Dark underarms, elbows, knees, why?

There is no greater feeling than waving your hands up in the air like you just don’t care. For most woman this carefree feeling is far and few between their dehairing regiment. The reality is, we ladies do care and we do worry, constantly. Yes, there are woman out there who are happy to have hairy underarms and some are even proud and dye their underarm hair cool shades of colours.  We respect and solute you. The reality is that most woman still want to achieve smooth, shadow free underarms. We have tackled and won the war against embarrassing unwanted hair and today we can have pain-free and permanent laser hair removal which is safe for all skin types. So let’s understand and find solutions to darkening skin conditions.

Your underarms should naturally be about the same shade as the rest of your skin. But sometimes, the skin in the armpit area can turn a darker shade. Dark underarms usually aren’t a sign of anything serious, but some find it embarrassing, especially during summer when everyone is in sleeveless and waving. Darkening is often due to a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans (AN). It causes skin to thicken and darken in folds around the body.

Common areas of darkening include the:

  • armpits
  • back of the neck
  • groin
  • elbows
  • knees

If you suffer from such condition, you may notice that your skin might also itch or have odour in those areas. Your skin colour is determined by pigment cells called melanocytes. When these cells multiply more, they can turn the skin a darker colour. Anyone can develop AN, but some people have a greater risk. People who have darker skin are more likely to have darkening under their arms than people with lighter skin. Although AN is usually genetic or tied to an underlying condition, we have noticed that some hair removal methods may also be a culprit. Irritation from repeated shaving, waxing or plucking stimulate excess melanocyte production.

Over the years, at The Laser Beautique, we have noticed that clients who suffered from dark armpits, who made the decision, to invest in laser hair removal, not only enjoyed a pain free and permanent solution to unwanted hair, but benefit from a synergetic side-effect of lightening or even-toning of the area. Win win!

We highly recommend switching from waxing and razor to laser. Prevention is easier and more cost effective than a cure. It will save you in the long run. Save you on razors, painful waxes and save you from stimulating melanocytes and darkening areas. Having laser even helps you save the environment. (Disposable razors aren’t recycled in SA)

Your dermatologist can also prescribe medications to help lighten the skin that has darkened. Popular treatment options to reverse or even-tone:

  • Retinoid creams. Tretinoin (Retin-A) is considered the first-line treatment for AN. When used regularly, it can help thin and lighten the skin in affected areas. If you don’t suffer from AN but have noticed darkening areas, we at TLB can recommend some great over the counter products with lightening ingredients such as retinoids.
  • Chemical peels. Peels containing trichloroacetic acid (TCA) can help exfoliate the skin. This process helps remove the thicker, damaged skin to reveal new, smooth skin. We recommend The BeauCeauticals TCA Peels.
  • Vitamin D based creams. Help reduces skin pigment cells.

To avoid irritating your underarms, lubricate the skin with a gentle soap or shaving cream before shaving. Apply an unscented moisturizing cream or post Laser gel afterward. Please note one may be more likely to develop AN because of many other underlying issues. For example: Obesity, type 2 diabetes, hormone syndromes, some medication and even cancer. When AN is caused by cancer, it’s called malignant acanthosis nigricans. Often, treating the medical condition that caused your dark underarms will fix the issue. Lifestyle changes but as mentioned above, a combination of medicines and even some home remedies could help lighten the colour.

When to see your doctor

Although dark underarms are usually harmless, they’re worth getting checked out by a dermatologist, especially if you think you might have a condition like diabetes or an underactive thyroid gland. Treating the condition that caused it will usually make the dark skin fade. If you suddenly see dark patches under your arms and on other areas of your skin, see your dermatologist or general practitioner right away. This could be a sign of more serious condition.