Hair Removal & Hyperpigmentation Go Hand-In-Hand — Here’s How To Prevent It

Bright skin from head to toe.

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how to get rid of dark armpits and bikini area

Have you ever noticed a celebrity waving on the red carpet and thought, “wow, I wish my armpits looked that even and smooth?” If so, you’ve probably wondered which luxe beauty treatments they get in order to obtain such flawless skin in a common — and tricky — area of concern. Experiencing discoloration can be frustrating, but there are a number of topical and in-office treatments that can help get rid of darkening in common ares of concern like armpits and the bikini line.

Before getting into the available options, it’s important to note that these areas of the body are naturally prone to hyperpigmentation, and it’s purely a cosmetic concern that doesn’t pose any real negative health effects. “Areas of the skin that fold, such as the armpits, the bikini, and at the elbows and knees, are more susceptible to darkening for a number of reasons, such as friction, hair removal, and genetics,” says Dr. Geeta Yadav, M.D., board-certified dermatologist and founder of FACET Dermatology.Discoloration can be especially prevalent if you shave or wax these areas.

Like with facial hyperpigmentation, understanding why you experience discoloration on your armpits and bikini line is important to manage and prevent the issue. Ahead, TZR spoke with two dermatologists and a licensed waxer to find out how to effectively brighten the intimate areas.

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Why Are These Areas Prone To Hyperpigmentation?

To start, the color of our skin is dictated by melanocytes, a type of cell that creates melanin and determines pigment shade. According to Dr. Yadav, melanocytes are found all throughout the body but have higher concentrations in private regions such as the bikini line and armpits. Along with the increased number of cells, these areas are also subjected to lots of friction, which can escalate hyperpigmentation. “Constant movement can cause irritation and ultimately lead to the skin becoming darker here than on other parts of the body,” says Dr. Yadav.

Dr Ava Shamban, M.D., board-certified celebrity dermatologist and founder of AVA MD Dermatology and SKIN FIVE Medical Spas, tells TZR that the skin in intimate areas is much thinner than the rest of the body, which makes it more sensitive and vulnerable to discoloration. Common issues such as chafing and cosmetic acts, like shaving or waxing, can all play a part in changing the pigment of the area,” she says.

Hair Removal & Hyperpigmentation

There’s no shame in sporting body hair, but should you choose to remove it, there’s always always the possibility of developing hyperpigmentation. “Shaving and waxing are effective techniques but they can irritate and cause darkening if not done properly,” says Arieanna Smith, founder and owner of The Wax Lounge NYC. In that vein, Dr. Shamban adds that irritation triggers an inflammatory response that causes your body to produce excess pigment in the affected areas.

Shaving Vs. Waxing

Regardless of whether you shave or wax, Smith says your hair texture will play a role in how your skin reacts to either treatment. Coarse and coily hair types may require a more aggressive removal approach and the new growth can be difficult to manage. “Waxing is a great option for getting the smoothest look and feel because it completely dislodges the follicles at the root, and therefore keeps the hair from quickly growing back,” she says. In terms of discoloration, she adds that this method of hair removal also gets rid of surface layers of dead skin, which can build up and increase the depth of darkening.

On the other hand, all three experts agree that shaving is the most likely to cause irritation and exacerbate hyperpigmentation. “Abrasion and frequent use of a razor increase agitation and lead to uneven tone,” says Dr. Yadav.

Laser Hair Removal

Genetics may make hyperpigmentation completely unavoidable, but laser hair removal will be your best bet to avoid future discoloration. “This technique will permanently reduce hair growth and it targets the hair at the root rather than creating microtears on the surface of the skin, which can cause discoloration,” says Dr. Yadav. Plus, as Dr. Shamban notes, it’s effective on a range of skin types and tones.

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How To Brighten The Armpits & Bikini Line

According to Dr. Yadav, the first thing you can do is put down the razor in order to prevent any discoloration from getting worse. Second, you can look into topical products and professional treatments to help brighten the areas. “Formulas that contain actives like AHAs (glycolic and mandelic acid) can exfoliate and resurface the top layers of the skin and help with fading,” she says. “Ingredients like vitamin C, kojic acid, and alpha arbutin will help reduce the skin’s ability to produce excess pigment.”

Retinol can also be beneficial by stimulating cellular turnover and can be safe for the skin when used in the form of body lotion or a wash with low concentrations — something Smith suggests to clients concerned with uneven tone. “Physically exfoliating with scrubs, gloves, or dry brushing two to three times a week is also very helpful because it can prevent buildup and lighten the area over time,” she says.

However, for fast and more intense results Dr. Shamban notes that resurfacing lasers are also an option. “Specific laser treatments can remove the hair and target pigment for a more immediate effect,” she says.

It’s important to remember that these areas are notoriously challenging to treat because you can’t prevent your skin from folding, as it’s meant to do. While topical products can help, it may be a while before you’ll notice the full results. “If the case is mild, you can start to see improvement at the six-month mark,” says Dr. Yadav.

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