BEAUTY | How to Lighten Dark Underarms

By Wande O.


Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Dark underarms are very common with women and men, especially African women and men… This is because of our higher pigmentation levels. The higher concentration of melanin is highly reactive and can easily cause hyperpigmentation from different factors. The result is the underarm skin being darker than the surrounding skin.

There are many factors that can cause this darkening of the underarm, and they range from more mundane ones like, prolonged shaving, wearing tight sleeved dark clothes, harsh chemicals in antiperspirant deodorant, dead skin accumulation amongst others; to the result of some medical conditions. See more about causes of dark underarms in the post here.

To get smooth and more evenly pigmented underarms, you need to practise a good care regimen for your underarms, and try some simple techniques to lighten them.


Care Tips for Underarms

  • Wax or Epilate instead of Shaving-

    Avoid shaving or using hair removal creams. Instead, try waxing or using epilators. Epilators are hair removal devices that have a number of tweezers on their head, and work by pulling hair strands from their roots, much like waxing does. It sounds painful, but it works out cheaper than having professional waxing done, and its well worth it.

  • Cleanse and moisturise often…

    at least once a day, particularly if you live in a hot climate. You can cleanse using your regular bath soap, and moisturise with coconut oil or jojoba oil. Both actually help you stay dry and prevent odours.

  • Exfoliate underarms often…

    especially when taking showers. Use a buffer or exfoliating sponge to gently exfoliate underarms daily, while taking a shower. You can use these all over body for the same effect. You can also use body scrubs a few times a week, or make some with sugar, honey and lemon. Exfoliating helps get rid of dead skin, which cause darkening and odours. This is particularly important for those who sweat a lot.

  • Avoid deodorants…

    especially antiperspirant deodorants. This can be difficult to achieve when you are in a hot climate, but harsher deodorants can be substituted for alternative milder deodorants. Natural alternatives also come in the form of baking soda, and oils like organic coconut oil and jojoba oil. You can try using these when the stronger commercial deodorants are not as necessary, such as when you’re staying indoors, or at night.

  • Avoid wearing tight sleeved clothing…

    to avoid the rubbing of underarm skin against the material. Wear comfortable clothes that allow your armpit breathe more.


Lightening Your Underarm


Some topical lightening creams can help lighten darkened underarms. Unless you have a medical condition and are prescribed it, try to avoid using creams that contain hydroquinone. Other less irritating and less harmful ingredients include Bearberry extracts (can also appear as Uva ursi leaf extract, or Arbutin), Hauronoside, Melanozyme, Soy proteins, Vitamin C, Glycolic acid, Lactic acid, Salicylic acid & Japanese botanicals.

You can look for creams that contain any of these ingredients. Check for sensitives and allergies, and stop if you react to any of them.

If you are cautious about using chemicals, why not try the numerous natural options available, many of which you can find in your kitchen.




  • Lemons

They contain a high concentration of citric acid, which are a natural cleanser, exfoliant and lightener. Gently rub a thick freshly sliced lemon directly on your underarms, or squeeze the juice on a cotton pad/ball and apply it to underarms. Leave on for about 15mins, then rinse off. Try this daily, or every few days if you have more sensitive skin. Try moisturising underarms afterwards with 100% natural jojoba, coconut or vitamin E oil as lemons can be drying.


  • Potato Slices

Potatoes have mild acidity which also lightens skins, but unlike lemons, are soothing and less irritating. This is great for those with more sensitive skin especially. Rub thinly cut slices of raw potatoes to underarms, or grate/blend them, and apply the juices extracted to dark underarms. Let it dry, and then wash off. You can do this daily to get best results.


  • Cucumber

Like with potatoes, cucumbers have lightening properties, while soothing the skin. Rub cucumber slices to underarm, or grate them and apply to underarms with cotton pads/balls. You can repeat this daily.


  • Baking Soda

Baking soda can be used on its own, or mixed in with other ingredients. It can help to lighten underarms, as well as eliminate odours. It can be used as an alternative to deodorants and antiperspirants. You can either apply it directly, or mixed into a paste with some rose/distilled water, and scrubbed onto underarms for a few minutes. Wash or wipe off. This can be repeated every few days.


  • Orange Peel

Like lemon, orange has a high concentration of citric acid, and acts as a natural exfoliant and skin lightener. The best part of the orange to use is the peel. Dry and grind orange peels to powder. Mix into a paste with some rose water, and apply this to your underarms. Leave for about 15 minutes and then rinse off. Repeat this daily, or every few days. You may want to moisturise your underarms afterwards to prevent dryness and irritation.


Coconut oil contains vitamin E, which naturally lightens, moisturises and soothes the skin. If the smell of coconut oil bothers you, you can apply vitamin E oil instead. Massage either oil to underarms for about 10 minutes before taking a shower. You can also apply coconut oil as a moisturiser and natural deodoriser (Guys it actually does work as an alternative to deodorants!)