Common Skin Conditions for Skin of Color

Common skin conditions such as acne, eczema, and psoriasis affect patients of all ethnicities.  But patients with skin of color are more likely to have complications such as loss of pigmentation, dark spots and even scarring.  For these patients, it’s important to see a dermatologist who has expertise in treating ethnic skin and can address the unique challenges of treating patients with skin of color.

White spots, or hypopigmented spots, are common in ethnic skin.  White spots can occur in patients with inflammatory skin disorders such as psoriasis and eczema and usually resolve over time without treatment.  Hypopigmentation can also result from blisters, abrasions or other trauma to the skin and may cause a permanent loss of pigmentation.  White patches can also be a sign of vitiligo, an autoimmune disorder where pigment cells in the skin are damaged. Vitiligo patches are white smooth spots that usually start around the eyes or on the hands.  Although vitiligo occurs in all skin types, it is far more noticeable in those with skin of color. Treatment for vitiligo includes topical cortisone creams, calcineurin inhibitor creams, and light treatments.  Special cover-ups can be helpful for camouflaging vitiligo.

Hyperpigmentation or dark spots are a significant challenge in patients with skin of color. Dark marks from acne can last months, even years, and require ongoing treatment until they are resolved. Topical skin lightening creams and chemical peels are helpful to lighten dark marks.  Larger brown or tan patches on facial skin may be a sign of melasma. Melasma often occurs in pregnant women where it is called mask of pregnancy.  Women on hormones or birth control can also develop melasma.  Melasma is far more common in patients with skin of color and usually requires prescription medications.  Long term sun exposure can also cause darkening of ethnic skin.  This dark discoloration is noticeable on the face, neck, forearms and other sun-exposed areas. For this reason, we recommend that all patients including those with darker skin wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day.

When it comes to cosmetic procedures like chemical peels, laser treatments or microdermabrasion an ounce of precaution is required when treating patients with skin of color.  Dermatologists know that when performing cosmetic procedures on ethnic skin, it is prudent to be conservative and avoid aggressive treatments.  Overzealous treatments can lead to discoloration, streaking, and scarring. Patients with ethnic skin who are undergoing cosmetic procedures need to avoid sun exposure and wear sunscreen daily while recovering. Before undergoing a cosmetic procedure, make sure to do your homework.  Choose a dermatologist who is well versed at performing cosmetic procedures on ethnic skin and can handle any complications that might occur.

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