You never really think about checking your underarms for discolouration. You’re constantly told to watch what you use on your skin – check the ingredients and know your facts. But when you switch to natural deodorant, does it darken your underarms? We wanted to investigate this a little further...
Are dark underarms normal?
Ok so let’s just clear this one up straight away – yes, dark underarms are completely normal! Just like some people have freckles or red hair, some people have variations in skin tone on different parts of the body. It’s part of the normal spectrum.
There is a negative perception of darker skin in armpits and other folds, but what if we just embraced it as part of the spectrum of normal, a bit like straight vs curly hair? Curly hair isn’t seen as a problem that needs to be fixed and neither does dark armpits.
Over the past few years, the rise of social media has become a part of our daily lives. In 2019, it was reported that on average users spent 2 hours and 22 minutes on social media per day, and by 2021 there was to be a predicted 3 billion people who have social media accounts – that is almost half of the world’s population.
Of those 3 billion people, all of which have probably been guilty of comparing themselves to someone online at some point in their life, will know the struggle of beauty standards thanks to social media.
Nowadays, a lot of people are more concerned with looking like their favourite celebrity or influencer, rather than who they are as an individual. Falsehoods of what the average person looks like have altered how we view ourselves. Of course, it’s normal to have darker underarms than the rest of your body, equally, it is normal to have stubble or lots of hair in your armpits. All of it is completely normal.
What causes dark underarms?
According to American dermatologist, Aegean Chan MD, who says “People with darker skin have visible variations in skin tone on different parts of their body, like armpits, inner thighs and knees for several reasons”
She continues to explain: “One when there is more colour, variations in tone are more noticeable. For example, subtle variations on different purples are more obvious than those in whiter tones. In folds, there tends to be more skin laxity and redundancy, which gives it a darker look. Also, skin rubbing together can lead to skin getting thicker, which can subsequently leave a darker appearance.”
Dr Chan expresses that irritant reactions can be more common in occluded areas like folds, so irritation from antiperspirants and shaving can lead to hyperpigmentation. Particular ingredients within antiperspirants such as the following could be factors or irritation:
- Alcohol – can be particularly harsh on the skin – which is why you will find most dermatologists advising that you avoided it in your skincare. The same should be said in deodorant or antiperspirant. Although alcohol is great at killing bacteria that naturally will sit on the surface of your skin, it is extremely stripping on the skin – and if you suffer from darker underarms, this is best to avoid. Think of how dry your hands have become since using hand sanitiser every day, that is packed with high amounts of alcohol – it’s doing the same to your pets too.
- Aluminium – is typically a strong chemical that does an extraordinary job – it stops you from releasing sweat! However, this doesn’t come without compromise as many scientific professionals have suggested that through using an antiperspirant that contains aluminium – you are increasing your risk of breast cancer and Alzheimer’s. Although, there is no hard evidence to suggest this is true, it can cause an increase in irritation through your body being repressed from releasing sweat.
- Fragrance – needs to be low levels in a good deodorant. Fragrance can be one of the biggest irritators to the skin, so if you do find that your underarms can be particularly sensitive – switching to a fragrance-free option would be your best bet.
It’s important to remember that it is not just the ingredients used in your deodorant or antiperspirant that could cause irritation or itchy armpits. Instead, it could be down to not shaving properly. There are several things to take into consideration when shaving, here are just a few of the easy ones:
- Don’t use a razor for more than 7 uses, as the blades become dull, causing you to go over the same area more.
- Never dry shave – your skin likes to be moisturised, so running a sharp object over its armpit when it’s not is a bad idea. Make sure you shave while in the shower or bath, as the warm water softens the hair follicles and makes it easier to shave while also keeping your skin hydrated.
- Use cream specially designed for shaving – it is carefully created to nourish your armpits and get the job done in the most caring and effective way.
- Don’t shave your armpits too often – your skin needs time to recover, especially if you have itchy armpits – continuing to shave will only add to the irritation.
How can you fix darker underarms?
There are plenty of products promising to lighten armpits, but the truth is, this is a tricky one – giving you ways to fix it implies that it needs fixing, which it doesn’t.
However, just like people with curly hair have the option to straighten their hair and vice versa, there are a few ways to lighten darker areas. However, we must be transparent with you as Proverb stands for statements of truth… these don’t tend to be super effective.
- Switching to a deodorant instead of antiperspirant – there has been many for and against arguments for antiperspirant vs deodorant. However, using a roll-on deodorant (without aluminium) may reduce irritation. It can take at least 1-2 months to see an improvement, so be patient.
- Exfoliation might help lighten armpits- as it would in all skin areas. Darkness can come from cell build-up at the surface.
- Retinoids and alpha hydroxy acid products can help – but please, don’t try any without doing your research first. These can be strong formulas, so if you are worried about this, please contact your doctor or dermatologist.
- Seeing a dermatologist – this can be a pricey option, but if you are serious about wanting to reduce the colouration in your underarms, these are the best people for the job.
- DIY remedies can be handy when you may not want to splash the cash on treatments or new products. Adding baking soda to a little water and rubbing it in your armpits is great for its natural bleaching properties. However, this doesn’t come without fault, as some people say that it does the complete opposite and will worsen the darkness.
Can natural deodorant darken underarms?
Let’s start with the basics: check if deodorant is natural. Natural and organic deodorants should not contain aluminium, you should also check the INCI list on the back of the packaging for any possible problematic ingredients. Here at Proverb, we go by the idea that if you can’t roughly guess what the ingredient is by name – then it’s probably not natural and best you avoid it.
Also, the odds of a natural deodorant coming in the form of a spray aerosol can are slim, as to do this – brands will have to use butane and isopropyl gasses to cause the spray function. Usually, you will find a natural deodorant in the form of a stick or cream in a pot that people apply with their fingers. There have been instances where natural brands have created a liquid deodorant that is sprayed onto the armpits, with a water-like consistency. Proverb’s Natural Refillable Deodorant comes in the form of roll-on stick deodorant, accompanied by a reusable case and biodegradable, compostable refill packaging.
We understand that darker underarms can be a pain point for anyone, and the last thing you want to consider when you want to start living a more eco-conscious lifestyle. So, does natural deodorant help darker underarms or is it just going to propel it?!
The answer to this question is ultimately a little inconclusive, although we know that dark underarms are completely normal from a medical perspective and it is just society telling us that it isn’t. Many people will naturally have darker areas of their skin. However, this can be expelled through irritation caused mostly by antiperspirant and lifestyle choices.
So, in one way no. Natural deodorants cannot darken your underarms as a natural deodorant cannot come in the form of antiperspirant, but if you do suffer from sensitive armpits opting for sensitive natural deodorant may be the right choice for you to avoid irritation further.
Crucially, when you start using any new deodorant, natural or not, monitor your armpits and after a week or two if you believe they are darkening then stop using it.