If you are experiencing dark spots and hyperpigmentation on your bikini line you aren't alone! Whether it is on your face, underarms, legs, or bikini line hyperpigmentation is very normal. One of the most common areas to experience dark spots is around the pubic area and upper thighs. This is typically due to friction and hair removal, which leads to pubic line hyperpigmentation scarring.
We sat down with Dr. Ruth Arumala, a board-certified Gynecologist to get an expert’s insight on all things dark spots on your inner thighs and pubic area hyperpigmentation.
Board-certified Gynecologist, Dr. Arumala, covers the topic of darkening private parts, what causes them and how to treat & prevent dark spots in general. This blog will also include a list of ingredients you'll want to look for in products that treat hyperpigmentation down there.
What are dark spots & hyperpigmentation on your bikini line?
Dark spots or hyperpigmentation refer to patches of skin that are darker in color than the skin surrounding it. The contrast of light and dark patches creates the appearance of an uneven skin tone. This (very common) skin condition affects all races and is especially apparent near or around the bikini line.
Pigmentation refers to the natural color of one's skin. If the skin is injured, the skin color may change and darken; this is known as hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation is usually a harmless skin condition that most people are concerned with for aesthetic purposes. If you shave, wax or sugar it's most likely due to shaving or hair removal, which can lead to ingrown hair scarring and hyperpigmentation.
What causes dark spots & hyperpigmentation on the bikini line?
Hyperpigmentation on your pubic area is primarily caused by:
- High concentration of melanocytes
- Hyperactive melanocytes
- Hair removal irritation
What are melanocytes?
Melanocytes are in charge of skin pigmentation. A melanocyte is a skin cell that produces melanin pigment. Melanin is a brown pigment that attempts to protect the skin from harsh effects such as wounds and/or ultraviolet radiation (UV rays).
Simply put, hyperpigmentation is generally caused by the overproduction of melanin in the skin. When the body overproduces melanin, the pigment may be unevenly distributed throughout the skin. These melanin deposits create the dark spots that appear on the surface of the skin.
Why does excess melanin create dark spots and not an even darker complexion on the bikini line?
According to AEDIT, one’s skin tone will have an even color “when the body is processing normal levels of melanin”. However, if there is excess melanin production in the body, the melanin will disperse unevenly. The skin cells will then form melanin deposits and create a dark pigment on the surface (to read more about uneven skin tone/texture click here).
Types of Hyperpigmentation
There are several different types of hyperpigmentation. To name a few:
Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation (PIH)
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is caused by abrasions to the skin's surface, including but not limited to acne, eczema, cuts, and other skin injuries. The inflammation that results from an injury triggers melanocyte skin cells to the area of injury. The excessive concentration of melanocytes will leave a darker and discolored patch in the area where the wound once was.
Prolonged UV Exposure (Sun and Tanning Beds)
This form of hyperpigmentation is caused by the normal UVB rays from the sun as well as tanning beds. UVB is extremely damaging on the outermost layers of the skin. UVB penetrates the skin and damages the DNA within living skin cells; this can lead to skin cancer, premature aging, and sunspots.
Sunspots are brown spots caused by prolonged exposure to the sun. As a protective skin cell, the melanin absorbs the harmful UVB rays from the sun. Melanin is responsible for making the skin appear more tan, but when melanocytes produce too much melanin, the distribution becomes uneven.
Tanning beds are also very damaging. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the UV radiation in tanning booths/beds is carcinogenic. Carcinogens are chemicals and harmful substances that increase the risk of cancer. On top of that, UV exposure in tanning beds can lead to hyperpigmentation.
Age can bring about dark spots on the skin. Although age spots are most commonly experienced by people upwards of 50 years old, they can also occur at a younger age. Age spots form as a result of an overproduction of melanin skin cells. After years of sun exposure, the body will produce higher concentrations of melanin which eventually create melanin deposits or dark spots.
Dr. Ruth Arumala noted that dark spots can also be triggered by hormonal imbalances. Hormonal imbalances triggered by:
Temporary Physiological States: i.e. pregnancy, breastfeeding etc.
Acanthosis nigrican: Creates a velvety discoloration on the skin - this discoloration is a sign that something needs to be checked in the body (i.e. abnormal blood sugar, the precursor to diabetes, stomach cancer).
New Medication: Medications like birth control can cause discoloration. If you are experiencing dark spots and hyperpigmentation after starting a new medication, it is worthwhile consulting your healthcare provider to see if the medication is the cause.
