What Causes Dark Underarms?

Although not a health hazard, dark underarms can not only be annoying but can be aesthetically unpleasant to look at. Besides causing you to avoid certain types of clothing such as tank tops and swimsuits, the benign condition is more of an embarrassment than a harmful health condition. Typically, your underarms should be in the same shade of the rest of your skin. However, certain factors such as excessive use of antiperspirants, friction caused by tight clothes, hyperpigmentation, and the accumulation of dead skin cells can lead to dark underarms. At the same time, health conditions such as smoker’s melanosis, Addison’s disease, bacterial infections and melasma can also cause underarms to darken.


Potential Causes of Dark Underarms


Shaving can cause dark underarms, especially if your armpit hair is darker than the colour of your skin. Since shaving only cuts the hair off at the surface of your skin, the darkness of the hair follicles below the surface of the skin can exacerbate the appearance of dark underarms. Moreover, shaving too much can lead the skin to harden and darken due to abrasions and irritation. It is important to note that shaving can also cause itching if you don’t use a sharp razor. A better alternative would be to wax unwanted hair instead of shaving. Waxing removes the hair right from the roots, making the darkness of the hair less visible. This, in turn, makes your underarms look lighter.

Deodorants and Antiperspirants

Although deodorants and antiperspirants protect the body from bad odour, some brands contain chemicals that can do more harm than good for the body. These harmful chemicals can cause the skin to become dark, itchy and irritated. It is best to use a mild deodorant or natural remedies such as baking soda to fight body odour. Apart from keeping the skin free from the harsh chemicals, washing your armpits with baking soda can leave your underarms feeling healthy and fresh smelling throughout the day.

Accumulation of Dead Skin Cells

It is common knowledge that dead skin cells are found all over our body. They accumulate on the surface of our skin and every day we lose millions of dead skin cells. Hence it is important that you properly exfoliate your skin. Skipping out on exfoliation will cause dead skin cells to multiply. This, in turn, can lower the absorption rate of certain products, make skin to appear dull and rough and lead to excessive oil and clogged pores, which can lead to clogged pores and blemishes. Your underarms are no exception to the effects of improper or lack of exfoliation. An accumulation of dead skin cells in and around the underarms is one reason why it is darker than the rest of your body. Hence, it is a good practice to exfoliate your underarms regularly to avoid further darkening of the skin.


Hyperpigmentation is one of the most common causes of dark underarms. This benign condition can lead to certain areas of your skin to appear darker than the surrounding area. Typically caused by excessive melanin, which is the pigment that gives the skin its colour. An excess of melanin can form deposits on the skin. If there is a chance that your dark underarms are a result of hyperpigmentation, it is best to consult a dermatologist to gain more insight into how you can tackle this problem.

Friction Caused by Tight Clothes

Underarms are one of the most sensitive areas in the body. Thus, wearing tight-fitting clothing can cause friction between the cloth and your skin. This can lead to discolouration of the skin. Always ensure that the clothes that you are wearing are loose fitting, especially around sensitive areas. This will make it easier for the skin to breathe and there will be less friction between the clothes and the skin. It is also crucial that you wear loose clothes after waxing underarms since the process will leave your skin sensitive and prone to irritability.

Bacterial Infection

Unfortunately, our underarms function as the perfect breeding ground for bacteria to thrive in. Additionally, excessive sweating can cause bacteria to trapped in the skin of the underarm. One bacterium called Corynebacterium minutissimum has been shown to lead excessive sweating. Besides excessive sweating, the bacterium leads to chronic infection in the deeper layers of the skin. This chronic infection is known as erythrasma. It is best to consult a doctor to ensure if a bacterial infection is causing underarm darkness.


The common skin problem typically presents itself as dark patches on the skin. It appears on parts of the body that are exposed to the sun. Moreover, women are believed to become more likely to get melasma than men. It is also typical for pregnant women to suffer from melasma as the hormones released in the body during the pregnancy period triggers melasma in women. Applying regular sun protection on the skin at regular intervals is one of the best ways to counteract melasma.