MARCH 2023 | 5 MINUTE READ
Being in the deodorant business, I have basically heard it all…from underarm rashes, to excess odor to contact dermatitis and armpit lumps; you name it! But it wasn’t until I started receiving questions around hyperpigmentation in the underarm area that I realized this was a major issue. At first, I was a little bit thrown off. I have fair skin, so this is not a problem I have ever personally faced.
However, the more digging I did, the more I started to realize that this problem is considerably more common than one would think, particularly for women with darker skin, or olive skin tones. I also realized that not many people want to talk about the fact that they have underarm darkness, so here I am today.
Aside from certain medical conditions, hyperpigmentation in the underarm area is normally a result of post-inflammatory irritation. However, certain ingredients that are typically found in your deodorants or antiperspirants can ALSO act as irritants, and thus cause and aggravate dark patches. So if you are suffering from dark underarms, I want you to get up and check if your deodorant has any of the following ingredients. If it does, get rid of it.
The active ingredient aluminum chloride is typically found in antiperspirants to keep you from sweating. It works by forming plugs in your sweat glands, which blocks your pores and leads to congestion. In 2022, the American Academy of Dermatology Association deemed aluminum to be the “Allergen of the Year”, meaning it causes contact dermatitis, a.k.a. irritation that can lead to hyperpigmentation – especially If you have sensitive skin.
Alcohol – found in many antiperspirants, deodorants AND natural deodorants – is usually a culprit for irritation. So, even if you’re using natural deodorant, or are thinking of switching to natural deodorant, always check the ingredients to make sure it does not include traces of alcohol.
Yes, it makes your deodorant smell delightful. However, high-levels of fragrance do not react well with sensitive skin. That being said, it’s okay to have fragrance in your deodorant, BUT it must be in the product at very low levels.
This is one of the most common ingredients in natural deodorants. Unfortunately, it’s an alkaline substance, and if it mixes with an acid it can alter the pH levels of your skin. Depending on your skin’s pH, your reaction to baking soda will differ – some will have mild reactions, while others will have more serious and extreme reactions. However regardless of where you fall in the spectrum, baking soda always leads to hyperpigmentation issues, even if it’s not super apparent as a major rash.
Again, even when it comes to natural deodorants, stay away from deodorants that contain high levels of fragrance. The easiest way you can check is to look at the first 5 ingredients on the label. If you find that fragrance or even essential oils are within the first 5 ingredients, that means they make up the majority of the formulation.
Believe it or not, your razor can be one of the biggest sources of irritation, especially if you have dry skin or are using a dull blade. This leads to friction which can cause the skin to darken and thicken over time.
WHEN you shave also makes a big difference. Shaving often produces micro cuts on your skin. So, if you shave in the morning and then apply your deodorant or antiperspirant, you are applying a product to broken skin. Shaving at night gives your underarms time to heal and calm down, before applying product to the area.
Exfoliation, particularly with aggressive scrubs, can also lead to hyperpigmentation. If you have sensitive skin or are already prone to hyperpigmentation, throw out your loofah. If you exfoliate with harsh tools or scrubs, then it will only make the condition worse.
If you’re looking for a way to eliminate dead skin in the underarm area, use a charcoal deodorant or a charcoal mask. This will keep your pores from clogging, and will not cause irritation to the area.
Friction and chafing can cause major discoloration and your underarms are incredibly prone to it due to the delicate skin, presence of skin folds and moisture from sweat.
Many people don’t consider the fact that underarm skin is very different from the rest of the body. For this reason, you need to use products specifically formulated for this region when treating darkness on the underarms.
When I realized this problem was so common and there really was no practical and efficacious solution out there, I created the takesumi bright system. I found that by pairing a wash-off and a leave-on product together, you could deliver the brightening actives to the region without causing excessive irritation and more pigmentation problems.
STEP 1: kojic acid brightening bar
Lather for 30 seconds on the affected areas daily. It can be used on underarms as well as other body pigmentation such as dark inner thighs, elbows, knees and on body acne or bacne scars.
Follow the bar with the brightening deodorant, applying 10 swipes generously on the underarms. The alpha arbutin, niacinamide and aloe vera in this deodorant will both brighten and soothe irritation.
Consistent use of this system as directed will yield the best and fastest results. In addition to this, addressing the root causes of underarm darkness will make sure your brightening journey is successful.
If you currently have angry or inflamed skin on the underarms, soothing the area is key. My favorite go-to ingredient to help with irritation is aloe vera. I absolutely LOVE it (it’s why I used it in the brightening deodorant) and I highly recommend you keep a natural aloe vera gel in your bathroom at all times.
Not only does it help reduce inflammation and irritation but can also be a handy tool for sunburns or minor irritations. Trust me, it’ll make you and your underarms much happier.
The bottom line is that the key to avoiding underarm darkness is to avoid irritating the skin. If your skin is continually irritated, overtime it can lead to thicker and darker patches. Hence you need to pay attention to the ingredients in the products you use.
In addition to this, treating with the takesumi bright 2-step system will help you revert your underarm skin to its original color and is a safe and gentle way of ensuring you are not further aggravating the skin with harsh treatments.
Written by Madame Sweat
Clean beauty industry maven and product developer Madame Sweat (Mary Futher) founded kaia naturals after spending 20 years working for global beauty companies. She now shares weekly modern hygiene etiquette advice and solutions for “unsexy” body taboos, with her social media followers and readers.
All content found on this website is created for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this Website.
Clean beauty industry maven and product developer Madame Sweat (Mary Futher) founded kaia naturals after spending 20 years working for global beauty companies. She now shares advice on modern hygiene etiquette for grooming, hosting, home and travel on Instagram, TikTok and her popular blog called The House of Hygiene.