Asian woman showing nape

One of the most common physical features Filipinos joke about is maitim na batok. It refers to a dark neck, particularly the nape. The tendency to laugh at anything dark (necks, , singits, bellybuttons, elbows, and knees) runs deep in our DNA, thanks to years of conditioning about how being mestiza is superior and good. Although it is something we’re slowly unlearning, completely eradicating the stigma is still in the works.

According to science, here’s why you shouldn't be ashamed if you have a dark neck.

Dark Neck Causes

Having a maitim na batok or a dark neck can be embarrassing because people assume poor hygiene is behind it. The truth is various factors can cause a dark neck — not as Filipinos call it is the least of them. The darkening in itself is harmless, but its cause may not be.

The scientific term for it is acanthosis nigricans. Its main symptoms are dark and dry patches of skin commonly on the neck, armpits, and groin. According to the United Kingdon National Health Service (NHS), darkened skin is usually thicker and has a velvet-like texture. Dark skin patches appear gradually without other symptoms except for the occasional itching in some cases.

The NHS recommends seeing a doctor if you develop new dark patches of skin since it could be a sign of an underlying health condition. The most common culprit is being overweight. Insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, or a hormonal issue, such as an underactive thyroid and contraceptives, could also be reasons. On rare occasions, it is a sign of cancer or sometimes, it’s merely genetic.

You could get acanthosis nigricans even if you’re healthy. It's most common in people with dark skin.

Dark Neck Remedies

No amount of scrubbing can make maitim na batok caused by acanthosis nigricans go away. Therefore, don’t attempt to physically slough it off or use harsh acids to encourage the skin to peel. This will only make things worse and damage your skin. Instead, find the underlying cause with the help of your doctor and zero in on treating that. Some doctors may recommend weight loss to alleviate the symptoms.

A 2018 study published in the National Institutes of Health found that using or tretinoin treatments improved the appearance of skin in 14 days, and total clearance of dark patches in 80% of patients in 16 weeks. However, these patients relapsed, and dark patches reappeared 4 weeks after discontinuing the treatment. Wondering how to get rid of a dark neck? Addressing the underlying condition is the key.

For topical "maitim na batok" treatments, consult with your dermatologist before trying anything. In the meantime, keep moisturizing your skin to soften it and protect your skin barrier. Use Vaseline Intensive Care Deep Restore Body Lotion for dry skin. This product has Vaseline Petroleum Jelly and aloe extract that deeply moisturizes and soothes your skin.

To help even out skin tone, use Vaseline Gluta-Hya Serum Burst Lotion Flawless Glow which brightens skin with Gluta-glow Technology, hyaluron, and Pro-retinol.

If you have maitim na batok or dark, thick, and velvety patches of skin in other areas of the body, visit your doctor immediately to rule out any underlying illness. Don’t be embarrassed — it’s not your fault. Addressing it head-on can help minimize the symptoms and make you feel better about it.