For many people, dark underarms can be a source of embarrassment. Darker underarm skin can keep some people from dressing in sleeveless tops, wearing bathing suits in public, and participating in sports.
Like skin blemishes and discoloration on other parts of the body, dark underarms can result in a lack of confidence and self-esteem.
There are various potential causes for armpits becoming darker including:
- deodorants and antiperspirants (chemical irritants)
- shaving (irritation and abrasion)
- dead skin cell accumulation (lack of exfoliation)
- friction (tight clothes)
- smoker’s melanosis (hyperpigmentation caused by smoking)
- hyperpigmentation (increased melanin)
- acanthosis nigricans (often a sign of diabetes, obesity, or abnormal hormone levels)
- erythrasma (bacterial infection)
- melasma (dark patches on skin)
- Addison’s disease (damaged adrenal gland)
The first response to the “how to lighten armpits” question is to address some of the basic causes:
- Change your brand of deodorant/antiperspirant. Some people switch to a natural alternative such as baking soda or apple cider vinegar. Some people stop using a deodorant altogether.
- Stop shaving. Some people select waxing or laser hair removal instead.
- Exfoliate. Many people use a body scrub or a facial exfoliator two to three times a week.
- Wear loose-fitting clothes.
- Stop smoking.
Many people choose a natural approach to armpit lightening. Advocates of natural remedies suggest a number of natural bleaching agents, including these:
- Potato. Grate a potato, squeeze the juice from the grated potato, and apply the juice to your underarms. After 10 minutes, rinse your armpits with cool water.
- Cucumber. Cut thick slices of cucumber and rub the slices on the dark areas of your underarms. After 10 minutes, rinse your underarms with cool water.
- Lemon. Cut thick slices of lemon and rub the slices on your underarms. After 10 minutes, rinse your armpits with cool water, dry them, and apply moisturizer.
- Orange peel. Mix 1 tablespoon of milk and 1 tablespoon of rose water with enough powdered orange peel to make a thick paste. Gently scrub your armpits with the paste and then leave it on for about 15 minutes before rinsing it off with cool water. Repeat two to three times per week.
- Turmeric. In a small bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice with enough turmeric to make a paste. Apply the paste evenly to your armpits. After 30 minutes, wash the paste off.
- Egg oil. Just before bedtime, massage egg oil into your armpits. The next morning, wash your underarms with pH-balanced body wash or soap.
- Coconut oil. Massage a few drops of coconut oil onto your armpits. After 15 minutes, wash your armpits with lukewarm water and a mild soap. Repeat these steps two to three times a day.
- Tea tree oil. Mix 5 drops of tea tree oil with 8 ounces of water in a small spray bottle. Spray this on your underarms — and let it dry naturally — every day after drying off following your shower or bath.
Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor or dermatologist might prescribe treatments to lighten underarms, such as:
- topical creams or lotions containing hydroquinone, tretinoin, corticosteroids, azelaic acid, or kojic acid
- laser therapy to remove pigment
- chemical peels with alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids to exfoliate the skin
- dermabrasion or microdermabrasion to thoroughly cleanse the skin
If you have been diagnosed with erythrasma, your doctor will likely prescribe topical erythromycin or clindamycin and/or an oral antibiotic such as penicillin.
If you’re concerned about the skin of your underarms being darker than the skin on the rest of your body, discuss your situation with your doctor.
If your dark underarms aren’t the result of an underlying condition needing medical treatment, talk with your doctor about some of the alternatives for lightening underarms.