About Dark Armpits
Dark underarms are usually not a cause of much concern but most people find it embarrassing, especially when wearing clothes that expose them.
Darkening of the skin of underarm is often a symptom of acanthosis nigricans, a skin disorder that typically occurs in people with diabetes or obesity. This condition leads to thickening and darkening of the skin in folds around the body.
According to an overview, acanthosis nigricans affects about 7-74 percent of people (1)
Causes of Dark Armpits
Darkening of the skin can occur when the pigment cells in the skin multiply faster than usual. Repeated hair removal can lead to this condition.
Regularly shaving the underarms can increase the production of pigment cells.
Other factors which increase the likelihood of dark armpits are:
- Insulin Resistance: In this condition, the body becomes less sensitive to the effect of insulin. The majority of people with darkening of skin are insulin resistant.
- Obesity: Obese people are more likely to have dark skin in the underarms and other areas of the body. Research also shows more than half the adults who weigh over 200 percent of their ideal body weight have acanthosis nigricans (2).
- Hormonal Disorder: People with the underactive thyroid gland, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or other hormonal imbalance disorder are more likely to have acanthosis nigricans.
- Genetic: The condition is likely to run in a family which means if a parent has a problem of darkening of skin their children are more likely to suffer from it (3).
- Medications: Certain medications, including birth control pills, corticosteroids, and high doses of niacin may have acanthosis nigricans as a side effect.
- Cancer: In very rare cases darkening of the skin can occur due to a tumor in the stomach, liver of another internal organ. This type of acanthosis nigricans can be malignant (6).
- Dark Skin: Those with darker skin have a greater risk of having dark skin under their arms than those with lighter skin (4).
- Repeated Shaving and Plucking: There are also evidences seen of people suffering from the darkening of underarms after repeated shaving and plucking as it might stimulate excess melanocyte production (5).
How is the Darkening of Underarms Treated?
There are certain medications and home remedies that can help lighten the color under the arms.
The dermatologists prescribe certain medication which can help with the darkening of the skin. The most popular options include:
- Retinoid creams or pills are the first lines of treatment. If used regularly they can help thin and lighten the skin in the affected areas.
- Chemical peels containing trichloroacetic acid can help exfoliate the skin. It removes thicker and damaged skin, resulting in smooth and light skin.
- Calcipotriene, are the vitamin D based cream that reduces pigment cells.
- Dermabrasions and laser therapies can also be used to treat the dark skin under the arms.
- If having cancer, the doctor would remove the tumor and the darkened skin would clear up.
There are some natural remedies such as sea cucumber extract, curcumin, milk thistle extract which are promoted for lightening the pigmented skin.
They are not proven and can also lead to side effects. It is important to consult a doctor before starting any such remedy.
Home Remedies and Lifestyle Changes
As obesity is the main cause of dark armpits. Losing weight can help reduce the problem. It can also help control diabetes which is another cause of the pigmentation of skin.
Moisturizing the underarms after plucking or shaving can help reduce irritation. Also, it is important to use shaving foam or soap before shaving any area of the skin, especially for those with sensitive skin.
The moisturizer used should be unscented or natural to reduce irritation and prevent skin changes.
It is important for those with dark underarms to see a doctor, to diagnose the underlying condition. The symptoms resolve on treating the condition. Along with it the home remedies, medication, and therapies can be of help.
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