Dark Underarms – Causes

by Ishani Bose last updated -

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Dark underarms can be defined as the dark coloration of the skin in the underarm region compared to the rest of the body. Underarm darkening is a problem that many people face today. Most people are embarrassed by talking about their underarms.

In general, underarm darkening is not a disease or a medical condition. It is simply a darkening of the skin, similar to suntans that people get when exposed to ultraviolet rays for a considerable period of time.
However, in certain cases, dark underarms can point out to certain medical conditions. These include Addison’s disease, hormonal changes especially during pregnancy, diabetes, high insulin content in the body, hyper-pigmentation, and allergies or irritations.

Heavy underarm rubbing can also cause hyperkeratosis. Hyperkeratosis is the scientific name for the condition where the skin around the underarm becomes hard to counter the irritation, inflammation due to rubbing, or because of pressure application.


Causes of Dark Underarms

Darkened underarms can also occur because of other conditions such as shaving, hair removing creams, perspiration, accumulation of dead cells, and more. Let’s take a detailed look at them below.


Shaving your underarms is considered to be one of the major reasons for underarm darkening. Shaving leads to skin hardening and darkening over time because of the irritation and abrasion that occurs.

Hair-Removing Creams

Hair removing creams tend to remove unwanted hair in a smooth fashion, but these hair removers contain chemicals which can irritate the skin and cause darkening of the underarms.


Underarms are the least ventilated areas in the upper body. Excessive sweating and poor ventilation of air in underarms are also one of the major reasons for darkening. Wearing tight clothes can prevent the skin from breathing, which eventually makes the underarms dark.

Accumulation of Dead Cells

Dead cells accumulate all over our body including and it is not a surprise that they form around our underarms as well. As the cells inside our body and our skin cells die, they accumulate on the outer layers of skin, making the skin darker.

Use of Alcohol-Based Deodorants and Antiperspirants

Not all antiperspirants and deodorants available in the market are suitable for everyone. Some people can develop inflammatory reactions that lead toon the exposed areas of their skins causing discoloration due to its reaction to the alcohol and chemicals present in the deodorant.

Acanthosis Nigricans

People suffering from obesity or diabetes may experience a condition called acanthosis nigricans. This condition occurs when there is excess insulin flowing in the bloodstream. Excess insulin can cause the skin cells to become overstimulated which leads to abnormal skin growth of skin cells, and subsequent darkening.

Smoker’s Melanosis

Smoker’s melanosis is a condition which results from tobacco smoking. In this condition, hyperpigmentation is caused by smoking. Dark patches appear as long as smoking continues. These patches may disappear when one stops smoking.


Melasma is often observed in pregnant women. When suffering from this condition, skin discoloration occurs on sun-exposed areas, including underarms. Melasma is also found in women who use oral contraceptives and those undergoing any hormone replacement therapies.

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease is a medical condition in which the adrenal glands do not produce the required amount of hormones such as glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. Addison’s disease causes hyper-pigmentation which results in the darkening of the skin that hasn’t been exposed to the sun.

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About the Author

An alumnus of St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Ishani Bose has worked as a reporter/features writer for several leading newspapers and organizations in India. It was her love for food, health, and wellness that brought her to Organic Facts. As a Content & Culinary Outreach Specialist, she is responsible for developing and managing the website’s recipe section. An avid Instagrammer who knows the latest social media trends, Ishani helps strategize and create authentic content for the website’s social media platforms. When not writing or cooking, you’ll find her reading, traveling, soaking herself in music, arts, and culture in every way possible. Ishani has completed an online program on “Introduction to Food and Health” by Stanford University, US. 

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