Pinterest is a great resource for homemade beauty recipes, but we sometimes stumble across pins boasting “miracle” natural remedies that don’t actually pan out. Like the one that suggests using lemon juice to get rid of dark underarms.
Despite seemingly convincing before and after photos of underarms lightened by rubbing lemon or lime juice directly onto dark armpits, two board-certified dermatologist told The Huffington Post they caution against trying it ― it can actually makes things worse. But fortunately, there are working solutions to uneven underarm skin tone and discoloration.
According to dermatologic surgeon and RealSelf.com advisor Jennifer Reichel, underarms tend to darken with age as a result of inflammation in the area (usually irritation from rubbing or from topical treatments), or because of genetics. New York City-based dermatologist Michele Green adds that dark armpits often stem from hormonal problems, diabetes or as a result of an allergic reaction to deodorants.
“Certainly you will be more prone to having darker pigmentation if you are of a darker skin type,” says Reichel. “A medical condition associated with darkened/thickened skin in the [armpit] is Acanthosis Nigricans. This disorder is associated with insulin resistance most often and can be seen in all skin types ... Other rare skin disorders such as reticulate pigmented flexural anomaly can be seen.”
When it comes to lightening up dark underarms, Green believes homemade methods that call for cleansing with honey are fine. Lemon juice, however, is not, as it may cause phytophotodermatitis, a skin condition that occurs when an individual develops a painful or unsightly burn in the sun from the acids found in fruits. It can hyperpigment the skin.
Instead, both dermatologists recommend exfoliating underarms with a gentle cleanser and wash cloth. Just be sure not to apply too much pressure or rubbing as it may exacerbate the situation. Hydrating oils and moisturizing deodorants will help to maintain smooth and healthy armpits. But if discoloration persists and you need something stronger, Reichel says to consult your doctor for prescription strength skin brighteners like Retin-A to lighten up dark underarms.