December 26, 2022

How To Get Rid of Dark Armpits

You can take steps to lighten them, but make sure they aren’t a sign of something serious

Person holding up arm and looking at dark coloration of armpit.

We tend to spend a decent amount of time on our underarms, whether that’s shaving, scrubbing with body wash or putting on deodorant to keep us from getting too smelly.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But what does it mean if you notice the skin under your arms becoming dark or discolored? While it could just be your genetics or the products you use, dark underarms can also be a sign that something else is going on with your health.

Dermatologist Alok Vij, MD, explains what causes dark underarms, why it’s important to get a diagnosis and what you can do at home to help lighten your skin.

Why are my armpits dark?

“The most important thing to know about dark underarms is it can sometimes be related to diabetes,” says Dr. Vij. “That can be the first symptom in a patient who previously may be asymptomatic or may otherwise be undiagnosed.”

Acanthosis nigricans, a skin pigmentation disorder that’s associated with diabetes, is when your underarm skin becomes thick and velvety.

But dark underarms can happen for several reasons, says Dr. Vij. Those may include:

If you’re concerned about your dark underarms, Dr. Vij stresses the importance of talking to a doctor to get a diagnosis.

“Once you’ve gotten a diagnosis and you’re getting the right treatment, then skin-directed therapies like creams or laser therapy can be used to help lighten underarms,” he continues.

How to lighten dark armpits

While there are plenty of “at-home remedies” online that claim to help with your dark underarms, Dr. Vij says it’s best to start with the following.

Use fewer products

Your dark armpits could be caused by irritation from the products you use. So, cut down on what you apply to the area to see if that helps.

You also want to reconsider what type of products you’re using.

Advertisement

“Look for products marketed for sensitive skin,” advises Dr. Vij. “You’re looking for fragrance-free, dye-free and preservative-free products.”

Aluminum fluoride, the ingredient that’s in many over-the-counter deodorants and antiperspirants, is safe. And when it comes to products that claim to be “natural,” don’t be fooled.

“Natural products may still have fragrances, dyes and preservatives that are just derived from an organic source rather than synthetically derived,” explains Dr. Vij. “So, they may not be better. You really want to look for products that are marketed for sensitive skin.”

Try natural at-home remedies … with caution

The internet is full of at-home “natural remedies” to treat dark underarms like using the juice from a grated squeezed potato, applying egg yolk oil or even trying an armpit detox. While Dr. Vij isn’t convinced that these dark underarm treatments work, he does co-sign using lemons to help lighten the underarm area.

“Lemon has citric acid in it. Citric acid is going to help to dissolve away the outer layer of skin,” he says. “It’s very similar to using a glycolic acid face wash to thin out the skin on your face.”

You can rub lemon slices under your arms. Wait 10 minutes and then rinse the area with cool water and let dry. Another method involves mixing lemon juice with turmeric to make a paste for your underarms. Apply to your underarms and wait 30 minutes before washing off with cold water.

As with any home remedy, it’s best to talk to a doctor first. And be careful not to use these methods too often, as over-exfoliation can cause irritation.

Talk to a doctor about other options

If changing products and at-home treatments aren’t lightening your underarms, your doctor may prescribe a lotion or cream that contains ingredients like niacinamide, retinol, kojic acid or hydroquinone.

“Some creams have urea or ammonium lactate that help dissolve an abnormally thick outer layer of skin,” Dr. Vij adds.

Other in-office options may include chemical peels, dermabrasion or microdermabrasion.

Advertisement

While laser therapy can be used to help remove pigment, Dr. Vij says this isn’t a common treatment for dark underarms.

When to see a doctor

If you notice a rash or irritation, Dr. Vij recommends changing your deodorant to see if that helps first.

“But if you still have symptoms and your skin is inflamed and itchy, it’s time to see your doctor,” he says.

If you notice hyperpigmentation along with other symptoms like irregular menstrual cycles, abnormal hair growth and weight gain, Dr. Vij advises seeing a doctor about a possible PCOS diagnosis.

And if you’ve gained weight, have a family history of diabetes and notice hyperpigmentation in your underarms, your doctor will want to make sure you don’t have prediabetes or diabetes.

“This can happen in like kids as young as 8 years old or adults into their 30s or 40s,” he says.

And while you may think dark underarms are just a cosmetic issue, it can be linked to a more serious health concern, so Dr. Vij stresses the importance of seeing a doctor and getting a diagnosis.

“We want to make sure we rule out or set up treatment for potential health problems first,” says Dr. Vij. “Then if your dark underarms are slow to improve, we can address that.”

Related Articles

Closeup of person holding vitamin C serum, with dropper filled with liquid.
December 11, 2022
What Can Vitamin C Do for Your Skin?

This popular ingredient isn’t just for citrus fruits anymore

Closeup of dotted line indicating where eyelid lift will take place
February 14, 2024
Blepharoplasty vs. Brow Lift: What To Know

The procedures take different approaches to eliminate saggy, baggy skin around your eyes

jar of coconut oil-based cream next to a cut open coconut on a bath towel
February 9, 2024
Stop the Itch: Home Remedies To Help Manage Eczema

Colloidal oatmeal, petroleum jelly and other around-the-home products can help provide needed relief

stress factors floating around person with eczema on arms
February 8, 2024
Eczema and Stress: What’s the Connection?

Your body’s natural response to stress can lead to painful skin irritation

Smiling person holding small container of moisturizer close to face, with product applied to face
February 1, 2024
What Does Vitamin B5 Do for Your Hair and Skin?

Pantothenol is a powerful moisturizer and can help repair damaged skin and hair

Doctor making marks on female patient's face
January 31, 2024
Facelift Facts: What You Need To Know

From the best age to get one to how long it takes to recover, we answer nine common questions about this wrinkle-reducing procedure

Person touching acne on face while looking in handheld mirror
January 30, 2024
Home Remedies for Acne: Do They Work?

Some remedies might help banish breakouts, but others are best avoided

close up of the bakuchiol plant
January 10, 2024
Should You Be Using Bakuchiol in Your Skin Care Routine?

This alternative to retinol may be easier on sensitive skin

Trending Topics

glass of cherry juice with cherries on table
Sleepy Girl Mocktail: What’s in It and Does It Really Make You Sleep Better?

This social media sleep hack with tart cherry juice and magnesium could be worth a try

Exercise and diet over three months is hard to accomplish.
Everything You Need To Know About the 75 Hard Challenge

Following five critical rules daily for 75 days may not be sustainable

Person in foreground standing in front of many presents with person in background holding gift bags.
What Is Love Bombing?

This form of psychological and emotional abuse is often disguised as excessive flattery

Ad