Dark underarms are utterly embarrassing. No matter how much you love your sleeveless tops or swimsuits, they do not allow you to sport those favorites. Raising the hands in short-sleeve outfits also becomes challenging because of dark underarm patches. To eliminate this disappointment, commercial armpit whitening products are available in creams, gels, and lotions. However, if you skip harsh chemicals, switch to the most reliable kitchen ingredient, baking soda, which can magically brighten up your dark underarms. We tell you what ruins the appearance of your underarms and how to use baking soda for dark underarms.
What is Underarm Darkening?
The shade of the skin in your underarms should be precisely similar to that in the rest of your body. If it turns darker in the shade for some reason, the armpits may look very unsightly. The condition may also be associated with sweating, a foul odor, and itching. While dark underarms are not a cause for concern, women always want to eliminate this condition as it makes them conscious about their appearance. Just like any other skin discoloration, dark armpits also cause a lack of confidence and self-esteem.
Why Do Underarms Turn Dark?
Knowing the causes behind that ugly dark pigmentation of the underarm skin helps treat them right. It mostly happens due to a skin disorder called Acanthosis Nigricans or AN, in which the skin in different body parts thickens in folds. Unfortunately, this also stimulates the pigment cells in the skin (melanocytes) in those areas to multiply faster than usual, thus causing darkness. Following are some underlying causes of developing AN that turn the armpits darker over time:
- Insulin resistance caused by obesity (1)
- Hormonal abnormalities (polycystic ovary syndrome or PCOS, Cushing syndrome, acromegaly, hypothyroidism, etc.)
- Certain medications (insulin, corticosteroids like prednisone, birth control pills, high-dose niacin, etc.)
- Medical conditions like type 2 diabetes, Addison’s disease, smoker’s melanosis, cancer (malignant acanthosis nigricans), etc.
- A bacterial infection called erythrasma
- Melasma or dark patches on the skin
- Irritation and abrasion caused by excessive shaving
- Using hair removal creams containing too many harsh chemicals
- Friction caused by tight clothes
- Extreme sweating
- Accumulation of dead skin cells due to lack of exfoliation
What are the Risk Factors?
A 2014 study revealed that AN and underarm darkening are common among Americans, and anywhere from 7-74% experience it based on race, age, and body weight (2). Some common risk factors of the condition include:
- Darker skin tone
- Too much bodyweight
- Frequent hormonal shifts
- Repeated hair removal practices like shaving, plucking, etc. (3)
- Use of certain medications
- Liver, stomach, or colon cancer
Treatments for Dark Underarms
Treating dark underarms means treating the underlying medical condition causing hyperpigmentation of the underarm skin. Given below are the most popular choices to make the dark skin fade (4):
- Lifestyle modifications to lose excess body fat and maintain a healthy body weight
- Apply topical retinoid creams like Tretinoin (Retin-A), hydroquinone creams, vitamin D-based creams like Calcipotriene (Dovonex), etc.
- Exfoliation with chemical peels containing trichloroacetic acid (TCA), alpha hydroxy acids, or beta hydroxy acids
- Intake of oral medications, such as retinoid pills and antibiotics
- Application of laser therapies and skin resurfacing procedures like dermabrasion, microdermabrasion, etc.
Topical creams and oral antibiotics are often recommended by dermatologists to reduce discoloration and improve underarm appearance (5). However, these may not be suitable for everyone and can cause several side effects.
Why Use Baking Soda for Dark Underarms?
Our armpits are pretty sensitive, so it is always recommended to use natural lighting or brightening remedies for safe skin practices. Baking soda, a cheap and versatile ingredient, can be a perfect solution. Here are the ways it can contribute to underarm whitening:
- Works as a natural exfoliator
- Removes dead and damaged skin cells effectively
- Promotes cell regeneration
- Decreases melanin production
- Soaks up excess oil secreted from the underarm skin
- Unclogs underarm skin pores
8 Ways to Use Baking Soda for Dark Underarms
The best thing about using baking soda to reduce underarm discoloration is that it is easy to use and does not cost a fortune. If you are consistent with its application, you will get bright armpits naturally within a few months. Here are the procedures to follow:
1. Baking Soda and Rose Water
It is the simplest way to treat underarm darkness naturally with baking soda. First, prepare a thick paste by mixing (1/2) teaspoon of rose water (or distilled water) with two tablespoons of baking soda and gently massage your underarm areas with it in a small circular motion. Rinse it off after 10 minutes with tepid water.
