Your body goes through a lot of changes as you age. But you might not have expected that the color of your skin around your genitals would change as well. This change is gradual, so you might not notice it immediately.
It’s normal for the skin on the labia, scrotum, and anus to be darker than the skin on other parts of the body. Here are the usual common causes of hyperpigmentation, or darkening of the skin:
Your skin contains melanocytes, which are cells that produce melanin. Melanin is responsible for giving color to your eyes, hair, and skin.
The melanocytes in your genital area are sensitive to hormones. As estrogen levels rise — particularly during puberty and pregnancy — your genital area gradually becomes darker.
Friction from rubbing can cause melanocyte hyperactivity. When this happens, the cells will produce more melanin; thus, leading to pigmentation.
Your labia, upper thigh area, and the skin folds in your groin are particularly prone to daily rubbing or friction.
Inflammation can cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, or darkening of the skin.
Some common causes are yeast infection, hair trapped under the skin (ingrown hair), and infections inside hair follicles (folliculitis).
As you age, your skin goes through repeated friction and hormonal changes. So don’t worry: it’s normal.
Other parts of the body can darken as well
The nipples, areolae, and moles of pregnant women can darken due to hormonal changes. It can also result in linea nigra, or a dark line at the center of the lower abdomen just below the belly button.
Darkening can also happen in parts where the skin “folds” a lot. This can be on your elbows, knees, underarms, and knuckles.
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from a pimple or a rash can also happen anywhere on your body.
It looks different for everyone
If you’re wondering how dark an area of your body will be, it will depend on your natural skin tone. There’s no “normal” range of skin color; it just tends to be darker than other parts of the body.
It’s difficult to prevent hyperpigmentation, since it comes with age. But you can lessen friction to potentially minimize darkening in your genital area.
- Avoid tight-fitting clothes and underwear
- Keep your skin moisturized
- Avoid hair removal procedures such as waxing or shaving (because these can cause folliculitis and inflammation)
You might be tempted to use whitening products like kojic soap on your intimate area. However, such products contain harsh ingredients that can harm sensitive skin.
The skin on your intimate area is very delicate. So, whitening products may cause irritation and inflammation, thus making your intimate area even darker instead.
A sudden change in color may need medical attention
There are certain health conditions that may cause sudden changes in skin color. If the darker area is itchy, it may have been caused by an infection or an allergic reaction to a product you might have used.
High blood sugar levels and diabetes are also often associated with dark, velvety skin along the neck and underarm. Some sexually transmitted infections such as genital warts can cause sudden darkening that seems to be more spotted, bumpy, or scabby.
For things that appear suddenly or seem to be unusual, it’s best to consult your doctor about it.
Darkening is completely normal, especially as you age. You’re not the only one experiencing this. In fact, everyone will experience it to some degree in their lives.
There are various cosmetic treatments that can reduce skin darkening. So, if you’re really determined to get rid of dark skin, talk to a dermatologist to find out your options.