BEAUTY | Those Dark Underarms… Causes and Fixes

By Wande O.


Dark underarms

It’s pretty common to see in African women (and men)… underarms that are darker than their skin. This can be embarrassing and sometimes distressing. While some people might have taken it as given, for those who are desperate to find out what might be causing this, and solutions to have more even toned flawless underarms… Here are a few suggestions:


  1. Shaving cuts hair bluntly, at or just below the skin surface. This can give the appearance of a dark stain, especially if your hair is slightly darker than your skin.

Solution: Try waxing or tweezing your underarms instead. This removes the hair from the roots, helping to reduce darkness. You can use epilators to tweeze, and try professional waxing to see how it’s done, before getting the off-the-shelf at home kits.


  1. Antiperspirant deodorants usually contain some ingredients, which may react with skin to cause darkening of the underarms. There isn’t really any proof to this, but a lot of people who consciously avoid antiperspirants/deodorants with this product said they have seen remarkable improvements

Solution: You can try using alternate brands of deodorant that do not have antiperspirant or try alternates to deodorant (such as some oils, scented absorbent powders e.t.c.) altogether. You might stink a little more, but you can always find a way of working round it, while getting even toned underarms.


  1. Not letting your underarms breathe. Excessive rubbing, including against non-cotton fabrics, and dead skin. This tends to happen to people who wear a lot of sleeved and tight clothing. This can lead to Hyperpigmentation (darkening) of the underarms.

Solution: Let your underarms breathe more. Wear more sleeveless blouses, and cotton fabric. Already darkened underarms can then be further reduced by using topical creams containing lightening agents, such as lactic or glycolic acid.


  1. Bacteria, which already exist on the body, can sometimes evolve with a change in dynamics. For instance, sweating can cause some of these bacteria under the skin to result in body odour. When they are found in the underarms, a severe reaction can in some cases cause Erythasma. This is an infection that causes scaly patches that can get browner over time. A well-defined demarcation between the scaly patch and normal skin will be noticed.

Solution: See a doctor for proper diagnostics and prescription. The infection can usually be cured with oral or topical antibiotics. Lightening of the underarm can then be further assisted using products containing lactic or glycolic acid.


  1. A medical condition called Acanthosis Nigricans, usually found in people with Insulin disorders. This includes diseases such as Diabetes, which is common amongst Africans, and can lead to high insulin levels in the blood stream. Amongst other side-effects that can result from this, it can also cause an over-stimulation of skin cells, which on the underarm, causes darkening. Other insulin and hormonal related conditions can cause darkening too, such as pregnancy, Addison Disease, going through growth hormone therapy, amongst others.

Solution: See a doctor and treat diabetes first. You can also use topical creams containing lactic or glycolic acid to lighten dark areas.