Darkened skin in the armpits is probably more common than you realize. For some people, it may not be that noticeable or bothersome. Still, others may wonder how to get rid of dark armpits or what caused them in the first place.

Dark armpit skin is nothing to be ashamed of. But, if you want to know how to lighten dark armpits or are simply curious about how they got there, read on to learn about some possible causes and treatments.

What Causes Dark Armpits?

Dark armpits (also called axillary hyperpigmentation) are usually caused by skin irritation or chafing. This leads to something called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which happens when cells called melanocytes produce too much pigment. This extra pigment deposits in your skin, causing it to appear darker than the surrounding skin.

Armpits are more likely to turn darker shades because they're easily irritated by common daily routines. Shaving, tight clothes, and antiperspirants that irritate the skin can all lead to darker armpits.

Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation can happen to anyone, but it's more common in darker skin tones. It can also show up on different areas of your body, like the inner thighs or groin area.

Close up black armpit effect from pregnancy women. skin care and beauty concept.

Can Medical Conditions Cause Dark Armpits?

In some situations, dark armpits can be caused by an underlying medical condition. When this happens, there are usually additional symptoms that help distinguish them from post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Here are some examples:

  • Acanthosis nigricans: This condition can result from insulin resistance in people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. It causes dark and thickened skin around the neck skin folds, but it can also affect the armpits.
  • Yeast or bacterial infections: Different yeasts or bacteria can lead to dark armpits that can also be itchy or red.
  • Skin inflammation: Conditions like eczema and allergic reactions can also lead to dark armpit skin. Your skin can also be pretty itchy, and you may notice a similar rash on other parts of your skin.

How to Get Rid of Dark Armpits

For people with a medical condition, treating the underlying cause should reverse the dark skin. Not sure if this means you? A visit to your board-certified Dermatologist can help you figure it out.

For most other causes of dark armpits, the first step is to identify and remove the source of irritation. This can vary from person to person and may take a bit of trial and error. It usually requires switching deodorants, wearing looser clothing, or waxing instead of shaving.

Once you've eliminated the underlying cause, it can take time for the skin to return to its previous shade. This can take several months, which may feel like forever. Fortunately, there are ways you can speed up the process.

  • Use skin-lightening ingredients. Ingredients like Niacinamide and Retinol can be found in over-the-counter and a bunch of EltaMD products.
  • Consult with your Dermatologist. These professionals can help you understand and pursue fast-acting treatments like lasers, prescription-strength Retinoids or Hydroquinone, and chemical peels.

All in all, dark armpits are fairly common and usually nothing to worry about. Still, if you do want to lighten them, switching up part of your regular routine is likely enough to do the trick.

Author

  • MARIA ROBINSON, MD, MBA

    Maria Robinson, MD, MBA is a board-certified dermatologist and dermatopathologist with over ten years of clinical experience. Dr. Robinson has a special interest in nutrition and integrative dermatology and believes that education is the foundation for good health. Through her writing, she strives to empower people with accurate health information so they can make positive decisions that lead to healthy and vibrant skin.