How To Get Rid Of Dark Shadows On Underarms

Hey Heather,

I always get a dark shadow on my underarms and no amount of shaving makes it go away. What is it and how can I get rid of it?


Ah, yes. The infamous dark underarm shadow. Not to be dramatic, but most girls I know complain about this. It’s like, you get rid of your underarm hair so that area is spotless and smooth… and then you get left with a dark shadow that you have no idea what to do with. It’s frustrating! I get it. I wanted to get some legit advice that just might solve the problem, so I reached out to an expert. I brought this up to Dr. Melissa Kanchanapoomi Levin, a New York City based dermatologist and clinical instructor at New York University and Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine, who also works with Schick.

Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin said, “Dark armpits can be caused by a number of conditions, such as acanthosis nigricans (which is a sign on the skin for insulin resistance), bacterial infections called erythrasma, and chronic rubbing from shaving… or just plain rubbing! There are some topical medications that can lighten the skin such as hydroquinone, retinoids, corticosteroids, glycolic acid, azelaic acid, etc.” Your dark shadows are more than likely caused by shaving often, especially if you keep shaving thinking that will help. But, if you’re worried it might be something else, you should see a dermatologist. Don’t take a medication without speaking with a medical professional in person first!

The bad news is that removing hair there could be a big reason you’re seeing that shadow. Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin says, “Unfortunately, with shaving or waxing, ingrown hairs and stubble can give the appearance of dark patches since the hair in the armpits is often thicker compared to hair on other parts of the body. If ingrown hairs are an ongoing problem, using a salicylic acid, glycolic acid, or a benzoyl peroxide gel or cleanser can be helpful. Otherwise, a more definitive treatment would be laser hair removal.” So, shaving is probably the worst offender here. Waxing, I’ve heard, is a little bit better for shadows, but it’s not a miracle worker. Like our expert said, laser hair removal is your best bet. Not interested in that? Keep reading.

If you want to continue shaving your underarms, then listen to these tips from Dr. Kanchanapoomi Levin: “It’s important to change the blade regularly so you’re not shaving with a dull razor. Use a shave gel in order to minimize friction, and use as little passes as possible in order to minimize rubbing. I also recommend using a 2-in-1 razor like Schick Intuition because it has the shaving cream built right in. Wearing loose tops and cotton layers to avoid chafing is also helpful. Since hyper-pigmentation can’t always be avoided, sun protection and limiting direct sun exposure is key.”

Good luck!

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Posted in: Body Issues
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