paste. Run the pulp through a fine sieve to extract its juice. Use a cotton pad to apply this juice to your dark underarms 2-3 times a day. Leave it on for 20 minutes and wash off.
2. Gram Flour + Yogurt + Rose Water
Gram flour or besan is a natural exfoliator that helps to remove dead cells from your darkened underarms. Yogurt contains lactic acid, which along with rose water, moisturizes and brightens your skin.
Mix 1 ½ tablespoon of gram flour with 1 tablespoon of yogurt. Add a sufficient amount of organic rose water to this to make a paste. Apply the pack to your underarms and leave it on for 15 minutes before washing off. Repeat daily 4-5 times a week to get rid of dark underarms.
3. Lemon + Honey + Papaya
Citric acid in lemon, organic acids and flavonoids in honey, and the natural enzyme papain in papaya, help reduce hyperpigmentation and lighten your dark underarms.
Mash ripe papaya. Take 2 tablespoons of this paste and add 1 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice and ½ tablespoon of honey to it. Apply the mixture to your underarms. Leave it on for 20 minutes and wash off. Repeat a few times a week for best results.
4. Orange Peel + Carrot Seed Oil
Orange peel powder is a natural skin brightener. Also, the phytochemicals present in carrot seed oil help inhibit excess melanin production and whiten dark underarms.
To remove dark underarms at home, prepare a paste by adding a few drops of carrot seed oil to 1-2 tablespoons of orange peel powder. Apply it to your armpits and leave it on for 20 to 30 minutes before washing off. Repeat 3-4 times a week.
B. Ayurvedic Remedies
According to Ayurveda, your body functions are regulated by the 3 doshas or life energies -Vata, Pitta, and Kapha. A state of disease occurs when the fine balance of these doshas is disrupted. An imbalance of the Bhrajaka Pitta (a sub-type of the Pitta dosha) that governs melanin production in your skin, can cause hyperpigmentation in your underarms.
Hence, skin brightening ‘Varnya’ herbs along with blood purifiers that pacify the Pitta imbalances in the body are prescribed to treat dark underarms.
1. Aloe Vera
Aloin , an anthraquinone present in the aloe vera pulp is a powerful depigmenting agent. Applying a generous amount of pure aloe vera gel to your armpits twice daily can help lighten them.
2. Sandalwood + Kesar + Milk
Sandalwood’s cooling properties calm the aggravated pitta dosha. Further, the phytochemicals such as santalol in sandalwood, and crocin, safranal and beta-carotene in kesar, inhibit tyrosinase activity and whiten dark underarms.
To prepare this herbal pack, soak 1 teaspoon of saffron in 1 tablespoon of milk for an hour. Add this to 1 tablespoon of sandalwood powder and apply to your underarms. Wash off after 30 to 40 minutes. Repeat frequently for quick results
3. Yashtimadhu + Coconut Oil
Yashtimadhu  is an excellent Pitta dosha pacifier. And, the compound glabridin present in yashtimadhu, helps reduce melanin secretions in your skin and lightens dark underarms.
Also, yashtimadhu exhibits anti-inflammatory properties, and when combined with coconut oil, makes for a great remedy for hyperpigmentation caused by inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema or contact dermatitis.
Add sufficient amounts of cold-pressed coconut oil to 2 tablespoons of yashtimadhu powder to make a thick paste. Apply it to your underarms and wash it off after 30 minutes. Repeat 3-4 times a week.
4. Manjistha + Arjuna Twak
Manjistha helps to detoxify and cleanse your blood from harmful toxins (ama) that can cause skin discoloration. The bark of the arjuna tree has the ability to treat ‘Vyanga’  or melasma that leads to dark underarms during pregnancy.
Mix 1 tablespoon each of manjistha and arjuna twak powder. Add enough manuka honey to it to make a paste and apply it to your underarms. Leave it on for 40 minutes to 1 hour and wash off. Repeat daily till the condition improves.
5. Raw Turmeric + Neem
Turmeric has excellent skin brightening and anti-inflammatory properties owing to the presence of a phytochemical known as curcumin. While neem is more popular for its antiseptic properties, according to recent research, it has powerful skin whitening abilities. It effectively inhibits tyrosinase activity and reduces melanogenesis.
To prepare this herbal remedy for your dark underarms, add 1 tablespoon of neem powder to 1 tablespoon of raw turmeric paste. Add some coconut oil or honey to adjust the consistency of the pack and apply it to the dark patches in your underarms. Wash off after 30 to 40 minutes. Repeat daily for rapid healing.
C. Medical Treatment For Dark Underarms
1. Kojic Acid
Kojic acid  acts as a depigmenting agent by inhibiting the formation of melanin and tyrosinase activity in skin cells. Further, its antioxidant properties enhance the skin lightening effect, making it an effective medical treatment for various types of hyperpigmentations.
Look for ointments and solutions that contain 10% or lower concentrations of kojic acid and apply daily to get rid of your dark underarms.
Retinol is a Vitamin A derivative that is now widely promoted by the cosmetic industry for its skin-improving properties. According to research, when retinol is topically applied, it binds to retinoic acid receptors within your skin and accelerates skin cell turnover. As the old, hyperpigmented skin cells die, new cells rise to the surface, giving your underarms a brightened appearance.
3. AHAs And BHAs
Alpha-hydroxy acids and beta-hydroxy acids are exfoliants added to various skin care products to remove dead skin cells. These include citric, glycolic, lactic, malic, tartaric, and salicylic acids. Applying products that contain these face acids can help lighten dark patches in your underarms.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C has a myriad of skin benefits, besides being a skin-lightening agent. It inhibits tyrosinase activity by interacting with copper ions at the enzyme activity site. Thus, applying vitamin C creams and serums can help remove dark patches from your underarms.
According to research, combination therapies with hydroquinone, a depigmenting agent, work well for dark underarms affected by melasma. However, care must be taken as prolonged usage of hydroquinone may cause loss of skin pigmentation.
Microdermabrasion is a cosmetic procedure, in which an abrasive instrument is used to gently exfoliate the upper layer of your skin. This helps to treat scars, marks, and also reduces dark underarms.
7. Laser Light Therapy
Laser therapy is considered an effective treatment for a variety of hyperpigmentation disorders including dark underarms. In this procedure, concentrated beams of light are aimed at the dark patches to help break down accumulated melanin and improve skin tone.
Include fresh fruits and vegetables that have high water content and are rich in vitamins C, E, zinc, and omega 3 fatty acids in your regular diet. This helps remove toxins from the body and reduces skin inflammation and hyperpigmentation from within.
Potential Risks Of Lightening Treatments
According to a study in 2014, various chemicals used in skin lightening treatments can trigger skin discoloration, also known as vitiligo. In 2013, a Japanese skin whitening cream ended up causing vitiligo in 18000 customers. It was a result of a chemical called rhododenol present in the cream. Also, long-term use of skin-lightening products containing hydroquinone can also result in leucoderma.
Apart from vitiligo, skin irritations have been observed right after lightening treatments like microdermabrasion, chemical peel, and others in some cases. Also, laser light therapy, though used to reduce pigmentation, may trigger post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation in some people, especially in darker skin tones.
How To Prevent Dark Underarms?
1. Use appropriate hair removal techniques. Seek professional service to avoid the darkening of underarms.
2. In case of drug-induced hyperpigmentation, consult your doctor for a change of medicine.
3. Exfoliate your underarms 2-3 times a week to avoid dead cell build-up.
4. Wear loose clothes made of breathable fabric like cotton to avoid friction-related darkening of the underarms.
5. Switch to a herbal deodorant that doesn’t cause skin irritations.
6. Manage your weight and blood sugar levels as diabetes and obesity can cause the darkening of your underarms.
7. Limit your exposure to tobacco.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dark Underarms
1. Does Shaving Cause Dark Underarms?
Friction and injury from shaving can often cause dark underarms. Always shave using a sharp, new blade and moisturize afterwards.
2. Does Waxing Cause Dark Underarms?
Your armpit hair is comparatively coarser than the hair in other parts of the body such as your hands and legs. When such coarse hair is forcefully removed during the process of waxing, it causes micro-injuries and inflammation, which can lead to hyperpigmentation and dark underarms.
3. Can Deodorant Cause Dark Underarms?
If your deodorant stings cause burning sensations or lead to allergic reactions in your armpits, it can be the reason behind your dark underarms. Certain chemicals in deodorants can irritate your skin and lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Thus, it is always recommended to use a herbal alternative.
The Last Word
Dark underarms are a common aesthetic problem. With your armpit skin being soft and sensitive, various factors such as improper shaving methods, bacterial infections, hormonal fluctuations, chemical deodorants, drug allergies, etc. can stimulate hyper melanosis. Simple precautionary measures, the use of moisturizers, and the inclusion of skin brightening herbs in your skincare routine can help prevent the condition of dark underarms.
At Vedix, we understand the unique needs of your skin and customize an Ayurvedic skin care regimen that your skin loves.Know Your Dosha Now
1. Crescent-Shaped Hyperpigmentation Following Laser Hair Removal: Case Series Of Fifteen Patients, July 2020
2. Acanthosis Nigricans, 2021 December
3. Melasma- Updated Treatments 2011 September
4. Erythrasma, 2021 August
5. Drug-Induced Hyperpigmentation, 2004
6. Medsafe Warning On Mercury And Lead In Skin Whitening Products, 2021 December
7. Recent Advances In Bioactive Compounds, Health Functions, And Safety Concerns Of Onion (Allium Cepa L.), 2021 July
8. On The Novel Action Of Melanolysis By A Leaf Extract Of Aloe Vera And Its Active Ingredient Aloin, Potent Skin Depigmenting Agents, 2012 May
9. Skin Hyperpigmentation And It’s Treatment With Herbs: An Alternative Method , 2021 July
10. Management Of Vyanga (facial melanosis) With Arjuna Twak Lepa And Panchanimba Churna, 2014 January
11. Depigmenting Effect Of Kojic Acid Esters In Hyperpigmented B16F1 Melanoma Cells, 2012 October
12. The Effect Of Vitamin C On Melanin Pigmentation-A Systematic Review, 2020 September
13. Chemical-Induced Vitiligo, 2018 April
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