"Being a product developer for a deodorant company I get a lot of questions about underarms, especially after I started blogging about all things armpits. I noticed I was getting numerous emails from customers asking me about why they have dark spots on their underarms. I found that people were insecure about their dark underarms and that they wanted to find a natural but effective way to even out the skin tone in the area. This inspired me to create products that would help even the skin tone of dark underarms without without any irritating or toxic ingredients. Before I started developing my products I interviewed those that had dark spots on their underarms and started to understand what they were doing that was making the dark spot pigmentation worse. I discovered that the dark spots on their armpits was a result of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). That is why today I’m going to share tips to help you reduce PIH on your underarms and what you can do to treat it."
Mary Futher, founder of Kaia Naturals
What is Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)?
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is when there is discoloration on the skin after the skin experiences an inflammatory wound or trauma. The different patches of color are a result of the over production of melanin.
Melanin is responsible for giving the skin it’s color. When the skin is healing from a wound, it triggers the melanocytes, the melanin producing cells to increase melanin production. Once the skin is healed the discoloration remains.
Although, everyone roughly has the same amount of melanin producing cells, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is common amongst those who have melanin-rich skin.
How Do You Know If You Have Melanin-Rich Skin?
It’s quite simple, if you tan when you’re in the sun then you have melanin-rich skin. Those with melanin-rich skin are more likely to hyperpigment from skin trauma. If you’re someone who burns from the UV exposure then you’re at less risk for PIH.
Common Areas People Get Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
Dark spots are not just common on the face you can also get them on your underarms, knees, neck, inner thighs, elbows, and outer arms. You can further get dark spots on your body from blemish scarring on your back, chest, and even your buttocks. In addition, darks spots on the body can be caused by bug bites, scratches, or scrapes. You can make the discoloration much worse and deeper by scratching and itching a bug bite or picking acne. If you want to control the severity of the pigmentation, I suggest finding ways to calm and soothe the skin without further irritation.
Causes of Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
They are many things that can trigger an overproduction of melanin and lead to discolouration on the skin. Sometimes PIH can be caused by hormones, fungal and bacterial infections and medications, however common causes of PIH include:
If you have melanin-rich skin you can get dark spot pigmentation from the sun on your knees and elbows.
Sometimes there are dark spots on the body left behind from a blemish. Many get acne on their body on places like their back, chest, and even their buttocks. It was reported that, beyond the face, 46% of people get acne on the back 39% get it on their chest, and 17% on other areas on the body.
Hair removal methods like waxing and shaving can cause inflammation and even rashes. The skin in the underarm region is incredibly delicate. It’s equivalent to the skin on your eye lid. So even though your skin may feel fine after shaving, shaving can cause micro-cuts and nicks in the underarm region.
Natural Deodorants with Irritating Ingredients:
A common ingredient in natural deodorants is baking soda. Baking soda is 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, using baking soda to treat hyperpigmentation issues is not wise. It’s especially not a wise decision because the underarm skin folds into itself, resulting in rapid product absorption and possible irritation.
How to Minimize Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation
Chances are you may not know something you’re doing or using is causing inflammation on your armpits. In order to treat post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, you must first address the inflammation. This means you need to stop doing anything that could be causing your armpits inflammation. Here are some changes you can make to stop the inflammation.
1) Shave At Night
If you’re going to shave, I recommend shaving at night. Shaving ANY part of your body at night gives your skin time to heal and recover overnight before you expose it to products like deodorant. If you have melanin rich skin use a shaving oil it will help soften the hair and create a barrier from the razor. This is a much better option than a shave cream or a soap. After shaving use an aloe gel to calm the skin overnight. Taking these steps to help prevent inflammation and adopting new habits will help save you from dark pigmentation issues in the long term.
2) Look for Irritating Ingredients in Your Deodorants
Don’t use deodorants with irritating ingredients like baking soda, alcohol, or high levels of fragrance. If you use anti–perspirants the aluminum can be a major irritant for sensitive skins and dermatologist will agree that you need to look for skin calming odor protection.
3) Stop Wearing Tight Clothing
The friction and chafing from clothing can also irritate the underarms and cause PIH. Wear light and breathable fabrics (such as cotton, linen, bamboo) or loose fitting items
How To Even Dark Spot Pigmentation Faster
Once you’ve addressed the inflammation you can go ahead and use a topical depigmenting agent to help minimize the dark spots on your underarms. For those who have melanin-rich skin and have this issue I created the first underarm skincare system called the double dose that will help even out the dark spot pigmentation faster. It’s a simple two-step system which includes a deodorant which is something everyone already uses on a daily basis and a body body bar. By using the products I created together the takesumi bright kojic acid body bar and the takesumi bright niacinamide deodorant you’re enhancing the effects of the safe and natural ingredients I put in them.
1) First Use the takesumi bright kojic acid body bar
The takesumi bright kojic acid body is a wash-off formula that contains kojic acid and licorice root extract which are anti-inflammatory and skin brightening actives. Use it daily in the shower and lather it for 30 seconds in order to allow the actives to penetrate the skin.
2) Follow up with the takesumi bright niacinamide deodorant
In order to treat inflammation, the takesumi bright niacinamide deodorant I created contains skin calming ingredients like aloe. To help minimize the dark spots and even the skin tone on your underarms it contains niacinamide and alpha-arbutin. Since it’s a deodorant of course I include probiotic ferment to control odor-causing bacteria. I used alpha-arbutin because it is a safe alternative for hydroquinone an ingredient that is sometimes used in dark spot skincare products.
Keep in mind that how fast this system works will depend on how dark your pigmentation is, how long you’ve had it and whether you are addressing what is causing the inflammation on your underarms. As with all good things, steady and consistent treatment (and patience!) is your friend to help you reach your desired results.
- Mary Futher
Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation (National Institute of Health)
What Controls Variation in Human Skin Color? (National Institute of Health)
Understanding the Burden of Adult Female Acne (The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology)