6 Ways to Lighten Armpits & the Bikini Area
Remedies for Darkened, Irritated Skin
First: The Cause
Oftentimes, frequently shaving the bikini area and underarms can cause the skin to darken, especially if you’re prone to ingrown hairs and nicks, which can leave the skin sensitive and result in scarring or hyperpigmentation.
Chemicals can also darken your skin—think deodorant/antiperspirant. But then again, excessive sweat can also darken underarms. So avoiding antiperspirants all together isn’t necessarily the solution (or pleasant!).
However, there can also be a much larger culprit behind the darkened skin than just on the surface. “Darker skin in your armpits can be a sign of a hormone imbalance,” explains gynecologist Dr. Carrie Swartz. It can also signal insulin resistance, and other health conditions that shouldn’t be left unchecked. Because of this, Dr. Swartz recommends bringing the issue up with your doctor or your dermatologist before attempting to remedy the situation yourself, just to be on the safe side.
Once you’ve ruled out underlying health issues, an all-natural deodorant may be the key to remedying your sensitive underarm skin. There are many popular brands that have made the move to chemical-free or less chemical-containing beauty products.
Try to avoid deodorants and antiperspirants that contain aluminum, a possible irritator and skin-darkening culprit. Be sure to check the ingredient panel carefully, because just because a product is labeled “all-natural” doesn’t always mean it is.
If you’re feeling crafty, certified master elite trainer Christina Estrada shares her recipe for all-natural deodorant perfect for sensitive skin below:
All-Natural Deodorant Ingredients:
1/4 cup coconut oil
1/4 cup baking soda
1/4 cup corn starch or arrowroot powder
Essential oil drops (optional)
Blend the first three ingredients in a bowl until smooth. For fragrance, you can mix in a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Add about 1/4 teaspoon under each arm and rub in well. Store the extra deodorant in an air-tight container.
To prevent excess sweating/odor while treating any hyperpigmentation, you could try a whitening deodorant. There are several on the market with different ingredients, so make sure you find one that’s gentle on your skin to prevent further irritation and pigmentation.
Look for a whitening deodorant that moisturizes while lightening the existing dark spots to help relieve irritation after shaving. Check out ones containing sunflower oil, which is a great moisturizer for underarms.
Dead skin cells don’t just build up on your elbows and knees. They can accumulate in the underarm and bikini areas, irritating the skin and making it appear duller and darker.
Before shaving, you should exfoliate using a scrub, loofah or exfoliating brush. This will help remove the dry skin and has the added benefit of helping to prevent ingrown hairs and skin irritation in the bikini area.
Read here for more expert tips on how to prevent bumps and irritation in the bikini area.
Bleaching – Home Remedies
If you’ve tried it all and are still grappling, you can try gently bleaching the area to lighten the skin. “Peroxide is known for its bleaching abilities, so is lemon juice,” explains Estrada.
To treat the area, apply a small amount of peroxide or lemon juice to a cotton ball and apply to the underarm area a few times a day. Wash off the substance after about 15 minutes.
Be mindful that these ingredients are both highly acidic, so you may want to apply a thin layer of coconut or almond oil after washing off the peroxide or lemon juice to help soothe the skin. If your skin begins to show signs of irritation, stop the treatment.
Bleaching – OTC & Prescription Creams
Chemical skin bleaching creams can be very successful at lightening darkened areas of skin, but you should be careful as to the product you are applying and how often you are treating the area.
“There are many different skin lightening or bleaching agents out there so it is important to consider which you are applying,” explains dermatologist Dr. Adam Freidman. You’ll most commonly find the ingredient hydroquinone in bleaching creams, which works by preventing the skin pigment protein melanin from being made. “This agent is very effective, however if used too long or possibly too high a concentration, it could cause a reverse effect and worsen the discoloration, a condition called exogenous ochronosis,” warns Dr. Freidman.
If you’re not willing to risk the side effects of hydroquinone—did we mention it can be liver-toxic—fellow of the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery and Ob/Gyn Dr. Charles Bollman, MD points out that kojic acid is an alternative. This ingredient is less effective, says Dr. Bollman, but also less toxic.
Before committing to a bleaching cream, Dr. Freidman recommends visiting your dermatologist or doctor to ensure that you aren’t pursuing a treatment that could worsen your condition or lead to further problems, like skin thinning and severe irritation. Your doctor may also prefer to prescribe you a bleaching cream, rather than recommend an over-the-counter cream.
Laser Hair Removal
If you properly do laser hair removal, you will no longer need to shave or wax the treated areas. So if your dark armpit or bikini area skin is being caused by shaving or waxing irritation, and/or the fact that you can see the bit of dark hair stubble just under the skins surface as it’s growing back, laser hair removal may be a great solution for you.
Laser hair removal is semi-permanent, but hair won’t grow back if you complete the necessary number of treatments (including infrequent, but ongoing, touchups). Many experts swear by it, but if you’re considering the procedure, check out these important tips you need to know about laser hair removal.
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