How to minimize body discoloration, underarm darkening, dark armpits

So let’s start with why we, specially people of color tend to get uneven skintone especially in places like the groin and underarms.

We humans have about 3 million sweat glands in average that are found all over the body. Now, there are two types of sweat glands: eccrine and apocrine. Eccrine glands are found all over the body and apocrine are concentrated in areas where there is more hair follicles like the armpits, groin and scalp. The reason you don’t see hyperpigmentation on your scalp unlike underarms and the groin area is fairly straightforward: there is a lot of friction in these areas and also skin folding which doesn’t allow for fresh air exposure as in the case of your head. The shaving, waxing or hair removal items you use can also sensitize your skin leading to futher darkening of that area. Additionally, just the nature of sweat that these apocrine glands secret, which is high in fatty proteins, is a breeding ground for bacterial growth. Even further, the skin’s PH is typically between 4.7-5.7 but the PH down in this areas is around 6.5. That means, it’s not as acidic as say the face, the legs or any other area. This is also the reason we notice bad smell associated with these areas. When the bacteria break down, the produce what we perceive as our body odor. I mean, what’s better than a dark, moist, protein rich, and almost neutral in PH armpit for a bacterial to grow as far as outside of a human body is concerned?!

Now that we have some foundation, let’s move over to how to reduce darkening of undearms. 

#1. Keep it dry. Now that is biologically impossible but if you are comfortable, antiperspirants that contain aluminium chloride do a good job. Essentially, the alumimum salts mix with your sweat and form jel like plugs that close the sweats from coming out. Some people have a problem with that, I do too but if that’s fine by you, they surely help minimize excessive secretion. For those of us who aren’t enthusiastic about keeping body waste inside, we just have to freshen up more often.

#2. Now when you are trying to drain a tub, the first thing you want to do is stop the water from running. Otherwise, you are due to repeat the cycle over and over right? So you need to figure out the things that worsen your underarm darkening. Like is it associated with waxing? Some wax technicians are just bad at it and leave the wax far too long which irritates the skin. Or is it shaving? Or is it the hair removal chemicals you use? Or could it be a sign of an underlying health condition such as Keratosis Nigricans also known as acanthosis nigricans? This is a condition common with individuals who have prediabetes or diabetes. It manifest as dark and thick skin that could also be itchy. It often is seen in more than one place. It could manifest on the back of the neck, the groin area, folds of elbows, knees and knuckles and of course armpits. If you suspect this is the scenario, make sure to bring it up to your primary care physician to run heamoglobin A1C or other glucose tests. If you know the cause that exacerbate it, well, try to avoid it.

#3. If you can afford it, go for laser hair removal. It’s just the best way to achieve clearer underarm without having to shave/wax/remove hair too often. Honestly, it is one of the best investments on myself and would 1000% recommend it to you guys. Besides stopping your skin coming in contact with wax or hair removal waxes, I love the convenience of not having to worry about hair. Like clean legs, clean private parts always ready for bikinis and smooth armpits. So, yes-do it if you can. 

#4. Along the line of long term investments, IPL-intense pulsed light gives fantastic results. I don’t recommend laser treatments for skin of color due to the potential discoloration it might cause say on the face, but underarm is a different story. Again, if it’s not cost prohibitory for you, visit a board-certified dermatologist to consult if this would be a good option for you.

#5. This is the step which anyone can do: we pay a great deal of attention to the face. Sure the face is exposed more than any other part of our body to the outside world and endures several products, shaving foams and shaving in men etc. But nobody said you can’t use facial products on your body. There’s an exception to that and it’s your AHAs which have to be approached much much much much gentler. The most obvious reason why we don’t use facial products on our body is because of the cost, I get it. But if you have specific concerns that are stealing your confidence in wearing a certain kind of outfits, I’d argue the investment is well worth it. If you look at what Dove has in their “cleartone” line, it’s niacinamide. You don’t have to use their stick to achieve that. Any product with niacinamide would work. But it’s not just niacinamide, it’s all the good stuff we use for our face for hyperpigmentation. Btw, this applies to discoloration we encounter on our knees, knuckles, elbows etc. Just go ahead and use the good stuff on those areas and you will be happy with the results.

Here are the steps I’d recommend:

  1. Always be gentle, don’t scrub. Exfoliate gently
  2. Moisturize with products that have licorice root and calendula extract (or anything you like for your face)
  3. Apply your deodrant
  4. Use a mild aha product to start with if steps #1 and 2 don’t give you results over a period of a few weeks
  5. Always try a small area of your underarm to be safe

Don’t do:

I can’t just leave you with just do’s. So please don’t

  1. Use anything irritating including DIY that I often see everywhere including baking soda or lemon. This is because if you end up irritating your skin (which you will), you will end up with a worse problem than you’d started with. Not wise.
  2. Don’t be harsh, no amount of mechanical force will take away the discoloration. So gently clean.
  3. Don’t be too quick to give up on what you’re doing. The discoloration didn’t appear overnight so it won’t disappear overnight. Be patient.
  4. Don’t use Hydroquinone or hydrogen peroxide. These are not safe. These are ingredients commonly sold in low-middle income conoutries where regulations are weak. So, don’t do it. They are not safe!
  5. Don’t use soaps that are labeled antibacterial and contain triclosan. This is an ingredient that alters the way some hormones work in the body and raises potential concern

That is it, hope this helps you and give you clear unerarms. Don’t forget to subscribe if you like videos like this. Take care now.



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