Do you have a closet full of pretty sleeveless dresses and strappy tops that you never wear because you have dark underarms? Dark underarms are a common problem. They can be caused by harsh ingredients in everyday items like perfumes and deodorants.1 Underlying health issues like bacterial or fungal infections, acanthosis nigricans, or melasma can also darken the skin. Friction is another factor that can darken your skin. Wearing tight clothes that rub against your skin, scratching your pits, and accumulating excess upper body fat which promotes friction between your skin folds can all be responsible for your skin tone. But don’t worry! We’ve got some ideas that can even out your skin tone.
Exfoliate Underarms With Sugar, Baking Soda, Lemon, Or Yogurt
When dead skin cells are not shed, you see some discoloration. Exfoliation removes the top layer of dark skin to give you brighter skin. If your skin is not too thick, you might not need to exfoliate more than once or twice a week.2 Here are some commonly available items that can help you exfoliate at home:
Sugar can make a great scrub for exfoliating your underarms. You can use either regular sugar or brown sugar to make your exfoliating paste.
How To Use: Mix a teaspoon of sugar with an equal quantity of olive oil.3 Clean your armpits, wet them, and apply this paste. Massage the paste in gently, and let it sit for around 5 minutes. Wash it off to get rid of dull, dead skin.
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda is another commonly available item that can slough dead skin cells off your underarms.
How To Use: Mix baking soda with a little water to make a watery paste.4 Spread this over your underarms and leave it in for 2 to 3 minutes. Rinse off for fresher, brighter looking skin.
3. Lemon Juice
Lemon juice contains alpha-hydroxy acids, chemical exfoliants that can melt away dead skin cells for you.5 Lemon is also a rich source of vitamin C which has been found to inhibit the formation of melanin, a pigment which makes skin darker. 6
How To Use: Concoct a potent exfoliating scrub with lemon juice and baking soda.7 Make a thin paste by adding baking soda to a tablespoon of lemon juice and add a few drops of olive oil. Apply this mixture to your darkened skin, wait for around 10 minutes, and rinse off.
Yogurt contains lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid, that can help you remove dead skin cells and leave your skin looking brighter.
How To Use: Spread yogurt over dark underarms. Give it around 20 minutes to work and rinse off.
Use Whitening Agents Turmeric, Grapeseed Oil, Aloe, Or Licorice
Melanin, a pigment present in our skin is responsible for giving it a dark tone. Some natural remedies can reduce melanin levels to help you deal with darkened skin.
1. Turmeric Paste
Turmeric has been used to lighten skin by Southeast Asian communities for ages. This traditional remedy is also backed by science. Studies show that curcumin, a bioactive component present in turmeric, can inhibit melanin production.8
How To Use: Add a teaspoon of turmeric to a tablespoon of milk and blend to make a smooth paste.9 Spread this paste on your underarms and let it sit for around 5 minutes before rinsing. Do keep in mind though that turmeric can stain your skin as well as clothes yellow.
2. Grape Seed Oil
Grape seed oil is rich in linoleic acid, useful for treating hyperpigmentation. Studies have found that applying linoleic acid can lighten skin darkened by exposure to ultraviolet rays.10 It can also be useful when used along with conventional medicine in treating melasma, a condition causing patches of hyperpigmented skin.11
How To Use: Mix 2 tablespoons of grapeseed oil with a tablespoon of honey for hydration. Add a few drops of lemon juice and apply this to your underarms. Leave it in for a few minutes and wash off.
3. Arnica-Infused Oil
According to research, arnica flowers have the ability to inhibit the biosynthesis of melanin.12 So, arnica flower infused oil can be helpful in lightening your dark underarms.
How To Use: Place some arnica flowers in a clean jar and top them with a carrier oil.13 Use grapeseed oil as the carrier oil if you want the extra boost of linoleic acid too. Let the flowers sit in the oil for about 2 to 6 weeks, but remember to shake the jar once a day. Strain the infused oil into a clean jar. Application of this oil may help lighten your underarms.
Licorice is another herbal remedy that can help deal with dark underarms. Studies show that glabridin, a component present in licorice roots, inhibits the activity of the enzyme tyrosinase involved in the production of melanin.14
How To Use: Steep 1 tablespoon of licorice root powder in a cup of boiling water for 3 to 5 minutes, and strain to make a licorice tea. You can apply this tea to your underarms after it cools down. Alternatively, you can mix licorice powder with cooked oats to make a paste which can be applied on your darkened skin.
5. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera is well known for its moisturizing properties, but this wonderous plant can help you deal with hyperpigmentation too.15 Aloesin, a compound present in aloe vera, inhibits tyrosinase activity and can, thus, retard melanin production. 16
How To Use: Tear open an aloe vera leaf and squeeze out the gooey gel from inside.17 Apply this gel to your underarms twice a day for about half an hour. You should find a significant improvement in your skin tone.
6. Soy Milk
Proteins present in soybeans (known as Bowman-Birk inhibitor and soybean trypsin inhibitor) can reduce the transfer of melanin by interfering with a biological pathway for this process.18 They can, therefore, be helpful in depigmenting skin.19
How To Use: Apply unpasteurized soy milk to your underarms to lighten them. Do keep in mind that pasteurization destroys the skin lightening property of soy milk, so only use the unpasteurized form.
7. Orange Peels
Seville oranges, otherwise known as bitter oranges, are commonly used to make marmalade. But these zesty fruits can do more than making your breakfast delicious. According to research, extracts from Seville orange peels can inhibit tyrosinase and help you counteract hyperpigmentation.20
How To Use: Grate orange skin to get about a tablespoon of orange zest. Mix a tablespoon each of the orange zest, orange juice, and yogurt with a teaspoon of honey to make a paste. Apply this paste to your underarms and let it sit for about 5 minutes before rinsing off.
Resolve Underlying Skin Disorders With Neem, Tea Tree, And Lavender Oil
Various disorders like acanthosis nigricans and melasma can cause the skin in your underarms to darken.
- Acanthosis nigricans can be caused due to underlying medical conditions like Cushing’s syndrome, hypothyroidism, and polycystic ovary syndrome which will need specific treatment. Obesity can also lead to this condition. So managing your weight might be helpful in treating dark underarms if you have acanthosis nigricans associated with obesity.
- Melasma, which often develops during pregnancy, usually resolves on its own after delivery. Skin lightening agents can also be helpful in treating hyperpigmentation due to this condition.
Minor skin infections can also darken your underarms. Your doctor may prescribe antibacterial or antifungal medications to deal with these. Some natural remedies listed below may also be helpful.
1. Neem Oil
Neem oil has traditionally been used in Southeast Asia to treat skin infections. This beneficial oil contains bioactive compounds like nimbolide and gedunin, which have been found to exhibit antibacterial and antifungal properties.21
How To Use: Dilute neem oil in a carrier oil in a 1:10 ratio and apply it to the affected part.22
2. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is known for its activity against a broad range of bacteria and fungi. In fact, according to research, this medicinal oil can be used effectively to treat skin infections like Athlete’s foot.23
How To Use: Tea tree oil can be applied full strength to the affected area a couple of times a day.24 However, if your skin is sensitive and you experience skin irritation, dilute the oil with a carrier oil in a 1:1 ratio before application.
3. Lavender Oil
Lavender oil is another essential oil that can be useful in treating skin infections. It exhibits strong properties against common microorganisms like candida and some dermatophytes (fungi) which cause skin infections.25
How To Use: Steep around 2 gm of lavender in a quart of water overnight and use this solution to bathe the affected area.26 You can also apply a drop of lavender oil diluted in a tablespoon of carrier oil for relief.27
Caution: Remember to do a patch test before applying essential oils and check with your doctor if home remedies don’t clear up your skin infection.
Experiment with these natural remedies and stick to one that works best for you. We hope your underarm-exposing clothing will no longer need to remain stowed away.
