How to Lighten a Dark Underarm

Portrait of a young attractive blonde
Try sugaring or exfoliating creams to lighten dark underarms. (Image: Aviavlad/iStock/Getty Images)

Underarm darkness is more embarrassing than harmful, according to the scientists at The Beauty Brains website. In fact, though dark underarms are sometimes symptomatic of acanthosis nigricans--a condition related to glandular disorders--the causes of armpit discoloration are typically more run-of-the-mill. For example, The Beauty Brains lists shaving and dead skin cell buildup as two of the most common culprits. According to the site, shaving only removes the top portion of hair, leaving the remaining part to create dark shadows beneath the surface of the skin. Switching to a method of hair removal that removes the hair at the root--such as sugaring--may improve underarm darkness. Sugaring also helps exfoliate the skin, which prevents dead cells from building up and forming dark spots. Products containing lactic acid, a non-abrasive exfoliant, may also lighten dark underarms.

Underarm Hair Removal

Step 1

Choose an all-natural sugaring kit, which are available in stores and online. Good sugaring products typically contain sugar, water, lemon juice and a natural gum, according to the book “Milady’s Hair Removal Techniques." Avoid products with added fragrances and resins, as these can irritate the skin.

Step 2

Prep the treatment area by thoroughly washing and drying your armpits. Dust on a fragrance-free, chemical-free baby powder to absorb any extra moisture.

Step 3

Manipulate a scoop of sugar paste into a ball. Be careful not to over-handle the paste, as this can cause it to heat up and lose its effectiveness.

Step 4

Position the ball over the unwanted hair. Flatten the paste with your fingers, working against the hair growth.

Step 5

Pinch one edge of the flattened paste between your thumb and forefinger, then pull quickly, keeping your hand parallel to your skin. Remove the paste in the same direction as the hair growth.

Step 6

Continue sugaring until your underarms are hair-free. Use a damp washcloth to clear your armpits of any sugar paste residue.

Exfoliate Dark Underarms

Step 1

Select a cream containing lactic acid. Read the included instructions to learn about proper dosing and use.

Step 2

Wash your armpits with a mild cleanser and dry thoroughly.

Step 3

Apply the lactic acid cream to your underarms. Lactic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid derived from milk. It helps lighten dark spots by sloughing off dead skin cells, revealing the newer skin beneath.

Things You'll Need

  • Sugaring kit

  • Cleanser

  • Baby powder

  • Washcloth

  • Lactic acid cream


Use the sugar paste on hair that is at least one-fourth inch long.


Lactic acid can irritate the sensitive skin of the underarms, according to Dr. Jessica Wu of the website Everyday Health. If irritation occurs, stop using the product.

Load comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.