Skin of color

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Dermatologic conditions

  • Conditions like psoriasis, eczema and atopic dermatitis may be more difficult to diagnose in darker skin.
  • If skin disorders are not diagnosed and treated properly, the initial lesions can become darker as they heal and the darker spots can last for years in some cases.

Excess hair

  • Excess hair is a common problem for people with skin of color.
  • Until recently, laser hair removal was not an option for people with darker skin because the lasers caused side effects like blistering, changes in skin pigment and scarring.
  • New "color-blind" lasers use a longer wavelength to account for differences in skin tone and can safely and effectively eliminate excess hair in people with skin of color.
  • Dermatologists are investigating new lasers for use in treating visible blood vessels and uneven complexions.

Melasma

  • Caused by an overproduction of melanin, a natural substance in the body that gives color to the hair, skin, and eyes, leading to dark patches on the face.
  • Treatment with topical skin lightening creams that contain ingredients hydroquinone, retinoids, azaelic acid, hydroxyacids, or kojic acid may be effective.
    • Overuse of skin lighteners can result in a condition called ocronosis, a darkened, bluish discoloration of the treated area.

Pseudofolliculitis barbae

  • A common condition of the cheeks, chin and necks of men and women of color, especially African-Americans and Hispanics.
  • Occurs when highly curved hairs grow back into the skin causing red, itchy, painful bumps. Shaving can exacerbate pseudofolliculitis barbae, also known as razor bumps, and over time, dark marks may result.
  • Treatment options include laser hair removal and topical agents. Dermatologists are investigating the use of lasers coupled with topical preparations for use in treating pseudofolliculitis barbae.

Scarring

  • Keloid and hypertrophic scars are common in people with skin of color because the skin often does not heal properly after trauma (e.g., cuts, surgical incisions or burns).
  • Keloid scars form as a wound is healing. The skin and connective tissue cells overmultiply and then project over the surface of the skin. Hypertrophic scars look similar to keloids but may fade over time.
  • Prevention is the key to alleviating scarring problems. Avoid body piercing and unnecessary surgeries.
  • If a wound does occur, it should be treated under the care of a dermatologist.

Skin cancer

  • Anyone, regardless of skin color or ethnicity, can develop skin cancer, so it is important to practice sun safety.
  • Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, can be hard to diagnose in people with skin of color because it can be hidden between the toes or on the scalp.
  • Often, melanoma is not diagnosed in people with skin of color until after the cancer has spread, making treatment less effective.
  • People with skin of color should practice regular skin self-examinations and learn how to identify suspicious lesions.

See your dermatologist for successful diagnosis and treatment of skin of color.

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