We all love summer time and it’s for so many reasons. From the sleeveless tops to the spaghetti-strap dresses, the number of things that make summer one of our favorites is quite big and there aren’t many things to ruin it for us. One of the reasons for which you may want to put on hold your new spaghetti-strap dress is the skin discoloration in your underarm, aka the hyperpigmentation.

In spite of one may think, hyperpigmentation is quite common (this is what American Osteopathic College of Dermatology states, anyways). The common and harmless condition “causes parts of the skin to become darker in color than the normal area surrounding the skin.” the excess of melanin is the reason for which hyperpigmentation or dark spots are mainly found  in people of color.

Even if you don’t think about it on a regular basis, the delicate underarm area is entitled to some proper care too and simply shaving it or applying the deodorant isn’t going to be enough. In order to understand why people, develop discoloration and, more importantly, what’s the best way to get rid of it, a talk with Dr. Alicia Barba of the Barba Dermatology and Barba Skin Clinic (Miami-based, by the way) is going to be pretty explanatory for many.

Once you find out and also apply her tips, you’re not going to feel embarrassed anymore about dark armpits when going to the beach.

  1. What causes underarm hyperpigmentation ? Why is it more often found in women of color?

Dr. Barba was very open and told Essence that “Patients often come to me with hyperpigmentation issues, which can occur when the skin is irritated”. She was very clear about why this happens more in women of color: “A major issue with underarms is that that area of skin is usually rubbing against something else. Whether it’s your hair, skin or clothes, or even friction from underarm shaving or waxing, all those factors can affect the pigment in your underarms.”

She doesn’t forget highlighting that waxing and shaving count a lot for the armpit discoloration as the risk for inflammation is pretty high. Pulling and ripping the coarse hair from the skin isn’t as gentle on the skin as one may think.

In case this doesn’t clear up the things for you, Dr. Barba goes on with the explanations: “The skin can have an inflammatory reaction, which stimulates pigment-making cells to generate more pigment and make the skin darker”. And if all of this wasn’t enough, it seems that genetics play their part too: “Sometimes it’s even genetic. Darker skin types do reflect darker skin under the arms and groin area.”

  1. Why does improper shaving technique cause armpit discoloration?

Dr. Barba was pretty to understand on this matter too: “Shaving without some sort of lubrication, whether it’s a cream or your body cleanser, can add to the friction and further irritate the skin.” She continued and told us what happens when we’re not shaving right:”[Shaving without lubricant] can lead to inflammation, causing rashes or pigmentation issues.”

Additionally, she also recommends not to apply too much pressure when using a razor for shaving, especially if you’re aiming for a closer shave.”This actually causes more irritation that can then cause hyperpigmentation or staining of the underarm skin” and that’s something you never want to have to deal with. Keep in mind also that “Leaving your razor in the shower is also a big red flag, as this can lead to rust or bacteria build-up, which can cause frustrating underarm issues. Lastly, never share razors with anyone, including close relatives.”

  1. What’s the best way to shave and not develop bumps or discoloration in the armpit area?

Not only Dr. Barba is telling us why discoloration or bumps appear in this delicate area, but she also explains us what’s the best way to do it.”Since there is constant friction, you want to be sensitive and handle the area with care at all times” and her piece of advice is quite clear:”When shaving, ensure you’re using fresh razors and lubricant. choice is also extremely important. Choose one that provides daily care for this sensitive skin. My go-to is Dove Advanced Care Clear Tone, it’s one-fourth moisturizers and ingredients like calendula and sunflower seed oil to help calm the skin and restore it to its natural tone. It comes in [both] a stick and spray format.”

Not everyone is using shaving though and some of us like to use waxing or laser hair removal. However, Dr. Barba insists that we should see a professional laser expert that knows exactly how to address this fragile area of your skin. On the side note, not all laser clinics have the right technology or abilities to address various skin tones, hair thickness or hair colors so you need to be sure about your choice. When you have darker skin, the type of laser itself and the temperature of the laser are fundamental for the success of the treatment. A doctor that uses the wrong type of temperature may even cause severe scarring, which is something you never want to have to deal with.

  1. Are there other ways to address severe armpit discoloration?

For those of you who have never seen a dermatologist before, here are some questions that the dermatologist is going to ask himself for a proper solving of your specific problem. Dr. Barba was nice enough to share them with us:

  • What’s the main cause of the pigmentation?
  • Why are the dark spots there? Isn’t it acne?
  • Where is the pigmentation?
  • Are there any other signs for an underlying medical disorder, leading to a chronic hyperpigmentation?

Dr. Barba made it all pretty clear:”Not all pigmentary disorders are the same and it is important to find the cause.” She continued with the possible solutions to a specific cause of hyperpigmentation: “The treatment always revolves around protecting diligently from the sun, wearing sunscreen religiously, stopping hormones if necessary and using a combination of bleaching agents with rotating active ingredients.”

  1. Not everyone has the money for a laser treatment. Are there any home remedies that minimize the risk for reoccurrence of armpit hyperpigmentation?

In spite of what one may think, paying the high dollar isn’t the only solution to armpit hyperpigmentation.”There are a lot of active ingredients like folic acids, blueberry extract, licorice extract and azelaic acid that can help brighten the skin.”

Even if you’re going to use some natural ingredients, there are still some safety concerns you should take under consideration. Dr. Barba explains it why: “However, skin under the arms is notoriously super sensitive. The ingredients you can tolerate on your face may not be tolerated on a daily basis under your arms. There are also prescription product options.”

Long story short, the most important thing to do though, according to Dr. Barba, is have a chat with your dermatologist to find out, together, which solution is going to work the best for your specific case.

Article originally published on Essence.com