At the 2008 summer academy meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology, effectively treating skin problems in skin of color was a hot topic, and with good reason. It is estimated that by the year 2050, nearly half of all people in the U.S. will be of African, Asian, Hispanic, Middle Eastern or Native-American descent.
Treating acne in those with brown skin presents unique challenges not often found in other skin types. But with a bit of know-how, acne can be safely and effectively treated.
1. Choose Treatments Carefully
Many people believe brown skin is naturally tougher than light complexions. Not so! Skin of color is just as likely to be sensitive. Since many acne medications cause skin irritation, treatments for sensitive-skinned individuals must be must be carefully chosen. Retinoids (like Retin-A, Differin, and Tazorac) are considered a good choice for those with darker skin tones because they treat pigmentation problems while clearing breakouts.
No matter what treatment you choose, watch your skin vigilantly for signs of irritation or excessive dryness. If you find your treatments are too irritating, let your doctor know right away.
2. Watch for Changes in Skin Color
Pigmentation problems prove to be another challenge. Hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) and hypopigmentation (loss of skin color) are much more common in those with darker skin tones. A pimple that would heal completely in those with lighter-colored skin often will leave a dark blemish on those with darker complexions.
Some acne treatments and procedures can lead to darkening or lighting of the skin in certain people. These include:
Make sure to find a skilled practitioner who has experience treating skin of color before having any procedure done.
3. See an Experienced Professional
Make an appointment as soon as you notice breakouts, even if they are relatively mild. Don't delay or you'll risk developing pigmentation problems. Your dermatologist can tell you if you're experiencing common acne, rosacea, or another skin disorder, and get you on a treatment routine that will work for your skin type.
One survey has shown that dermatologists need more training treating diseases in skin of color. So be sure to ask if your doctor has experience treating people with darker complexions.
And if you are thinking about going to a salon for facial treatments, make sure your skin therapist knows the ins and outs of treating brown skin: Don't be afraid to ask.