It’s common to notice that your armpits appear darker after shaving. There are a few reasons why this happens, and steps you can take to prevent it or treat it.
What causes dark armpits after shaving?
Here are some of the main reasons shaving can lead to darker-looking armpits:
- Irritation – Shaving can cause irritation and inflammation of the delicate skin in the armpit area. This triggers increased melanin production, leading to temporary darkening.
- Ingrown hairs – When hairs grow back inward after shaving, it can lead to ingrown hairs. The bumps and inflammation this causes makes armpits look darker.
- Hyperpigmentation – Repeated friction from shaving can cause excess melanin (pigment) production in the armpit skin, leading to hyperpigmentation or dark patches.
- Dead skin buildup – Shaving removes superficial skin layers and hair. Not exfoliating away dead skin cells after can lead to a darker appearance.
How to prevent dark armpits from shaving
You can take steps before and after shaving to prevent potential irritation, ingrown hairs, and buildup that can lead to darkened armpits:
- Exfoliate – Gently scrub away dead skin cells 1-2 times per week using a loofah, dry brush, or chemical exfoliant.
- Shave carefully – Use a sharp, high quality razor and shave in the direction of hair growth. Don’t repeatedly go over the same area.
- Soften hairs – Soak armpits in warm water for 5 minutes before shaving to soften hairs.
- Use gel/cream – Apply shaving gel or cream to protect skin and improve razor glide.
- Moisturize – After shaving, apply a fragrance-free moisturizer to soothe skin and keep it hydrated.
- Avoid deodorants – Opt for fragrance-free deodorants until any irritation heals, as fragrances can further irritate.
How to treat dark armpits
If you notice your armpits looking darker after shaving, there are remedies you can use to help treat it:
- Exfoliate regularly – Use a gentle scrub 2-3 times per week to remove dead skin cells and prevent buildup.
- Use chemical exfoliants – Products with alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) or beta hydroxy acids (BHA) help remove dead skin.
- Apply vitamin C serum – Vitamin C inhibits melanin production and can lighten darkened areas over time.
- Use retinoids – Retinoids increase cell turnover to remove pigmented skin cells. Consult your dermatologist first.
- See a dermatologist – For persistent discoloration or dark patches, see a dermatologist. They can recommend clinical treatments.
There are also some home remedies you can try to help treat post-shaving armpit darkness:
- Lemon – Apply fresh lemon juice to the armpits and leave on for 10 minutes before rinsing. Repeat 2-3 times per week. The citric acid may help lighten skin.
- Potato slices – Rub a slice of raw potato over the armpits for a few minutes, then rinse. Potatoes contain catecholase enzymes that may lighten skin.
- Oatmeal – Make a paste with oatmeal and water and apply it as a mask to the armpits for 15 minutes before rinsing. The avenanthramides in oats have anti-inflammatory properties.
- Apple cider vinegar – Dilute apple cider vinegar with water and use it as a toner after bathing, or apply directly with a cotton ball. It can help restore skin’s pH and reduce inflammation.
- Aloe vera – Pure aloe vera gel also has anti-inflammatory and wound-healing abilities. Apply it to shaved armpits.
When to see a doctor
You should consult a dermatologist if you notice:
- No improvement with over-the-counter remedies after several weeks
- Spreading dark patches or discoloration
- Itchiness, burning, or pain in the armpits
- Armpit lumps or swollen lymph nodes
- Foul odor coming from the armpits
These may be signs of a more serious underlying condition, such as:
- Allergic reaction
- Hidradenitis suppurativa
- Acanthosis nigricans
A dermatologist can diagnose any skin changes and prescribe stronger treatments like chemical peels, laser therapy, or medicated creams to treat discoloration and irritation.
When to stop shaving
In some cases, it may be best to stop shaving armpits altogether if you continue having irritation and darkness despite proper shaving techniques and aftercare. Underarm hair grows back slowly, so you may only need to shave once every 1-2 weeks.
Alternatives like depilatory creams, waxing, epilators, or laser hair removal can also be considered instead of shaving. Discuss the options with your dermatologist.
Risk factors for armpit darkening
There are certain factors that can increase susceptibility to post-shave armpit darkness and irritation:
- Sensitive skin – People with sensitive skin are more prone to irritation from shaving.
