How to care for darker skin according to dermatologists
Recent surveys have revealed that almost half of dermatologists and dermatology residents report that their medical training did not adequately cover skin conditions found in darker skin tones. As we all know, not all skin tones and types are the same. Those with dark skin tones experience some skin issues more commonly than their fair-skinned counterparts, such as hyperpigmentation, inflammation, and sensitivity to lasers, to name a few.
Yes, there are a lot of misconceptions around darker skin, i.e. the assumption that it should be treated the same as lighter skin. That's why dermatologists with actual experience treating darker skin tones are here to share their top five skincare tips for people of color:
1. Apply products that help with hyperpigmentation
What's hyperpigmentation? It's the darkening of the skin in a specific area, and it can be left over as a result of inflammation after a bout of acne. Melasma is a skin condition marked by areas of hyperpigmentation, and it is more common in darker-skinned people, especially post-pregnancy, following sun exposure, or after taking oral contraceptives.
If you're battling hyperpigmentation, religiously wearing sunscreen and not picking at blemishes can help—but certain topical products can also lighten darker areas. Look for skincare products that contain hydroquinone, which is a prescription lightening ingredient that helps to block the enzyme that makes melanin. Other brightening ingredients to look for include azelaic acid, licorice, glycolic acid, and kojic acid.
2. Wear sunscreen every single day
Regardless of the color of your skin, all ethnicities can get photodamage. The way it appears on the skin just looks different. Those with darker skin tones tend to show photodamage with hyperpigmentation that worsens overtime on the cheeks and lower face, resulting in an uneven complexion.
However, the extra melanin found in darker skin tones still has its advantages; it makes the skin less prone to sunburn and UV damage over time. But, it's still important to wear sunscreen every day because skin cancer can still happen.
3. Develop a skin fitness regimen
Because melanin can defend against UV damage and sunburn, it also protects darker skin tones against the signs of aging like wrinkles, brown spots, and visible blood vessels. This means that, in most cases, dark skin shows wrinkles and age spots later in life. Black or brown skin also tends to have more oil, protecting against dryness and wrinkling.
This doesn't mean that dark skin tones can't benefit from some extra help. Incorporate a retinol product into your daily skin routine, which will brighten and even out skin tone. Most dermatologists also recommend applying an antioxidant-rich serum daily to fight against the free radicals that lead to inflammation.
4. Treat acne and other skin conditions ASAP
Darker skin is more prone to scarring and hyperpigmentation. That's why many dermatologists recommend swift and aggressive treatments for acne, rashes, and eczema found in darker skin tones to avoid leaving behind post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Don't wait to be seen for any skin issue that's bothering you.
5. Locate a dermatologist who has experience with dark skin
Remember that not all dermatologists are familiar with the particularities of darker skin. Seek out a dermatologist who is an expert working with darker skin tones and who has experience treating pigmentary disorders.
- "8 Incredibly Useful Dermatological Tips for Dark Skin Tones," Byrdie, June 23, 2019.
- "6 Things I've Learned Taking Care of My Dark Skin," Self, June 2, 2017.