Do white versus black skin tones need to be separated into two different topics or discussions?
Basic skin care necessities are the same for everybody (for more info click here). However, there are some problems that people with darker complexions are most likely to experience. For instance, black skin could be a lot more susceptible to skin issues like keloidal scarring (a red, raised formation of fibrous scar tissue caused by excessive tissue repair in response to trauma or surgical incision); also, ingrown hairs and noticeable hyperpigmentation, which is the darkening of an area of skin or nails caused by increased melanin.
Here are some big advantages of higher melanin - it acts as a great sunscreen, protecting the person from burning UV rays, as well as from skin cancer and premature aging. People with darker skin tones have larger melanosomes that are full of melanin, which absorbs more ultraviolet light than the smaller melanosomes in fair-skinned individuals of northern European descent.
Studies have shown that very darkly pigmented skin has a natural sun protection factor (SPF) of 13; while, in comparison, white skin’s natural SPF is only 3.
This doesn’t mean that darker skin tones will not burn when exposed to sun for a long time. During darker seasons and cooler temperatures, people of color will have a much lower production of vitamin D; therefore, they often need to take supplements. If you are concerned, your doctor can check for vitamin D deficiency with a simple blood test.
In this article, I would like to bring to your attention to the two most common skin issues that many people with darker skin tones run into: dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPNs) and acne.
Dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPNs) are brown growths that appear on the surface of the skin and keep multiplying every year. They occur mostly on the face and neck and are not contagious, which means that you can’t spread them by touching them. In some cases, they are called “flesh moles,” which often can be inherited.
No worries - these lesions are not cancerous. They usually show up very small and, with time, can increase to the size of a dime. There is no natural way to get rid of them. If you don’t like the way they look, you can sign up for a cosmetic treatment to remove them. Your dermatologist or plastic surgeon can easily perform this procedure.
There are three common ways of removing DPNs:
1. Freezing with liquid nitrogen
2. Burning, not with fire, but with the electric needle
3. Snipping with scalpel or surgical scissors.
Freezing DPNs with liquid nitrogen is recommended more for lighter skin tones. This is not appropriate for darker skin because it can lead to discolorations. All three methods of removal cause some discomfort, but a topical numbing medication can be used to make the procedure painless. Keep in mind that most likely new DPNs will develop; so be prepared to visit your dermatologist every year or two for a touch-up removal. Now, let’s talk about another common skin problem - acne.
2 African American Skin Care Treatments To Be Cautious About
Watch this informative video for more details.
How To Treat Acne If You Have Black Skin
Obviously, every case is unique and you should see a specialist. However, it never hurts to learn about some treatments and educate yourself ahead of time. At least you will know how to talk to your dermatologist or even pick a credible one. This is important, because acne treatment doesn’t end with just controlling outbreaks.
It requires professional help and intervention. You need to have a real game plan to address the entire spectrum, because acne can cause discoloration, scarring or both. And because dark skin contains a high melanin content, it is extremely susceptible to scarring and developing light -to-dark spots, as well as reacting to a wider range of topical treatments.
I am sure you don’t want to get stuck with discoloration and/or scarring at the end of your treatment. In fact, both, acne and even some laser acne treatments can cause persistent post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Since dark skin tones have an increased tendency to react to acne inflammation with discoloration, your doctor may use some topical medications and peels that contain the following:
- Azelaic acid
- Kojic acid
- Glycolic acid
- Salicylic acid
Your doctor may also choose to use retinoids, either by itself or in combination with the agents listed above. These effective ingredients reduce patchy pigmentation and restore natural skin cell turnover. If your skin gets irritated or dried out using these ingredients, try using them with a natural lotion with anti-inflammatory ingredients.
Unfortunately, any kind of laser therapy or deep dermabrasion can have unpredictable effects on darker skin - either bleaching the skin or darkening it. To reduce the risk of your post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, seek treatment at the first sign of breakouts.
The faster you seek treatment, the less chance your skin will have of developing PIH in response to acne inflammation. Another very important tip to remember is to stay out of the direct sun or use protection during all stages of acne treatment! Sun damage can trigger or worsen hyperpigmentation.
Besides discoloration, acne can cause scarring. It develops scarring when inflamed lesions penetrate the deeper layers of the skin, creating damage to the collagen and elastin fibers that act as the skin’s support structure. Not all scars can be removed - only the minimal and very superficial ones can be eliminated.
However, your doctor can work on altering the size and appearance of bigger scars, and dramatically improving them. Here is a tip or two when attempting scar improvement: a) be realistic with your expectations and b) search for an expert in this area - meaning - find a specialist who has experience working with dark skin tones.
When you see a dark skin specialist about adult acne, ask the following:
1. What does he/she think about glycolic peel (that can initially help with some generic discoloration)? 2. What does he/she think about Isolaz procedure (which uses photopneumatics to clear acne and reduce the dark spots)?
3. Would it make sense to add a retinoid cream with hydroquinone afterwords to your regular skin care regime? (it can work well together with a moisturizer, that has anti-inflammatory ingredients.)
On top of all that, it is highly recommended to adjust your diet and include more anti-inflammatory foods, such as dark green vegetables and fruits. Also, consider taking supplements, such as vitamin A and E, magnesium and selenium. All of them will help to boost your cell turnover and decrease inflammation in your body.
And if you would like to learn more about your skin type and its common challenges, please visit our skin care tips for women section.