You may have noticed that the skin in your intimate areas is darker than the skin on the rest of your body. This change does not happen overnight, and most individuals will discover that the skin in this area starts to darken post-puberty. While it is typically not a cause for concern health-wise, you may find yourself developing low levels of self-esteem and confidence as a result. Keep in mind that while it may not be medically necessary to lighten the skin in your intimate areas, some individuals can choose to do so as a matter of personal preference.
The darkening of intimate areas is caused by hyperpigmentation, which in turn, is caused by melanocytes. Everyone has melanocytes in their skin that are in charge of forming melanin, which is what darkens the skin. Depending on your natural skin tone, you may be more susceptible to hyperpigmentation than others – individuals with darker skin tone are more prone to hyperpigmentation.
When it comes to intimate areas in particular, below are a few causes of hyperpigmentation:
- Hormones: During puberty, the production of hormones start to increase. As estrogen is one of the hormones that can cause intimate areas to darken, this change can occur during puberty, pregnancy and aging. Besides the genitals, you may notice that your nipples start to darken as well.
- Friction or inflammation: Another reason for hyperpigmentation in the intimate areas is friction. Unfortunately, there’s little that can be done to avoid this altogether, as we are constantly moving throughout the day. Frequent rubbing, such as during sexual activity, shaving or childbirth, can also result in hyperpigmentation. Friction can lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurring, which in turn affects the appearance of your intimate areas.
- Aging: Over time, you may find that your intimate areas start to change in color gradually. Older adults tend to have accumulated many more years of constant trauma and rubbing in these areas, hence the effects may be more severe than in younger individuals.
Is There A Way to Minimize Hyperpigmentation?
While it’s extremely unlikely you can prevent hyperpigmentation from occurring altogether, there are a few things you can do to minimize it. Below are some suggestions:
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing, especially underwear.
- As much as possible, such as when you are undergoing intense physical activity, wear sweat-wicking clothing that will prevent sweat from building up between your skin and clothing.
- Keep your skin moisturized.
- Avoid hair removal procedures such as shaving and waxing, as this can cause inflammation. If you absolutely have to, you may wish to reduce the frequency at which you do so.
One important thing to keep in mind is that darkening of the intimate areas does not typically pose a health risk, although you may not like the changes. If you suspect that the change is due to inflammation, keep a close eye on the area to ensure that it does not become infected. However, there are some instances where you may wish to consult a physician.
Should You Consult A Physician for Your Hyperpigmentation?
The darkening of intimate areas typically happens over time. If you experience any of the following phenomena, you may wish to seek medical attention:
- If the change happens overnight or suddenly, seek professional help. This applies to any sudden skin changes.
- If the darkened area itches, this can be an indication of inflammation or allergies. Seeking medical attention can be wise if you are unable to isolate a trigger and you find that the problem does not go away.
- If the skin is bumpy or spotted, it could be the result of a sexually transmitted infection (STI). When in doubt, it is best to consult a doctor.
- If the skin starts to appear rough or scaly, this can indicate a deeper skin condition known as acanthosis nigricans.
- If the same type of discoloration appears in areas such as the underarms and necks, it could be an indication of diabetes.
As a rule of thumb, there’s nothing to worry about if your intimate areas are darker than the rest of your body. However, if something feels wrong, always trust your gut instinct and consult a physician.
Cosmetic Treatments Are Available but Not Medically Necessary
Remember: almost everyone has some degree of skin color variation, whether that is in their intimate areas or elsewhere on the body. Learning to be comfortable in your own skin is important – this means that if you are really unhappy with your darkened intimate areas, you may choose to seek cosmetic treatment. Your options include lightening creams, medical peels and laser treatments. Before making a decision, always consult an experienced dermatologist and make sure you are doing it for yourself, not anyone else.