Vitiligo, also known as leucoderma, is an autoimmune skin condition. The faulty, confused immune system attacks the pigment producing skin cells, melanocytes, and damage them. This destruction of melanocytes results in loss of skin color in the form of white patches. Sometimes, vitiligo causes whitening of hairs also, for example, eyelashes, eyebrows, underarm hair, pubic hair and scalp hair. (1)
Vitiligo is non-contagious, non-painful and non-fatal skin condition. In short, it is not medically dangerous and just affects the skin color without posing any serious health complications.
The exact cause of this autoimmune response is not known. However, the multiple factors which can contribute towards autoimmunity are:-
- Poor gut health (lack of healthy gut bacteria, indigestion, chronic constipation, low stomach acid) (2)
- Impaired liver
- Genetic factors
- Chronic stress (3)
- Skin injuries
- Infections such as strep throat
- Overuse of steroids and antibiotics
- Unhealthy diet (eating a lot of processed foods rich in saturated fats, salt and sugar)
- Poor lifestyle (irregular daily routine, lack of sleep, lack of physical activity)
- Heavy metal toxicity due to pesticides in foods and contamination in drinking water
As you see, it’s a long list and there can be several other factors responsible for inflammation and faulty immune system response.
Vitiligo on armpits (underarms)
Vitiligo generally affects the body parts which are more exposed to sunrays, areas that have been injured in the past or the body folds (such as groin, underarms, the genital area).
Having said that, vitiligo lesions can appear anywhere on the body including face, lips, hands, legs, feet, wrists, knees, elbows, groin, genitals and underarms. There is nothing specific about underarms as such.
Vitiligo on Underarms (Armpits)- Preventive measures and precautions
If you got vitiligo patches on any other body part already or you have recently developed vitiligo on underarms, then below safety measures (precautions) would be definitely useful to you:-
- Avoid overuse of steroids based topical treatments (external application creams)– The skin of underarms is quite sensitive and thin. Now, if you go on applying steroidal creams such as corticosteroids for longer time, it will make your skin further sensitive and thin. The thinner, more sensitive underarm skin would be prone to skin trauma, bruises and cuts during shaving to increase the risk of vitiligo development or spreading.
Corticosteroids such as Clobetasol, Betamethasone and hydrocortisone are applied on the affected areas to control further spreading of vitiligo as there drugs can suppress the immune system to slow down autoimmuity. However, when used in the long term, these drugs can cause skin thinning, redness and increased sensitivity.
- Shave carefully– As discussed above, skin injuries and skin trauma can cause or instigate vitiligo. Hence, if you are already affected with vitiligo on other body parts, then to avoid white spots on underarms, you may choose not to shave everyday or at least to be gentle while shaving to reduce the trauma. Also, avoid any cuts, bruises during shaving.
- Wear loose clothes after shaving session– This tip is just an extension to what we discussed above. After the shaving session, avoid wearing tightly fitted dresses such as babycon or tight blouses as it will result in rubbing and friction in the armpit area. Rather, wear loose clothes and allow the underarm skin to breathe.
- Avoid artificial perfumes/deodorants– Your skin doesn’t like chemicals. In case of vitiligo, it becomes even more important to stay away from chemicals because your immune system can falsely consider these chemicals as a threat and trigger autoimmune response to worsen vitiligo symptoms. (4, 5) Almost all the artificial perfumes are alcohol and phthalates based and proven skin irritants. They can make your skin dry and inflamed to cause itching and skin redness. Also, they have a tendency to clog the skin pores which would obstruct the natural sweating process to accumulate body toxins. Better you use naturally scented products. If want to stick to artificial perfumes, then check the label for “fragrance-free” or “hypoallergenic” as it would reduce the risk to some extent.
- Avoid skin-lightening (skin-whitening) creams– Skin-lightening creams are in trend recently. Well, they are not spared of chemicals and better to stay away from these or at least be cautious while choosing one. In 2013, a Japanese cosmetic company, Kanebo, was forced to recall its skin-whitening products when more than 10000 customers complain of skin pigmentation and white blotches on the skin. (6)
The Bottom line
Treat your underarm skin well and protect it from unnecessary skin trauma, irritation, and artificial chemicals. Use natural (herbal) perfumes, deodorants, and cosmetic products.
Having said that, improve your gut health if you want substantial, long term improvement in your skin condition because more than 70% of the immune system lies in the gut only. (2) Make widespread positive changes in your diet, follow a stress-free, healthy lifestyle, practice yoga, pranayam, do regular exercise, consume high quality anti-inflammatory, gut healing dietary supplements and herbs like Vitamin D, Omega 3 fatty acids, Turmeric (curcumin), Neem, Vitamin B12, folic acid, probiotics and others.
Happy healing 🙂
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If you have any specific question related to your vitiligo, please send me an email to [email protected] and I will try to answer to the best of my knowledge.