Living in Singapore, where it is summer 365 days a year, our staple uniforms are the tank top or sleeveless dress. So, what happened to those with “issues” with their under arms? Do they have to sacrifice and wear sleeved dresses and shirts only??
The answer is…a definite NO… Nobody should suffer like that.
Common issue that make people embarrass about wearing sleeveless clothing is dark and hairy under arms….
Why do we have hair under our arms? The reasons are still highly debated. One suggested that under arms hair exists to reduce the friction between skins. Another suggested that the hair exists for the purpose of getting soaked in potent mate-attracting pheromones. No matter what the reason is, majority of us girls, prefer to have non-hairy under arms.
Dark areas of skin may occur when pigment cells in the skin multiply faster than usual. In the case of the underarms, this can occur as a result of repeated hair removal. Regularly shaving the underarms can lead to excessive production of pigment cells. Some other reasons may be excessive sweating or shaving with dull blades.
Our skin tone is determined by the amount of melanocytes in our skin.
Risk factors for dark underarms include:
1. Having a close family member with the condition
2. Having darker skin
3. Being obese
4. Having diabetes or insulin resistance
5. Shaving or plucking under the arms too often
6. Having a hormone condition
7. Taking certain medications
8. Having cancer of the stomach, liver or colon
Some causes of dark underarm skin are medical, such as acanthosis nigricans, a disorder that causes dark streaks along the armpits, neck, groin and other areas, according to the Mayo Clinic. This condition is a result of high insulin levels, which are often associated with obesity, pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes. Another skin disorder, hyperpigmentation, causes excessive production of melanin, which may manifest as darkened underarm skin. But underarm discoloration may also be related to external causes, including adverse reactions to deodorant, excessive use of depilatory creams, the build-up of dead skin cells, excessive sweating and friction caused by clothing or shaving.
“If I shave or pluck my underarms hair, I will have dark armpits. Duhhh….”
“If I don’t shave or pluck my underarms hair, I will have hairy armpits. Then what should I do?”
We will break it down for you on how to get that fairless, pigment-less, flawless underarms…
So first let’s talk about the “hair” bit…
Hair removal has been around for a while. There are many ways, from DIY shaving or plucking at home to IPL and laser hair removal. But all these are associated with high recurrence of ingrown hair and high pain level.
IPL hair removal
IPL or Intense Pulsed Light works by emitting a wavelength into the skin.
Pigment in the hair absorbs the light from the IPL hand-piece and in turn kills the follicle, stopping hair growth permanently. Dark pigments attract and absorb light better. However, those with dark skin tone or very thick dark hair may usually be rejected as there is a risk that their skin may be burned by the light.
Waxing has been around for a long time.
There are some downsides to waxing, including pain, bruising and minor bleeding — when you rip the hair out of your skin, you’re also removing a thin layer of skin in the process. This may leave your freshly waxed skin vulnerable to irritation and infection. You may also experience minor burns if the wax is too hot, and some people find that over time, repeated waxing can darken skin or cause it to lose its elasticity.
Additionally, there is a risk that comes with reuse of wax in the salon. Salon often reheats wax and often uses it on multiple clients. And if a piece of skin gets in the wax, the sticky substance can harbour gems.
If the information above does not put you off waxing yet, there is always the pain that comes with waxing.
And then there is the old-fashioned way – shaving and plucking.
But as we discussed before, both shaving and plucking may actually cause darkening of underarm skin.
So what should we do?!?!?!
LASER HAIR REMOVAL
Laser hair removal uses a concentrated beam of light to reduce unwanted hair long-term.
The primary principle behind laser hair removal is selective photothermolysis (SPTL), the matching of a specific wavelength of light and pulse duration to obtain optimal effect on a targeted tissue with minimal effect on surrounding tissue.
Several wavelengths of laser energy have been used for hair removal, from visible light to near-infrared radiation. These lasers are characterized by their wavelength, measured in nanometers (nm).
Laser UsedWavelength (nm)Light SourceType of Skin used on
|Laser Used||Wavelength (nm)||Light Source||Type of Skin used on|
|Argon||488 nm or 514.5 nm||Turquoise/Cyan or Green||No longer used|
|Ruby||694.3 nm||Deep red||Pale|
|Alexandrite||755 nm||Near-infrared||All skin types|
|Pulsed diode array||810 nm||Near-infrared||Pale to medium|
|Nd:YAG||1064 nm||Infrared||Darker complexion|
|Intense pulsed light (IPL is not a laser)||650 nm||Not a laser||Pale to medium|
There are multiple varieties of laser hair removal but we shall discuss about the latest generation of laser hair removal – DEKA MOTUS laser hair removal… because it is so easy and painless!!!
