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Why Are My Armpits Dark? Causes, Treatment & Prevention Tips

4 mins

Iulia Claudia Dumitru

Why are my armpits dark: stop wondering and feeling ashamed: discover the medical causes, the lifestyle changes you need, and all the treatments that can help!

Have you noticed your underarm skin getting darker? 

Does it make you feel concerned or self-conscious? 

Are you wondering “why are my armpits dark?”

It’s time to put your mind at ease!

Sometimes, our skin can get a darker hue, and it’s normal. Other times, such patches of hyperpigmentation signal there’s an underlying condition. 

Let’s learn the differences!

Table of Contents:

  • Is it normal to have dark skin between legs and arms?
  • Why are my armpits dark: the causes
  • What is acanthosis nigricans & could you have it?
  • Does deodorant cause dark underarms?
  • Are hormonal imbalances causing darker underarms?
  • It could be shaving and plucking your hair. How do you shave your armpits without getting darker?
  • Darker skin under the arms can signal insulin resistance.
  • Your skin could get darker due to obesity.
  • Is it normal for armpit skin to get darker during pregnancy?
  • Medication can trigger skin darkening in the folds.
  • Worst case scenario: your skin getting darker, coarse, and thicker can signal cancer
  • Can you lighten axillary darkening?
  • How do you get rid of dark underarms: treatments
  • Prevention tips to keep your skin healthy

Is it normal to have dark skin between legs and arms?

Your skin should have an even tone all over your body. Sometimes, areas such as the armpits, the groin, the elbows, the back of the neck, or the knees get patches of darker skin. It can be normal until it’s not. Melanocytes, the cells containing your pigment, tend to multiply more, turning your skin darker. While anyone can develop such a condition, and while it can be normal, sometimes underlying causes suggest there’s more to it.

dark armpits

Why are my armpits dark: the causes

Sometimes, the darkening of the skin underarms can signal a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans. Other times, skin getting a few shades darker and thicker can be a sign of cancer. More often than not, it’s the little things that still need addressing.  

What is acanthosis nigricans & could you have it?

Signs of acanthosis nigricans include the darkening and thickening of skin folds, such as the armpits. Sometimes it’s genetic. Other times it’s related to race (people with darker skin are more likely to have darkening under their arms, according to one research). The over-stimulation of melanocytes in acanthosis nigricans can happen due to certain lifestyle habits or health issues such as:

Does deodorant cause dark underarms?

Some deodorants and antiperspirants contain chemical irritants that may trigger pigment cells to multiply in an attempt to protect the skin. 

deodorant

Hence, the skin becomes rougher, thicker, darker, more “prepared” for the assault. Beware of aluminum-based antiperspirants that clog the sweat ducts, causing skin inflammation. 

Are hormonal imbalances causing darker underarms?

Darker-hued patches of skin can signal hormone syndromes. Conditions such as polycystic ovary syndrome, Cushing, acromegaly, and hypothyroidism disrupt insulin levels and can lead to acanthosis nigricans. 

It could be shaving and plucking your hair. How do you shave your armpits without getting darker?

Stopping hair growth in the armpit area is an aesthetic necessity. However, constant shaving, waxing, and plucking can cause abrasion and irritation. 

This stimulates the multiplication of the cells containing pigment. Your skin could turn darker because of it. And due to ingrown hairs. 

To avoid this, make sure to moisturize the area before shaving or waxing, and after it too. Gentle exfoliation from time to time can prevent ingrown hairs. 

Darker skin under the arms can signal insulin resistance

Obesity and diabetes make the body resistant to insulin. Insulin regulates blood sugar. A sign of diabetes is the hyperpigmentation of the armpits, between the legs, the back of the neck, or the knees or elbows.

How come? 

Well, high levels of insulin can increase the production of skin pigment cells in skin folds. 

Your skin could get darker due to obesity.

Acanthosis nigricans can be triggered by obesity. But only if your body becomes resistant to insulin. It helps to maintain the ideal body weight, to prevent such skin issues.

Is it normal for armpit skin to get darker during pregnancy?

