Dark pits got you covered, even in the hot months? Well, there are several reasons why hyperpigmentation happens in areas that fold: armpits (axilla), elbow pits (cubital fossa), groin (inguinal region), knee pits (popliteal fossa). There also are treatments and products to help lighten and prevent the recurrence of ashy, darkened areas.

Why do these areas darken?

The culprits behind darkening in these areas include everything from certain medical conditions, products, trapped moisture, friction and genetics. Further, darker skin types and ultra sensitive skin have a propensity for darkening in these areas. Darker skin types have more pigment cells that easily group together or multiply when agitated to cause darkening. Sensitive skin types react to inflammation of any kind, ultimately spawning post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).

A breakdown of causes:

1. Genetics – It’s a familial thing.

2. A sign of insulin-resistance, such as diabetes or polycystic ovarian syndrome. When areas darken as a result of insulin-resistance, it is called acanthosis nigricans. A flag for this condition also includes hyperpigmentation along the back of the neck.

3. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) from friction from shaving and tight clothing made of synthetic materials that trap moisture. PIH also commonly occurs post-rash or other dermatitises. 

4. Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis) causes irritation and inflammation leading to PIH.

5. Some products, particularly antiperspirants and natural deodorants, can trigger a dermatitis situation from a developed allergic reaction or irritation (see 3).

How to lighten these areas safely

The road to lightening these areas must be navigated cautiously. These areas are thin skinned, delicate, and fold upon themselves increasing absorption of topical ingredients. Any irritation can cause PIH, so using products that are too strong or using these products too frequently can worsen the situation.

The short list of remedies:

1.  Change deodorants or antiperspirants. You may be sensitive to certain ingredients. 

One of the best remedies to eliminate the need for any antiperspirant is Botox for hyperhidrosis.

2. Gently exfoliate with mild chemical exfoliants, such as low concentration glycolic or lactic acid, azelaic acid or retinols. Never scrub! Scrubbing is friction. Friction causes darkening in these areas.

3. Moisturize! Hydrated skin keeps the skin’s protective barrier strong and resistant to irritants.

4. Eliminate the friction of shaving with laser hair removal. If you must shave, never dry shave and always use a fresh, sharp razor. 

5. Wear loose, natural fiber or moisture wicking fabrics. Trapped sweat causes skin darkening. Friction from tight, non-breathable clothing also contributes to skin darkening.

6. Use pigment suppressing products with niacinamide, vitamin C, hydroquinone cautiously and judiciously.

7. See your dermatologist.