2. Baking Soda and Lemon Juice
The acidic properties of lemon juice can enhance the dark underarm lightening power of baking soda to a great extent. All you need to do is combine one teaspoon of freshly squeezed juice of a lemon with two tablespoons of baking soda. Massage your underarm skin with this mixture, leave it on for 10 minutes, and then wash with plain cold water.
3. Baking Soda and Coconut Oil
Mixing baking soda and pure coconut oil is an excellent remedy for dark armpits. Mix both ingredients equally and blend well to form a thick paste. Massage your underarms with it gently and let it sit for 15 minutes. Then, rinse it off with water.
4. Baking Soda and Vinegar
When mixed with white vinegar or apple cider vinegar (ACD), baking soda can make an excellent natural solution for armpit detox. Add one tablespoon of baking soda to 2 tablespoons of vinegar, wait for the bubbles to subside, and apply the mixture to your underarms. After 15-20 minutes, rinse off with cold water.
5. Baking Soda, Cucumber Juice, and Lemon Juice
Cucumber juice, like lemon juice, is also quite helpful in brightening dark skin. Hence, you can make a paste by mixing one teaspoon of cucumber juice and one teaspoon of lemon juice with two tablespoons of baking soda and massage your armpits for a few minutes. Then, wait for 10 minutes and wash off.
6. Baking Soda, Hydrogen Peroxide, and Lemon Juice
Following this underarm whitening recipe will be easy if you can avail hydrogen peroxide. Prepare the paste by blending (1/4) cup of baking soda, (1/8) cup of hydrogen peroxide, and one teaspoon of lemon juice. Massage your dark armpits with it and rinse off after 10 minutes.
7. Baking Soda, Gram Flour, Curd, and Lemon
A natural underarm whitening pack can be made by mixing one tablespoon of gram flour, one tablespoon of fresh curd, and a dash of lemon juice with one tablespoon of baking soda. Massage the paste on your armpits for a few minutes and allow it to dry for 20 minutes. Then, wash off with plain water.
8. Baking Soda, Turmeric, Gram Flour, and Lemon
Replace fresh curd with equal turmeric powder; you will get another highly effective whitening pack for your dark underarms. Apply the paste, wait 15 minutes, and rinse off with cold water after 10 minutes.
You may also try other natural skin lightening remedies to get back the color of your armpits. These include lemon juice, potato juice, cucumber extract, orange peel, turmeric, milk thistle extract, egg oil, coconut oil, tea tree oil, etc.
How to Prevent Dark Underarms?
Finally, here are some basic rules that you must follow to avoid irritating your armpits and prevent them from getting darker:
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Manage the underlying medical conditions contributing to AN
- Exfoliate your underarms 2-3 times a week
- Apply natural and unscented moisturizers
- Use a gentle soap or shaving foam before shaving
- Switch to waxing or laser hair removal
- Always wear loose-fitting clothes
- Use chemical-free deodorants or antiperspirants
- Quit smoking
Dark underarms not only look unsightly but also cause a lack of confidence and self-esteem. It mostly happens due to a skin disorder called Acanthosis Nigricans or AN, which is often triggered by race, genetics, insulin resistance, obesity, hormone syndromes, certain medical conditions, and so on. While lifestyle modifications, topical creams, oral antibiotics, and medical procedures can be used for treating dark armpits, there are some natural skin lightening remedies that may also help you with this. Baking soda is one of those simple and effective natural underarm lightening solutions that removes dead cells from underarms, promotes cell regeneration, reduces melanin production, soaks up excess oil, and unclogs underarm skin pores. You can use baking soda with rose water, lemon juice, coconut oil, vinegar, cucumber juice, curd, gram flour, and hydrogen peroxide to get rid of the issue easily. Also, make sure that you follow preventive measures to avoid irritating your armpits.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Long Does Baking Soda Take to Lighten Skin?
It depends on the intensity of the darkness of your underarms. However, you may start seeing results as soon as after 1 to 3 weeks.
Can I Use Baking Soda as a Deodorant?
Baking soda has excellent odor-fighting properties, making it a fantastic natural alternative to commercial chemical-based deodorants and antiperspirants.
How do you use baking soda as a deodorant?
Pat baking soda under your damp arms after taking a shower. This will neutralize your body odor and keep your armpits fresh.
- “A Study of Pathogenesis of Acanthosis Nigricans and Its Clinical Implications,” NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “An Approach to Acanthosis Nigricans,” NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “Histological Evaluation of Hyperpigmentation on Female Filipino Axillary Skin,” PubMed.NCBI.nlm.nih.gov
- “What Causes Dark Underarms, and How are They Treated?“, Healthline.com
- “Acanthosis Nigricans: Diagnosis and Treatment,” AAD.org