How to treat underarm skin that’s become dark and discoloured

At ELLE, we’re big believers in body confidence, encouraging each other to love our natural curves, unique bone structure and natural-born skin tone. And half the battle of being confident in your own body is taking care of it. Which is why discolouration and pigmentation become such touchy topics. Discolouration of the underarm area can be frustrating, especially when it becomes the reason women stop wearing sleeveless clothes or feel conscious about their body. While skin discolouration is a natural part of the ageing process, there are certain lifestyle and health factors that could be exacerbating or accelerating it. Dr Jayshree Sharad at Skinfiniti clinic helps us better understand the topic and take corrective measures. 

How to deal with discoloured underarms?


Cause: In common cases, skin discolouration in the underarm region is caused by friction. Every method of hair removal causes a certain level of friction. Waxing, shaving and hair removal creams all cause skin irritation. “Any sort of hair removal leads to constant friction. Friction will lead to discolouration with people who have a tendency to pigment,” says Sharad. 

Solution: Waxing is rough on your skin, a better option may be to shave. The common myth is that shaving promotes thicker hair growth and causes ingrowths, but the opposite is actually true. Shaving your hair doesn’t cause in-growths as the hair is not being pulled out from the root. The doctor suggests shaving in the direction of the hair growth to minimise friction: “Use a thick layer of shaving cream to create a barrier between the razor and your skin. And immediately after shaving, use a moisturiser.” While using a moisturiser on your underarms may sound strange, sensitive skin needs some love. 

Chemical irritation

Cause: Deodorants and perfumes. “A lot of people are allergic to fragrance. They can burn your skin and you will develop dark underarms.”  

Solution: Naturally, the trick here is to avoid fragrance on the underarm region. If you are worried about odours, a safer option is to use anti-perspirant. The alternative is talcum powder or anti-fungal powder to ensure dryness in the area. Friction and wetness are the causes for discolouration, and powder could ease the situation.

Fungal infections 

Cause: “Sometimes, you may not even realise that you’ve developed a fungal infection. The fungal infection may go but the discolouration could stay.” Sharad informs. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to self-diagnose this despite the clear demarcation in the infected skin, so visiting a doctor is advised. Fungus can grow when excessive perspiration takes place or when the body is left wet.

Solution: To prevent fungal infections, ensure your skin remains dry. Anti-bacterial powders can help fight fungal infections and keep you dry. Wash dirty clothes in warm water. If you need to be treated for a fungal infection, consult a doctor.

How do you reverse discolouration in the underarm region?

If you have established that the discolouration is caused by a fungal infection, there are steps you can take to correct the pigmentation in your underarm area. Use a moisturiser with brightening components like kojic acid and vitamin C before going to bed. But don’t expect results immediately, Sharad says it will take roughly three months before you start seeing results. Options like glycolic underarms peals are available at dermatologic clinics, if the other treatments aren’t giving you the desired results. 

Watch: Masaba Gupta can’t understand our obsession with fair skin

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