Sometimes, skin discoloration and skin pigmentation are triggered by abnormal levels of progesterone or estrogen, which in turn cause the melanocytes to work overtime. 

This condition is called melasma, and it affects pregnant women and women who are on birth control drugs. It fades away after childbirth. 

Medication can trigger skin darkening in the folds.

Insulin, birth control pills, niacin in high doses, human growth hormone, prednisone, and other corticosteroids can increase insulin levels. They can cause hyperpigmentation. 

Worst case scenario: your skin getting darker, coarse, and thicker can signal cancer

Skin discoloration, skin pigmentation, thick, rough patches can all be signs of cancer in rare cases. Cancers affecting the liver, colon, or stomach can stimulate skin pigment cells. That is to say, they affect malignant acanthosis nigricans. 

Can you lighten axillary darkening?

If it’s an underlying skin condition, treating the ailment will likely fix the problem. Adapting to a healthier lifestyle, losing weight, exercising, and regulating hormonal imbalances can help. 

But, so can your skincare regimen and various skin treatments. 

How do you get rid of dark underarms: treatments

A dermatologist may prescribe medical treatment or surgical treatment to lighten your skin. 

For instance, you can expect:

  • Retinoid creams and pills help thin and lighten the skin, creating an even skin tone.
  • A vitamin D-based cream can stop skin pigment cells from multiplying. 
  • Chemical peels containing an active ingredient called trichloroacetic acid help exfoliate dead skin cells, removing affected patches of skin, leaving its appearance lighter and its texture smooth.
  • Dermabrasion is used to resurface the skin.
  • Laser therapies are recommended to diminish the darkened skin.
  • Surgical treatments are involved when dealing with malignant acanthosis nigricans. 

Prevention tips to keep your skin healthy

Cosmetic treatments are effective, but some are invasive. Some topical treatments, although containing healing compounds, are enriched with chemically harsh substances. 

We recommend completing your medicinal treatments with a natural skincare approach. 

  • Using a natural body scrub every once in a while will prevent ingrown hairs and keep an even skin tone. Various acidic ingredients such as hydroxy acids are used as chemical exfoliants. Rough texture scrubs can mechanically remove dead skin cells.

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  • Maintaining your underarms hydrated helps diminish the odds of developing acanthosis nigricans due to shaving or improper cosmetic care. 
  • Anti-inflammatory creams containing salicylic acids can help reduce swelling, inflammation, and the thickening of the skin.
  • Topical treatments with moisturizing oils, such as coconut oil; and essential oils, such as tea tree oil, can help maintain the area clean, hydrated, nourished, and protected. Such ingredients can keep erythrasma (bacterial and fungal infections that can cause hyperpigmentation and discoloration) at bay.
  • Natural ingredients such as lemon juice, aloe vera, cucumber juice nourish the layers of thickened skin, deeply moisturize, help create an even skin tone, and gently remove dead skin cells.

Depending on your budget and tolerance, there are many ways to treat and prevent your armpits from getting darker. 

Always remember one thing in the process: be gentle with yourself and your skin. The rest will follow!

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Iulia Claudia Dumitru

I feel happy when I get to tell meaningful stories. About people. About the world. About life. About what people need to feel good. Healthy food, a balanced lifestyle, a grateful approach to relationships with others and ourselves. That is how I keep myself grounded and purposeful. That is how I aim to contribute: striving to make ourselves the best we can. Creating life in the little things. Living every day with the joy, wonder, and curiosity of a child. Trying to #seeKbeauty. Inside and out.

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Author: Iulia Claudia Dumitru

Latest posts:

Iulia Claudia Dumitru

I feel happy when I get to tell meaningful stories. About people. About the world. About life. About what people need to feel good. Healthy food, a balanced lifestyle, a grateful approach to relationships with others and ourselves. That is how I keep myself grounded and purposeful. That is how I aim to contribute: striving to make ourselves the best we can. Creating life in the little things. Living every day with the joy, wonder, and curiosity of a child. Trying to #seeKbeauty. Inside and out.
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