Tricks of the Trade – Lighten dark underarms with these easy steps

As you know, aside from modelling, hosting and blogging, I am also a beauty columnist for the Philippine Daily Inquirer. I started in 2008 when I was invited by my good friend Ria Prieto to contribute and from then on I’ve continued to write for the newspaper, and later on for their fashion magazine, LOOK. I haven’t been able to contribute for a few months because of my show and this blog, but now I’m trying to find time to get back into it.

My column gives out beauty advice to my readers, and even if it doesn’t get published, I still get emails from all around the world. They are my constant reminders for me to continue what I’ve started and honestly, I really really want to reach out to each and every person who writes to me and offer them what I know. So, expect more beauty advice in the weeks, and hopefully the months to come. My column, Tricks of the Trade, comes out every Friday and is published here, every Saturday.

To all my readers, thank you so much for writing to me. I get all of your letters, and I promise, I will do my best to answer all your queries. Thanks for your support!

07:04:14 - Lighten dark underarms with these easy steps


Hi, Ms. Kelly. I have a question regarding dark underarms. I’m 17 years old and all my life dark underarms have been my ultimate problem. Someone told me to use calamansi to make them a little fairer. On the third day, I suddenly felt stinging pain on my left underarm. I saw a tiny red spot, but I’m not sure if it’s a wound or just pure irritation. What should I do? Should I stop? -Denise

A lot of people recommend calamansi or lemon to lighten dark underarms and knees. This has proven to be quite effective for some people. But while this trick may work for some, it can cause skin irritation for others. The acidity level from these fruits is pretty high, and when it is applied to skin for a long period of time, it can lead to the same type of skin reaction you experienced: redness and stinging pain. I’m not sure how you applied the calamansi on your skin, but it is recommended that you leave the application on for only 10 minutes, then you’ll need to wash the area right away. Either way, to be on the safe side, you should stop doing this, as it may only worsen if you continue.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, if you can’t use calamansi to whiten your skin, what other options do you have? Well, I think before we get to the solutions, we must first tackle the problem here. What caused your underarms to turn dark in the first place? Of course, a lot of factors come into play here. Let’s go through them one by one.

First off, it might be your anti-perspirant/deodorant. Too harsh chemicals in your underarm products might produce a reaction on your skin that causes it to darken or pigment. You could be allergic to that certain ingredient, which may cause it to get irritated, or it could just have that effect on your skin. Try switching to a gentler one, preferably made with natural ingredients. Check your local health stores for an alternative (natural is always better).

Next, it might be your clothes. Wearing too tight tops made with synthetic materials that don’t breathe can darken the skin on your underarms. This can be caused by excessive rubbing, which can lead to hyperkeratosis, or the thickening of the skin as it protects itself against constant rubbing, pressure and irritation. Switch to loose, soft clothing, made with natural fibers like cotton. And if you think you have hyperkeratosis, consult with a dermatologist. A doctor will be able to help treat this condition and prescribe something that will help address the problem.

Lastly, it may be caused by shaving. Using a razor to remove hair on your underarms can be quite rough on the skin. It can cause razor burns and cuts, which can all cause the skin to darken. Apart from that, underarm hair tends to be dark and course, which means its stubble or hair growth may cause the area to look dark and shadowy. To avoid this, opt for waxing instead. Waxing removes hair by the root and leaves no stubble. It might be more painful (you get used to it though) and expensive, as compared to shaving, but in the long run it helps prevent skin darkening.

Effective tips

Now that we’ve gotten to the root of the problem, we can now go through the things you can do to whiten your skin. Try these effective tips and get ready to confidently bear those underarms.

Exfoliate. Often there is a buildup of product (deodorant residue) and dead skin in our underarms, which contribute to darken skin in that area. Scrubbing skin regularly helps minimize this, and may help whiten skin again. Using a scrub or loofah regularly can effectively exfoliate skin and allow new skin to regenerate faster.

Try using baking soda. Since calamansi proved to be too harsh for your skin, here’s another option: baking soda. This has been known to effectively lighten skin. Use this as a homemade scrub by adding a bit of water until it becomes a thick paste. It works by effectively removing dead skin while unclogging pores and killing bacteria.

Moisturize skin with coconut oil. Another effective way to lighten skin is by keeping it nourished and moisturized. Coconut oil (or virgin coconut oil) is high in vitamin E, which helps skin restore lost moisture. It also keeps skin smooth and supple. To apply, simply massage the oil into the skin for 10 minutes and rinse with water. This also has bacteria-killing properties, and can reduce underarm odor.

Use a whitening anti-perspirant/deodorant. It seems a lot of brands are heeding the demand for underarm whitening, and most are pretty effective with doing so. Switching to a whitening deodorant can prevent skin from further darkening and can significantly lighten skin by a couple of shades.

Consult a dermatologist. A skin expert can prescribe a whitening scrub or cream for your underarms and can even recommend treatments for it. These days there are quick and easy ways to do this, all you have to do is ask. Most importantly, a dermatologist can assess whether you have a skin condition that causes the darkening or not. If yes, then it would make it easier to find a solution for it.

This article was published in the Lifestyle Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer on July 4, 2014. 

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