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Skin Solutions: Dark Underarms

Diyahe to expose your underarms? You're not alone. Read on for some skin SOS!

Summer’s here, and it’s time to show off some skin! To make sure you’re bikini-ready, we got skincare advice straight from Dr. Jacqueline So, MD, a dermatologist we consulted at Skin Inc.

Question: One of the hottest beauty threads on our Fun Fearless Forum is about underarm whitening. What are effective ingredients, products, or treatments to lighten armpits?

Dr. So: First, you have to figure out what is causing the discoloration:

1. Constant friction. This means that there is contact dermatitis (skin irritation resulting from contact with an irritating substance or allergen).

2. Dark hair. This gives your underarm skin a shadow. It looks dark, but actually, the hair is casting a shadow from underneath the skin, which makes your armpits look darker.

3. Vascular. Sometimes, some patients complain about dark underarms, but if they stretch out their skin, you’d see that it actually isn’t dark. Underneath the skin, there’s a shadow of the greenish blood vessels, so when they fold their underarms, you’ll see some discoloration.

For dark underarms with contact dermatitis, you can easily stop using whatever is causing the irritation—tight clothes, harsh creams or deodorants, etc. Darkening caused by contact dermatitis is easier to lighten because you just apply medication. For example, products that contain hydroquinone, kojic acid, licorice, or arbutin can lighten the skin. These chemicals inhibit the production of pigment, which helps lighten the skin.

Another way to lighten the skin is to get rid of the underarm hair permanently through treatments such as IPL, or Intense Pulsed Light. During IPL, the light used will attract the pigmentation, which includes dark skin and hair. The darker your hair is, the more effective the treatment will be. IPL will remove the dark hair and pigmentation at the same time.

For the vascular component, you can’t do anything about it because these are bigger blood vessels and you can’t remove them. It’s also helpful for patients to know that, so they don’t end up buying medicines that don’t work.  

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