Dark skin on the inner thighs can be experienced by anyone, regardless of skin tone. It occurs when the skin on the inner thigh produces an abundance of melanin, a pigment that gives skin its color. This is called hyperpigmentation. The discoloration of dark inner thighs may even stretch into the bikini or groin area.

There are a number of reasons why a person may experience a darkening of the skin on the inner thighs. Some of these reasons may include:

  • chafing, which can occur during exercise or walking, and may cause the skin to become thin, itchy, and discolored
  • hormonal imbalance, particularly among women during lactation, pregnancy, or menstruation, or among those with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
  • certain medications, like hormonal oral contraceptives or certain chemotherapy medications
  • sun exposure
  • dry skin
  • friction from tight clothing
  • acanthosis nigricans, a skin pigmentation disorder
  • diabetes mellitus

An obese person may be at higher risk for dark inner thighs due to skin chafing. You’re also at an increased risk if you have a hormonal imbalance or diabetes mellitus, or you take certain medications.

In some cases, home remedies may help lighten dark skin on your thighs.

1. Coconut oil and lemon juice

Lemons are packed with vitamin C, which may help treat hyperpigmentation. Coconut oil can serve as a moisturizer, and it may help keep your thighs soft and supple.

To make a coconut oil and lemon juice scrub:

  • Combine a few tablespoons of coconut oil with the juice of half a lemon.
  • Rub the mixture into the affected area and massage for 10 minutes or longer.
  • Wash the area clean.

Research suggests that certain formulations containing vitamin C may be more effective than others, so this method may not prove to be effective for you.

2. Sugar scrub

Sugar can help exfoliate the skin. Exfoliating the area may help if the dark skin is caused by a buildup of dead skin.

  • Combine fresh lemon juice, a teaspoon of sugar, and a tablespoon of honey.
  • Gently scrub the mixture into the inner thighs.
  • Rinse the area to remove the scrub.

3. Oatmeal yogurt scrub

Oatmeal can be used to treat eczema and other inflammatory skin conditions. It can also act as an exfoliant, and it may be gentler than sugar. Yogurt contains lactic acid, which may improve skin health. Yogurt may have other benefits for the skin when used topically or orally, but research is limited.

To create your own oatmeal scrub:

  • Make a paste with equal parts oatmeal and plain yogurt.
  • Apply the paste to the darkened area of skin, and gently scrub.
  • Wash the paste off of your leg.

4. Baking soda and water paste

Baking soda may help lighten and exfoliate your skin, but it should be used with caution. That’s because baking soda may be too harsh for your skin. It could irritate your skin and worsen any skin conditions.

If you want to try using a baking soda scrub:

  • Make a paste of equal parts baking soda and water.
  • Apply a thin layer to the inner thighs, like you would a face or body mask.
  • Leave it on for at least 15 minutes, and then rinse off.

5. Aloe vera

Aloe vera gel or an aloe vera-based product can soothe irritated, chafed skin. Aloe contains aloin, which shows potential as a skin lightener. Apply like a lotion, and allow the product to soak in to your skin. You don’t need to rinse it off after applying.

6. Potato rub

Rubbing potatoes on your skin is a folk remedy for dark spots on the skin. It’s believed that catecholase, an enzyme in potatoes, can lighten skin. To try this remedy:

  • Slice a potato.
  • Rub a potato slice over the affected area for 15 minutes or longer.
  • Gently wash the area.

Many OTC treatments claim to lighten the skin. Some are made from natural ingredients, which do show some promise in their ability to reduce pigmentation. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, these four ingredients may work to lighten skin and don’t carry much risk of allergic reaction:

The following ingredients are popular in OTC treatments and have shown potential to lighten skin, but may cause allergic reaction in some:

Talk to a dermatologist before using an OTC product for skin lightening. They can evaluate the underlying cause and help you choose an appropriate product.

If home remedies and OTC treatments don’t help, you may want to talk to your dermatologist about products available with a prescription or medical procedures that can help lighten your skin. Following are some additional treatments your doctor may recommend.

Hydroquinone

The standard dermatologic treatment used to “bleach” skin is a cream containing hydroquinone. It’s available in small concentrations in OTC products, but a dermatologist will be able to prescribe hydroquinone in higher concentrations for added results. There have been animal studies suggesting that hydroquinone may be a carcinogen, meaning it may cause cancer. It’s often recommended for short-term use only. Use it as directed by your dermatologist.

Retinoids

Vitamin A-based retinoid products are also available OTC, but a dermatologist can prescribe stronger concentrations. Retinoids, such as retinoic acid, regulate skin cell growth and are a potential option to treat skin hyperpigmentation.

You may need to use a retinoid product for several months before you see results. Retinoid products may make your skin dry and more sensitive to the sun.

Laser treatments

Laser skin lightening is an effective procedure that can reduce skin pigmentation without scarring. Your dermatologist can discuss whether laser treatments are appropriate for your needs. The healing process may be uncomfortable when treating the inner thighs, especially if your thighs frequently rub together.

If you’re at increased risk for dark inner thighs, there are a number of things you can do to prevent the skin from darkening:

  • Prevent chafing by wearing bicycle shorts or nylon stockings under skirts or dresses.
  • Keep the inner thigh area clean and well exfoliated to limit the buildup of dead skin.
  • Wear loose, breathable clothing to prevent excess sweat and friction.
  • Avoid shaving or waxing the area too frequently to prevent irritation.
  • Always wear an SPF of 30 or higher when exposed to the sun, and avoid excessive sun exposure when possible.

Hyperpigmentation of the inner thighs is common and not harmful to your health. There are many home remedies, OTC products, and medical treatments you can use to try to lighten the dark skin. Additionally, keeping the area clean, avoiding chafing, and limiting sun exposure can help to reduce the risk of developing dark inner thighs in the future.