The common denominator of each cause is excess melanin in the skin. For the purposes of this blog, we will dive into post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Additional reasons why you have hyperpigmentation on your bikini line
Body Hair Removal
Pubic hair removal leading to hyperpigmentation down there
There is a direct correlation between hair removal and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. If you think about it, it's not that surprising that body hair removal can The most common forms of hair removal (shaving and waxing) involve a blade grazing across your skin or a sticky strip ripping over the surface. This can be very irritating on the skin if it isn't done gently and with care.
As noted by Dr. Ruth Arumala, When one shaves, the hair follicle is irritated and will balloon out to protect the skin. This reaction creates pimple-like bumps which later lead to acne scars, dark spots, and discolouration. Click here to find out more about why shaving causes dark spots.
Chafing Leading to Hyperpigmentation on Your Bikini Line
You may notice where your skin touches (i.e. the thighs, underarms, etc.) there are dark areas and hyperpigmentation - that’s from friction. Friction is a form of trauma on the skin. In response, melanin is produced to protect the skin from this irritation. As a result, the skin darkens in certain areas and creates an uneven skin tone.
Wearing tight clothing, especially tight undies, right after hair removal can cause a lot of unnecessary friction and trauma on the skin.
Tight clothing leaves the skin becomes vulnerable to chafing. Chafing is when the skin becomes raw and irritated from being rubbed by skin, clothing, or other materials. The raw, irritated, and inflamed skin will trigger melanocyte production to protect the skin. Simply put, tight clothing can lead to the darkening of the pubic skin.
We recommend using either: 1) 100% cotton underwear; and or 2) less tight undies. 100% cotton undies are a good alternative to use after hair removal as this material does not bother the skin as much. In addition, looser underwear will minimize friction and irritation.
Top Ingredients in Bikini Line Hyperpigmentation Products
Lemon Essential Oil
Lightweight and gentle, this star ingredient is a natural exfoliant that breaks down dark spots to reveal lighter and brighter skin. This is especially important for hyperpigmentation around your bikini line from post scarring shaving.
Lemon Essential Oil tightens, tones, and lifts the skin. This ingredient acts as an exfoliant as it breaks down pigmented melanin deposits (dark spots). In doing so, lemon essential oil decreases hyperpigmentation and reveals lighter and brighter skin. Due to its strong antioxidant properties, lemon essential oil helps to repair damaged cells and tissue caused by harmful external agents such as harsh UV rays, acne, and scarring.
High in vitamin E and phenolic antioxidants, Grapeseed Oil protects and preserves the skin's soft and supple appearance.
These properties work together to : 1) diffuse skin irritations such as acne breakouts; 2) protect the skin from the external environment like sun damage; 3) even out the skin tone; and 4) give the skin a softer feel and more supple appearance. This lightweight oil penetrates the skin and activates Vitamin E and C in the skin which protects and preserves the skin from external agents.
Fractionated Coconut Oil
Infused with nourishing medium-chain fatty acids, fractionated coconut oil creates a natural oil barrier to keep the skin looking plump, healthy, and radiant. This ingredient protects the skin and minimizes irritation due to hair removal, friction, ingrown hairs.
Fractionated Coconut Oil is the liquid form of coconut oil. This ingredient consists of nourishing medium-chain fatty acids that have antimicrobial properties which treat skin irritations such as acne and scars. These fatty acids help the skin produce a natural oil barrier that keeps the skin feeling smooth and looking plump and healthy. Fractionated Coconut Oil is a lightweight moisturizing agent that easily absorbs into the skin without clogging pores and leaving an oily residue.
Tea Tree Oil
Packed with antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, and anti-fungal properties, Tea Tree Oil is a natural healer. Tea tree oil helps to naturally treat skin irritations. This ingredient provides a soothing sensation to calm redness, swelling, and inflammation. The benefits of Tea Tree Oil include, but are not limited to: 1) preventing and reducing the appearance of scars and blemishes; 2) calming redness, swelling, and inflammation; and 3) balancing the oils in the skin.
Rich in fatty acids and packed with Vitamin E, A, and D, Jojoba Oil soothes the skin and relieves irritation and discomfort. Jojoba oil is an antioxidant-rich in fatty acids and infused with Vitamin E, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D. This ingredient is known for its soothing properties and calming sensation that temporarily relieves irritation and discomfort. Jojoba oil comes in the form of wax that coats the top layer of the skin to retain moisture and prevent the skin from drying out. Jojoba oil also has the unique ability to mimic the body's natural moisturizing properties and balance the oil in all skin types. As such, this ingredient works to remove excess dirt and oil from the surface of the skin, minimize the appearance of pores and keep the skin feeling clean.