Getting rid of hyperpigmentation on melanated skin is a long and arduous process for many. However, there are many dermatologically recommended products that can produce great results. Probably the most frequent cause of hyperpigmentation between the inner thighs and underarms is simply due to irritation. This irritation is also very commonly due to chaffing, this skin on skin contact is where the majority of problems occur with hyperpigmentation. Irritation can be caused by dry skin in the area, by tight-fitting clothing, by removing hair in these areas and by getting ingrown hairs. Such things occuring in these areas are more likely to cause even more hyperpigmentation.
Other causes of hyperpigmentation between the inner thighs and underarms could occur due to certain medical conditions, namely PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) or insulin resistance related to type 2 diabetes. Specifically both of these skin conditions can have skin manifestations called Acanthosis Nigricans, which can happen between the inner thighs, on the back of the neck and under the armpits. These conditions are related to insulin resistance that can be seen in both polycystic ovary syndrome as well as in those who are pre-diabetic and have type-2 diabetics.
It is very important that you see your health care provider to rule out if these underlying medical conditions apply to you. The products and tips below regarding discolored skin and hyperpigmentation should not be substituted for a medical professional’s advice and diagnoses as they are not going to correct these medical issues.
But aside from that, what can you do about the hyperpigmentation?
Firstly, stop removing hair in these areas for a period of time. This includes all waxing, plucking, hair removal creams and shaving. All these methods can set you up for a lot of irritation, so giving yourself a break can be very helpful to restoring your skin to its natural healthy state. Take advantage that many of us are self-isolating, even though we’re heading into summer and the thought of a little overgrowth than we are used to can be a daunting thought when we’re in bathing suits and bikinis. But give it a go!
Alternatively laser hair removal is an option to rid you of this issue permanently by reducing the need to remove hair and doesn’t result in ingrown hairs or irritation long-term. However, be sure you use the right laser for your skin type because not all lasers work well on every skin tone!
Secondly, a change in wardrobe is a must. Loose fitting clothes are the best, avoiding tight-fitting clothes and opting for breathable fabrics make a huge difference. The reasoning obviously is certain fabrics such as jeans, leather pants and the like can cause friction resulting in irritation to already sensitive skin. However, if you find your skin rubbing together, that bare skin on skin contact can be avoided by shapewear or even bike shorts! (Don’t worry, you’ll be very on trend.) Or if you go for dresses and skirts you can try pantyhose. Undergarments like these can certainly help and minimize chafing from skin to skin rubbing.
Thidly, if your legs and inner thighs are exposed to the sun, make sure you’re applying a broad spectrum SPF 30 or higher sunscreen. Make sure to also reapply frequently too. Sun exposure is one of the most common causes of hyperpigmentation on skin and sun damage is going to set you back in your treatment.
Alongside SPF, a product that addresses dry skin and irritation is a barrier cream, specifically a diaper cream. When you think of your complications regarding hyperpigmentation on the under the armpits and inner thighs, this is very similar to what’s going on when a baby has diaper dermatitis. A great barrier cream is one that protects, prevents and soothes. Dermatologists recommend one that is zinc oxide based. Zinc oxide is anti-inflammatory and provides a layer of physical barrier for the skin.
Fourthly, another product to consider is a moisturizer with an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid). This will help greatly with ingrown hairs, dryness and help remove some dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin that are discolored, helping gently with exfoliation. One that contains ceramides will also help support the skin’s natural barrier. This method coupled with an over-the-counter hydroquinone of a lower percentage applied at night time to clean, dry skin would make a great combo in the fight against hyperpigmentation.
Hydroquinone is probably the one of the most evidence-based ingredients in skincare for treating discolored skin for things like melasma, age spots and acne scars. Applying this once a day, using a small amount to only the affected areas can be significantly beneficial.
Last but not least, topical Vitamin A is also another skin-care product with decades worth of evidence and testing behind it. Although It has many benefits, applying Vitamin A topically can inhibit the activity of the enzyme that drives hyperpigmentation and can also help exfoliate skin cells by quickening the cell renewal process.
There are prescription-strength retinoic acids such as tretinoin, tazarotene and adapalene. However you can find adapalene (brand name Differin) over the counter at a lower percentage strength. Similar to the hydroquinone, this is best applied at night using a small pea sized amount. You only need a very thin film of this product for it to work effectively. Using these ingredients every other night on rotation can give you results as quickly as 4 weeks and being patient with this process of recovering your natural skin is very important.
Lightening acne scars, hyperpigmentation or melasma is not the same thing as skin bleaching. These ingredients should only be used on areas affected by excess pigmentation in the skin due to irritation of the skin. Ingredients such as hydroquinone should never be used for longer than 4-5 months as over time this can affect neighboring skin cells and in turn cause more hyperpigmentation.
And always consult your health service provider before starting or using any new active skincare ingredient.