Skin Care & Concerns

The Dark Side To UnderarmHair Removal

Soft, smooth hair-free underarms are a preference for many women. As such, we plough forward, removing hair in any manner that is affordable, convenient, opportunistic, suits our skill set or simply makes use of whatever we can access at the time.

What we often do not realise is quite how sensitive our underarms are. It may not manifest as major discomfort, but rather a bit of a sting or burn when applying deodorant or a slight chafe when clothing rubs freshly depilated underarms. For some, it’s an all-out rash with tender, irritated skin. We’re aiming for smooth, bright underarm skin but seemingly, our underarms are silently protesting.

The truth is, often without us realising it, that the method of hair removal we have chosen is simply not compatible with our underarm skin. Common culprits are razors, epilators and even waxing (especially if the technique is lacking). These methods can be way too aggressive for sensitive areas and when executed, our skin protests by becoming tender, reacting to the environment and sometimes developing redness or a rash.

Under the skin, something else is happening that is less evident – a condition known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is when your skin produces extra melanin after irritation or injury. Melanin is a natural pigment responsible for the colour of our hair, skin, and eyes. PIH can affect either your epidermis, which is your skin’s surface level or your dermis — the deeper layers of your skin. PIH shows up as tan, brown, dark brown, or even blue-grey patches and spots on your skin.
Any form of trauma or irritation to the skin may cause PIH including conditions like infections, burns, razor bumps, rashes, acne, pimples and eczema. It’s understandable then that aggressive hair removal can also cause PIH under your arms and the resultant dark areas that so many women feel uncomfortable with.

So – how does one deal with PIH under the arms?

• Our top recommendation would be to use a good quality hair removal cream or lotion, ideally one with a sensitive formulation. This method is gentle, non-invasive and completely pain-free. NB: Conduct a patch test before using the product to ensure your skin is compatible.
• If you must shave, use a quality shave gel to prepare the skin and use a sharp razor. Don’t press down hard or cut yourself – that injury alone will cause PIH.
• If you wax, opt for a warm or hot wax, as it has the benefit of opening the pores and facilitating easier hair removal. Ensure your waxing technique (or that of your wax technician) is spot on and that the direction of hair growth is considered when applying and removing the wax. For more info on this, check out our blog
• Epilators – eek! Our advice would be to just stay away!

Whatever your hair removal method preference, we recommend you follow up your hair removal process with a good quality anti-chafe cream. It should contain active ingredients that soothe and moisturise the skin, reduce redness or irritation and promote overall skin health.

Over time, and it does take time, with suitable hair removal methods and post-hair removal skin care, your underarm skin will become smoother, softer, lighter and brighter. And, assuming you only remove underarm hair every few days or weeks, you can accelerate this process by using an even-tone moisturiser on your underarm skin every night. That means active ingredients working on that problematic pigmentation every day.

Here’s to soft, smooth, even-toned and hair-free underarms!