- Curly hair – Tightly coiled hair is more likely to grow back ingrown.
- Obesity – Skin folds in the armpit can trap bacteria and lead to irritation.
- Diabetes – High blood sugar can increase infection risk and inflammation.
- Poor hygiene – Not regularly washing armpits and changing clothes/towels can allow bacteria to proliferate.
- Hyperhidrosis – Excessive sweating creates an environment ripe for infection.
- Friction – Tight clothes and activities causing armpit friction make irritation more likely.
When to see a doctor for axillary hyperpigmentation
It’s important to consult a dermatologist if you have excessive or worsening armpit darkening known as axillary hyperpigmentation. A doctor can assess for any underlying conditions and provide treatments.
See your doctor if you notice:
- Dark patches enlarging or spreading
- Itchiness, pain, or foul odors
- Lumps, bumps, or swollen lymph nodes in armpits
- No improvement after 6-8 weeks of home treatment
- Hyperpigmentation spreading to other folds like the groin or under breasts
You should also see a doctor sooner if you have risk factors like obesity, diabetes, or hyperhidrosis. These increase the chances of skin infections or underlying conditions.
Medical treatments for dark armpits
If over-the-counter products don’t improve armpit darkness, a dermatologist may recommend prescription treatments like:
- Topical retinoids – Prescription retinoids like tretinoin (Retin-A) remove pigmented skin cells.
- Hydroquinone – A topical bleaching agent that inhibits melanin production.
- Chemical peels – Light chemical peels with glycolic or salicylic acid exfoliate away pigmented skin.
- Laser therapy – Laser resurfacing procedures remove outer skin layers and reduce melanin.
- Photodynamic therapy – Light-sensitizing medication is applied, then the area is treated with laser light to eliminate pigmented cells.
- Microneedling – Tiny punctures with microneedles stimulate collagen and new skin growth.
- Corticosteroid injection – For lumps from severe inflammation, a corticosteroid shot reduces swelling.
|Topical retinoids||Prescription cream applied daily for 2-6 months||$100-$200|
|Hydroquinone||Prescription cream applied daily for 2-4 months||$100-$300|
|Chemical peels||Application of chemical solution to peel skin, repeated monthly||$150-$400 per treatment|
|Laser therapy||Laser light pulsed at skin for several minutes per session||$300-$1000 per treatment|
|Photodynamic therapy||Topical application and light treatment, repeat monthly||$200-$400 per treatment|
|Microneedling||Rolling device with tiny needles pricks skin for several minutes per session||$200-$700 per treatment|
|Corticosteroid injection||Single injection into swollen lymph nodes||$100-$200 per injection|
*Estimated costs depend on provider/location
Preventing armpit darkening from shaving
To help prevent darkened armpits from shaving:
- Exfoliate regularly – Scrub with a loofah or dry brush 1-2 times per week.
- Always shave gently – Use a sharp, single blade razor. Never go over the same spot repeatedly.
- Soften hairs first – Take a warm shower or press a warm towel over armpits to soften hairs.
- Use shaving cream/gel – Apply a thick layer of shaving product before shaving to protect skin.
- Shave in the direction of hair growth – Shaving against the grain causes more irritation.
- Rinse with cold water – Rinsing with cold water helps close pores and calm irritation.
- Avoid deodorants with alcohol – Alcohol-based deodorants can burn freshly shaved skin.
- Apply moisturizer – After shaving, use a fragrance free moisturizer to hydrate skin.
When to see a doctor
Consult a dermatologist promptly if you notice any of the following:
- Dark armpit patches spreading larger or to other areas
- Itching, burning, pain, or swelling in the armpits
- Foul odor coming from armpits
- Armpit lumps or enlarged lymph nodes
- No improvement after 6-8 weeks of home treatment
These may be signs of an underlying infection, inflammatory condition, or hormone changes needing medical treatment.
It’s common for armpits to temporarily look darker after shaving due to irritation, ingrown hairs, and dead skin buildup. Proper shaving technique and aftercare can help prevent it. Using exfoliating treatments and skin lightening ingredients may help treat discoloration. See a dermatologist if armpit darkening persists despite home treatments or you notice any signs of infection.