Skin Conditions in Dark Skin
While most skin problems occur in all ethnic groups, there
are some skin conditions that occur more often in dark or black
skin -- or when they do occur, are more difficult to treat. In
other instances they may simply be more visible, causing them to
seem more severe.
nearly all instances, an early diagnosis -- and early treatment
-- level the playing field, increasing the recovery odds and
Here are the most important dark skin conditions and their
Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation in Dark Skin
The major symptom of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation is a
darkening of the skin that occurs after cells have been injured.
A cut, scrape, burn, or even lesions that occur from acne or
eczema can set the stage for hyperpigmentation to occur.
While the dark spots can fade over time, this is not a hard
and fast rule. What can help, however, is seeking treatment
early. Procedures that can help include chemical peels and skin
bleaching - all designed to lighten the darkened areas.
Dark spots can be prevented from deepening in color via
diligent use of sunscreen.
Vitiligo (Loss of Skin Pigment) in Dark Skin
Skin gets its color from pigment cells known as "melanocytes."
When those cells are damaged or destroyed, they can no longer
produce pigment, causing white or "colorless" spots to
appear. The spots can grow larger over time and eventually blend
together so that large portions of the skin have no color.
While no one knows why this occurs, many experts suspect it
is related to problems within the autoimmune system. There is
also some evidence of links to heredity.
People of any skin color can develop vitiligo, but it's most
obvious on dark skin. It commonly occurs on the hands, face,
upper chest, around body openings (like eyes and nose), in body
folds (like armpits and groin), or at the site of an injury.
When vitiligo impacts the hair, premature gray is the result.
One common treatment is PUVA -- a kind of "repigmentation"
therapy involving the drug psoralen, and exposure to UV light.
This can help increase the amount of melanocyte cells at the
Other treatments include prescription-strength corticosteroid
cream, light/laser treatments, and, in rare instances, skin
T-Pityriasis Alba in Dark Skin
Commonly affecting black children, this skin disorder causes
round, light patches with a fine, scaly texture. It can occur
anywhere, though the most common sites are the face and arms. It
is considered a mild form of eczema, and usually responds well
to topical therapy, such as steroid cream. Unlike vitiligo, the
color change is temporary and disappears after treatment.
Dark Skin That's Dry and Ashy
Any skin type or color can become dry and flaky. But when it
occurs in black skin, the complexion takes on a gray, ashy
appearance. This can be particularly frustrating for black women
since makeup used to conceal the problem may further dry the
skin and increase ashiness.
The solution is relatively simple: Frequent use of
moisturizers. An over-the-counter product may be all that's
Eczema and Dark Skin
This itchy, irritating rash can occur in skin of any type or
color. However, according to the National Eczema Society, it
occurs twice as frequently in black skin. And when it does
occur, differences in the structure of black skin can cause
related problems. This includes pigmentation and a thickening of
the skin (a problem known as lichenification) that can also
cause changes in skin color. While skin usually returns to
normal once the inflammation is under control, getting the right
diagnosis and treatment can be difficult. One reason is that the
eczema rash itself can be harder to identify in black skin, and
is often confused with psoriasis, or fungal infections.
Once the correct
diagnosis is made, traditional topical eczema medicines are
helpful. If the source of the rash is an environmental
influence, such as a food, drug, or clothing, eliminating it can
usually help control the eczema.
Flesh Moles and Black Skin
These brown or black raised spots -- called flesh moles or
dermatosis papulosa nigra -- occur almost exclusively in
African-Americans and most often in women. While they resemble
moles or sometimes flattened warts, they are, in fact, a variant
of a condition known as seborrheic keratosis. They are always
benign, never lead to skin cancer, and are not harmful. However,
some people do have them removed for cosmetic reasons.
Keloids (Scar Tissue) and Dark Skin
Any time black skin becomes injured, this dramatically
increases the risk of keloids -- a scar that spreads beyond the
boundary of the original injury and develops into a growth on
its own. Most commonly occurring on the earlobes, chest, back,
and arms, keloids can develop immediately following an injury or
take a long time to grow. Sometimes keloids can itch, cause pain
and burning, or be tender to the touch.
No one knows for certain why keloids develop, but one popular
theory links them to defects in collagen production that occurs
when skin is injured. Treatments for keloids include cortisone
injections, radiation therapy, pressure dressings, and silicone
gel applications. Keloids can also be removed via traditional or
laser surgery, though they can recur.
Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (Ingrown Hairs of the Beard) and
The shape of the hair shaft in people of African heritage is
curved, not straight. This is true of not only hair on the head,
but also on the face and anywhere on the body, and there lies
the source of several black skin conditions.
One such common issue is ingrown hairs, a particular problem
for men who shave too close. Doing so can lead to the pointed,
sharp ends of the beard growing back into the skin, resulting in
acne-like bumps, which in turn can become infected and/or lead
For some men, chemical hair removers can help, but they
should never be used on a daily basis. Electrolysis, which
removes the hair at the root, can be helpful as well. The latest
solution involves laser hair removal, combined with creams that
slow hair growth.
Pseudofolliculitis Barbae (Ingrown Hairs of the Beard) and
Black Skin continued...
Another solution is to simply shave less often, and when you
do, soften the beard with soapy lather and never shave against
the direction of the stubble. Sometimes, exfoliating skin scrubs
used at night may also help.
dark-skinned men who use a razor for trimming hair on the back
of their necks can develop a similar problem known as acne
keloidalis nuchae or folliculitis keloidalis. In this instance,
the bumps may itch and occasionally become infected. When this
is the case, oral antibiotics and topical acne products, or
sometimes topical or injected cortisone treatments, can help. If
lesions persist and/or become severe, surgery or removal via
laser may be necessary.