Products for Dark Underarms

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Underarm skin can darken over time for numerous reasons, including the buildup of dead skin cells, a medical condition called acanthosis nigricans and irritation from antiperspirants and shaving, reports Fortunately, there are also products designed to alleviate this embarrassing problem. Many lightening products are available over the counter. Dermatologists offer prescription-strength equivalents.

Topical Bleaching Solutions

Hydroquinone is the active ingredient in many skin-bleaching creams and ointments that are available in both prescription and nonprescription strength, according to the New Zealand Dermatological Society. When applied topically, hydroquinone breaks down and slows the production of melanosomes, the organelles that contain the skin pigment melanin. But hydroquinone creams should generally not be used for more than three months. In rare cases, prolonged use of these creams can result in exogenous ochronosis, a condition in which the skin takes dark black or blue tones. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Dermatology have approved hydroquinone for skin-lightening, but concerns over skin irritation and side effects have fueled a market for skin-lightening solutions that contain different active ingredients. Other active ingredients used in skin-lightening products include: an enzyme derived from mushrooms called melanozyme, soy proteins, vitamin C and Japanese botanicals.

Chemical Peel Solutions

A peel is a procedure that involves applying a chemical to the skin, allowing it to dissolve the bonds that allow skin cells to adhere together, says the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Once the solution completes this process, the weakened outer layer of skin can be peeled off, revealing fresh, bright skin underneath. Dark skin and other types of discoloration can often be treated this way. Active chemicals in these therapies vary. In general, deep chemical peels are done by a physician or aesthetician. But gentler peels are available over the counter. Glycolic acid is one active ingredient that is commonly in home-use kits, and it can produce favorable results. Other such active chemicals include salicylic acid and lactic acid.

Microdermabrasion Creams

Microdermabrasion employs abrasive particles to exfoliate the skin. As with chemical peels, rigorous microdermabrasion procedures are done by physicians and aestheticians. On the gentler end of the spectrum, products for at-home microdermabrasion generally consist of creams that contain small abrasive particles, such as granulated pumice stone. Scrubbing the underarms with these creams can remove the outer layer of skin, often revealing lighter-colored skin. In cases where creams are not effective, options include small electric devices that either buff the skin with circulating discs or pelt the skin with small abrasive particles, essentially sandblasting the outer layer away.