Can Natural Deodorants Darken Underarms?

Clean beauty industry maven Mary Futher founded kaia naturals® after spending 20 years working for global beauty companies. Mary now shares her weekly content series, delivering a quick fix, home remedy, or clean beauty product suggestion for a variety of human discomforts that some may find too embarrassing to discuss.

Being in the deodorant business, I have basically heard it all…from underarm rashes, to excess odor and contact dermatitis; you name it! But a few weeks ago I started receiving questions around hyperpigmentation in the underarm area. 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 dark patches in the underarm area. So here I am today. 

The Number 1 Cause of Dark Underarms

Aside from certain medical conditions, hyperpigmentation in the underarm area is normally a result of post-inflammatory irritation. However, certaiingredients 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. 

Baking Soda

Key Offending Ingredients in Antiperspirant:


The active ingredient aluminum 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. This can cause irritation, and 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. 

Key Offending Ingredients in Natural Deodorant:

Baking Soda:

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.

ideal skin pH is 5.5, baking soda pH level is 9


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. 

Other Causes of Hyperpigmentation


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.

How To Deal With Irritated Underarms

The key to calming angry armpits is to simply soothe the area that is inflamed. My favorite go-to ingredient to help with irritation is aloe vera. I absolutely LOVE it, 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 dark underarms 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. This is often the key to avoiding irritation under there, and it can help you avoid nasty outcomes. 

If you have experienced this or have any other fixes for this problem we would love to hear from you below.

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