|↑1||Say goodbye to dark underarms. Philippine Council for Health Research and Development.|
|↑2||Evaluate before you exfoliate. American Academy of Dermatology.|
|↑3, ↑9||[Fitzgerald, Maggie. The A-Z of Natural Skin Care: Take Care Of Your Skin Using Natural, Herbal, Chemical-Free Homemade Treatments. LiveNatural Press, 2014.|
|↑4||Home Remedies to Shrink & Minimize Large Pores on Face Permanently. Nonverbal Learning Disorders Association.|
|↑5||Freudenberger, Richard. The Country Almanac of Housekeeping Techniques That Save You Money: Folk Wisdom for Keeping Your House Clean, Green, and Homey. Fair Winds Press, 2011.|
|↑6||Huh, C-H., K-I. Seo, J-Y. Park, J-G. Lim, H-C. Eun, and K-C. Park. “A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vitamin C iontophoresis in melasma.” Dermatology 206, no. 4 (2003): 316-320.|
|↑7||Blues, Rubynnia. Baking Soda Wonders!: Amazing Uses in Home Remedies, Household Hacks, Beauty and Health, Cooking, Personal Hygiene and More. PublishDrive, 2014.|
|↑8||Tu, Cai‐Xia, Mao Lin, Shan‐Shan Lu, Xiao‐Yi Qi, Rong‐Xin Zhang, and Yun‐Ying Zhang. “Curcumin inhibits melanogenesis in human melanocytes.” Phytotherapy Research 26, no. 2 (2012): 174-179.|
|↑10||Ando, Hideya, Atsuko Ryu, Akira Hashimoto, Masahiro Oka, and Masamitsu Ichihashi. “Linoleic acid and α-linolenic acid lightens ultraviolet-induced hyperpigmentation of the skin.” Archives of dermatological research 290, no. 7 (1998): 375-381.|
|↑11||Lee, Mu-Hyoung, Hyun-Jin Kim, Dong-Ju Ha, Jong-Hyun Paik, and Hong-Yong Kim. “Therapeutic effect of topical application of linoleic acid and lincomycin in combination with betamethasone valerate in melasma patients.” Journal of Korean medical science 17, no. 4 (2002): 518.|
|↑12||Maeda, Kazuhisa, Tomoko Naitou, Kenichi Umishio, Tadao Fukuhara, and Akira Motoyama. “A novel melanin inhibitor: hydroperoxy traxastane-type triterpene from flowers of Arnica montana.” Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin 30, no. 5 (2007): 873-879.|
|↑13||DK. Neal’s Yard Beauty Book. Dorling Kindersley Ltd, 2015.|
|↑14||Yokota, Tomohiro, Hiroyuki Nishio, Yasuo Kubota, and Masako Mizoguchi. “The inhibitory effect of glabridin from licorice extracts on melanogenesis and inflammation.” Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research 11, no. 6 (1998): 355-361.|
|↑15||Surjushe, Amar, Resham Vasani, and D. G. Saple. “Aloe vera: a short review.” Indian journal of dermatology 53, no. 4 (2008): 163.|
|↑16||Jones, Ken, Jennifer Hughes, Mei Hong, Q. I. Jia, and Steve Orndorff. “Modulation of melanogenesis by aloesin: a competitive inhibitor of tyrosinase.” Pigment cell research 15, no. 5 (2002): 335-340.|
|↑17||Olumide and Yetunde Mercy. The Vanishing Black African Woman: Volume One: A Compendium of the Global Skin-Lightening Practice. Langaa RPCIG, 2016.|
|↑18||Paine, Christine, Elizabeth Sharlow, Frank Liebel, Magdalena Eisinger, Stanley Shapiro, and Miri Seiberg. “An alternative approach to depigmentation by soybean extracts via inhibition of the PAR-2 pathway.” Journal of investigative dermatology 116, no. 4 (2001): 587-595.|
|↑19||Parvez, Shoukat, Moonkyu Kang, Hwan‐Suck Chung, Chongwoon Cho, Moo‐Chang Hong, Min‐Kyu Shin, and Hyunsu Bae. “Survey and mechanism of skin depigmenting and lightening agents.” Phytotherapy Research 20, no. 11 (2006): 921-934.|
|↑20||Adhikari, A., H. P. Devkota, A. Takano, K. Masuda, T. Nakane, P. Basnet, and N. Skalko‐Basnet. “Screening of Nepalese crude drugs traditionally used to treat hyperpigmentation: in vitro tyrosinase inhibition.” International journal of cosmetic science 30, no. 5 (2008): 353-360.|
|↑21||Biswas, Kausik, Ishita Chattopadhyay, Ranajit K. Banerjee, and Uday Bandyopadhyay. “Biological activities and medicinal properties of neem (Azadirachta indica).” CURRENT SCIENCE-BANGALORE- 82, no. 11 (2002): 1336-1345.|
|↑22||Brown, Denise. Change Your Mood With Aromatherapy: Teach Yourself. Hachette UK, 2010.|
|↑23||Satchell, Andrew C., Anne Saurajen, Craig Bell, and Ross StC Barnetson. “Treatment of interdigital tinea pedis with 25% and 50% tea tree oil solution: A randomized, placebo‐controlled, blinded study.” Australasian journal of dermatology 43, no. 3 (2002): 175-178.|
|↑24||Murray, Michael T., and Joseph Pizzorno. The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine Third Edition. Simon and Schuster, 2012.|
|↑25||Zuzarte, Mónica, Maria José Gonçalves, Carlos Cavaleiro, Jorge Canhoto, Luís Vale-Silva, Maria João Silva, Eugénia Pinto, and Lígia Salgueiro. “Chemical composition and antifungal activity of the essential oils of Lavandula viridis L’Hér.” Journal of medical microbiology 60, no. 5 (2011): 612-618.|
|↑26||Balch, Phyllis A. Prescription for herbal healing. Penguin, 2002.|
|↑27||Lavender. University of Maryland.|