Acne affects millions of Americans each year and affects people of all skin tones, but acne can be a particular problem in people with darker skin. In darker skin, a pimple or rash can cause dark marks, scarring, or even keloids (scar tissue that continues to grow larger than the original scar) that last for months to years afterward. Those affected are left to search for the secrets of treatment – or better yet, prevention. In this article, we discuss how acne and similar or related conditions can be treated, and sometimes prevented, in people with darker skin tone.
Acne triggers the release of melanin
Melanin, the same molecule that pigments our skin and hair and protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, can also protect our skin from inflammation. When the skin is inflamed by acne (or harsh acne products), our skin releases melanin. This can lead to dark spots, called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), which can last longer than the acne itself and are more likely to occur in people with darker skin. In more severe cases, textural scars and even keloids can develop from the inflammation. Preventive measures and prompt treatment can help improve, minimize or even prevent PIH, scars, and keloids.
What if it wasn’t acne at all?
Before embarking on treatments, it is important to recognize that there are other conditions that can look like acne but are not. People with darker skin may be more susceptible to ingrown hairs, for example, which can look remarkably like acne and cause the same dark spots. These bumps, however, are caused by hairs growing out of the follicle in a tightly coiled fashion and may require treatments such as laser hair removal. In the beard area, this is called pseudofolliculitis barbae, and can be mistaken for acne, especially in men of darker skin types. A dermatologist experienced in treating darker skin tones can provide an appropriate diagnosis and customize an appropriate treatment plan.
True acne should be treated with gentle products, as more severe treatments can cause severe dryness or irritation which can make dark spots and scars worse. Topical retinoid and retinol creams and gels can help cleanse pores, reduce inflammation, and speed up the process of skin cell renewal and regeneration, which helps in both the prevention and treatment of PIH. and scars. Starting with a milder retinoid product (such as 0.1% adapalene gel) and gradually increasing the strength and frequency of use allows the body to adjust without excessive irritation. Washing with benzoyl peroxide can also help remove bacteria from the skin that contribute to the development of acne. Always avoid squeezing, popping or plucking your acne, which can cause acne to spread and delay healing. It may take several months to see the results you desire, so be patient.
Another potential cause of rashes, especially on the forehead, are certain styling products such as ointments, oil-based hair products, and thicker creams that are more commonly used by people with darker skin and darker skin. textured hair. These can contribute to rashes consisting of blackheads, whiteheads, and general bumps on the forehead and temples. They can be avoided by applying these products only to the middle of the scalp and the ends of the hair, and avoiding contact with the face.
Finally, if you feel that wearing a mask is contributing to your rashes, you might experience some form of acne caused by friction and pressure on the skin. Remember to wash your face as soon as you take off your mask; Change masks frequently and apply a thin layer of moisturizer under the mask to act as a barrier against chafing where possible.
Treat PIHs and scars
Once the underlying inflammation is under control, your PIH may subside over time. However, you may be able to speed up the process with an over-the-counter or prescription skin lightening cream. Choose a product carefully; some whitening creams may contain unhealthy doses of corticosteroids, which can cause a variant of acne, called steroid acne, with long-term use. When choosing a skin lightening product, look for ingredients like retinoids or retinols, azelaic acid, glycolic acid, hydroquinone, or kojic acid. Be sure to follow the directions on the package and consult your dermatologist if you have any questions to avoid excessive whitening and irritation. Plus, protect your skin by applying sunscreen daily.
In-office procedures such as lasers, chemical peels, and microdermabrasion can offer more immediate treatment for PIHs and scars. These procedures should be performed by a board-certified dermatologist with expertise in treating darker skin types; if done incorrectly, they can lead to skin damage and worsening scars and PIH.