DEKA MOTUS Hair removal laser
Utilizing alexandrite as lasing medium, this laser machine has contact cooling system avoiding pain and side effects. Alexandrite laser is very effective in hair removal.
The cumulative laser emission permits to deliver amount of energy at lower power pulses that leads to hairs destruction in a way that is totally painless for the patient and side-effects free such as burning or discolouring, even in darker skin types.
The new handpiece technology integrates a sapphire tip that comes in contact with the skin reducing the reflected energy loss. The new hair removal method consists in repeated passes on skin treated areas that cause gradual heating of the vital parts of hairs.
So, to summarize, other types of laser hair removal are usually painful. The latest DEKA MOTUS hair removal laser is able to achieve similar or even better result with the level of pain that you experience with IPL or other types of laser hair removal. Patients reported significant reduction after just the 1 session and most experienced permanent loss after 4 sessions. Additionally, there is lowered risk of ingrown hair.
Knowing which skin types of the patient is essential in safety of laser hair removal. Another advantage of DEKA MOTUS laser hair removal is the fact that it can be used in all types of skin, with no or minimal risk of burn.
Now for those of you with dark underarms only or those who have managed to banish the underarms hair, let us talk about how to manage this.
Revlite laser utilizes Q-switched Nd-Yag laser to break the pigments on the skin which manifest as darkened skin area. This FDA-approved treatment helps lighten pigmentation, minimise pores, reduce fine lines and evens out skin tone.
Melanin is the pigment that determines skin and eye colour. The excess of melanin can lead to darkened area and uneven skin tones, commonly found in facial areas, underarms and flexural areas.
The Revlite laser emits a low-level heat that penetrates the skin, and the excess melanin will absorb the heat. This absorbed heat functions to break down particles of melanin into smaller particles. When this happens, the smaller particles of melanin are recognised by the body as waste. The body will act to make the speckles rise to the surface of the skin and flake away. This is part of the body’s natural waste elimination process. Due to the wavelength used, your natural skin colour is usually not affected.
Pico laser is the most advanced laser technology for the treatment of pigmentation, skin rejuvenation and tattoo removal.
When the laser light is being absorbed by the pigmented lesions, the light will vibrate, fragments the particles into really thin “dust” and breaks up melanin and pigment particles in “picosecond” pulses. This in turn means that the skin takes a lesser time to heat up and reduces the risk of hyper-pigmentation. The Laser pulses generate a pure photoacoustic effect which targets the pigments without affecting the surrounding tissues.
The procedure is safe, simple, comfortable and fast. The skin will be cleansed prior to the treatment and laser-protective goggles are positioned over the eyes. The laser beam will be directed towards the area of concern, heating the deeper layers of the skin.
Now, here comes the confusing part.
“What is the difference between Picosure, Picoway, Picoplus and Discovery Pico?”
Technically they are just different brands but using similar technology, which is the picoseconds laser. However, because they are manufactured and produced by different companies, there may be some features which are present in one brand and not in the others.
“Which one is better?”
While there is no conclusive study with evidence suggesting that a particular brand is superior, our personal favourite is the Discovery Pico! Discovery Pico is is developed by Quanta System, one of the biggest international research centres in laser and optics. It also features both Q-Switch and Photo-Thermal modes, making it one of the most powerful and flexible!
We will not discuss these in details. But, prescription creams, ointments and gels are available to lighten the skin under the arms. These products usually include:
1. Retinoid creams – helps to lighten skin
2. Hydroquinone creams – lighten the colour of the skin
3. Vitamin C – lightens pigments and help skin to be more radiant
We would usually recommend usage of these topical applications in conjunction with laser treatment to see best results.
If you have hairy and dark underarms, there are ways to improve them effectively and without pain.
At the end of the day, you want to be able to lift your arms like this all the time…without limits…
Written by Dr Shirley Kwee
Dr Shirley Kwee is Privé’s resident doctor with over 2 years of experience in medical aesthetics. Approachable and friendly, she adopts a holistic approach towards medical enhancements and believes that confidence is beauty.