Dermatologist Alicia Barba Shares How Women of Color Can Even the Skin Tone of Their Armpits

BElatina tone armpit

How many chemical products or homemade natural recipes have you tried in order to even the skin tone of your armpits? 

For generations, females and femmes, especially those of color, have been taught that having a darker hue in your armpits compared to your natural complexion is disgusting and the result of poor hygiene. Yes, your skin should have an even color — but you should not tolerate armpit shaming or let this condition affect your self-esteem. 

“I felt bad for having dark armpits and I tried not to raise my arms so that I couldn’t be seen. That made them darken. Besides, the constant shaving — since seeing a little hair in my armpits bothers me — I took the decision to laser them. My conclusion, above all, was also to lighten my armpits and honestly, it has worked really well,” said Estefany Collado to BELatina News

The truth is that there’s nothing repulsive about your body and everything you do with it should always be a personal preference. And for the record, hyperpigmentation of your underarms has nothing to do with taking a shower three times a day. “I’m aware that women are constantly being criticized for having dark axilla, but people need to understand that this does not have any relation to our cleanliness and that their negative comments affect us. In my case, the constant shaving made my armpits look darker and more irritated,” revealed Anllury Collado. “I also had ingrown hairs and that made me feel uncomfortable. That is why, like my sister, I decided to laser my underarms. My decision alleviated that feeling of shame as it cleared my skin, and made my self-esteem rise and made me feel more confident.”

Although there are multiple reasons why your armpit skin has an uneven color, the most common is due to a skin condition called acanthosis nigricans (AN). The AN makes the skin to thicken and darken in folds around the body. Besides the armpits, other areas of darkening include the back of the neck, groin, plus your elbows and knees. Despite the fact that this condition itself isn’t life-threatening, it could be an external sign of a deadly disease like diabetes, or of a condition like polycystic ovarian syndrome (which can lead to infertility😉 therefore, it is always highly recommended to keep track of your health and know your family history. 

Another reason can be your deodorant. The direct application of antiperspirant and deodorant in the skin with higher melanin production may lead to dark underarms. Some of these products contain ingredients that can irritate the skin, resulting in a sensitive area prone to discoloration or hyperpigmentation. “I started using a prescribed deodorant to help maintain the even tone of my axilla and as a plus, it also prevents excessive sweating,” said Estefany. “It really helps me and I like it because it has fewer components compared to other well-known brands.” 

“I was extremely happy with a roll-on whitening deodorant from Nivea,” said Escarlette Santos. “My armpit had an even natural color until I decided to switch to the aerosol version of the same brand. After that, my skin started to darken and I believe it is because of the formula. I’m going to try other options — in the end, we all know that sprays aren’t good for our ozone shield anyways.”

Having so many logical and probable causes surrounding armpit hyperpigmentation, board-certified dermatologist and beauty expert, Dr. Alicia Barba, shared with BELatina News an option for women who are seeking a solution to this common concern: uneven underarm skin tone. 

“As a dermatologist, this is something that I see in my practice a lot,” said Dr. Barba. “This complaint of problems underneath the arms, rashes, sensitivity, infections, skin tags, and this idea of not having even skin tone under your arms are definitely things that people bring to the dermatologist’s attention, mostly for aesthetic reasons.” 

Barba said she never wants to set the expectation that skin underneath the arms has to be perfect. “The darker we are the more tendency we have for intertriginous areas to be a little darker. Simply because it is the genetics,” revealed the expert. “We need to educate people to say that this is normal. The axilla is constantly in friction. Skin against skin, skin against clothes. Even when we exercise we are rubbing, when we are removing hair we are rubbing, we are shaving and waxing, so that kind of constant exfoliation is challenging a very traditionally sensitive area of the skin.”

According to the dermatologist, we usually don’t think of an antiperspirant as a vehicle to not only provide the ingredients that help us to remain fresh and odor- and wetness-free, but also as a vehicle to deliver moisturizing products. “The underarm skin needs to be taken care of just like the skin of your face, neck, and hands,” said Barba. “We need to deliver these ingredients so the stratum corneum is moisturized, so that the skin barrier is intact and able to tolerate everything we do that area.” 

“I personally recommend even tone products that contain Vitamin B3 and stearic acid derivatives called 12-HSA, which is a wonderful emollient,” said Dr. Alicia Barba. “That emollient is what really provides to the stratum corneum the moisturization that it needs so the skin is protected and can undergo its natural renewal process.” She suggested consumers try Dove Even Tone Antiperspirant Deodorant because it not only helps restore skin to its natural tone; it also offers 48-hour protection from sweat and odor. 

 

Dr. Barba also guaranteed that after three weeks of daily use, this antiperspirant deodorant can recondition the area if you also combine its use with being gentle with your skin. “Being gentle to me means: Do not dry shave, do not use a dirty razor. Be gentle with the pressure because you don’t want to strip the skin. Remember when we are shaving we are not only removing hair, we are also cutting skin. Make sure you are using a low-soap lubricant so the barrier between the razor and the skin stays healthy,” she said. “Be careful when you are waxing. Always make sure that the wax isn’t too hot so that you aren’t getting burned. If you are doing permanent hair removal go to the right place where there are a lot of people with experience using these devices.”

The expert also informed us that there are different laser devices that should be used depending on our skin tone. “People need to know that in a lot of places that offer this type of service, the staff rotates constantly. There’s always a new person being trained so try to be careful with who is trying to permanently remove your hair,” she warned. 

Lastly, Dr. Barba suggested to always keep your razor dry and in a clean area so it doesn’t accumulate bacteria. “Make sure you are constantly changing the razor — not every time you shave, but you definitely should not be seeing rust,” she laughed. “Sometimes you see soap or hair in there and that’s all human debris that acts as food for bacteria. So once you shave rinse it out and take it out of the moist environment and store it in a dry area.”