A Dermatologist Shares His Best Skin Care Tips for Dark Skin Tones
There are certain skin conditions that affect people of color more commonly—hello hyperpigmentation—as well as skin treatments that should be avoided. But with all the misconceptions floating around about skin of color, including the incredibly false notion that darker skin tones don’t need to wear sunscreen, we thought we should clear the air with the right information. To do so, we tapped board-certified dermatologist, and Skincare.com consultant, Dr. Corey Hartman. From utilizing the correct laser treatments to adequately protecting your skin from UV rays, read on for Dr. Hartman’s best skin care tips for dark skin tones.
TIP# 1: AVOID HYPERPIGMENTATION
One of the most common skin conditions that afflicts skin of color is hyperpigmentation. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), hyperpigmentation is characterized by a darkening of the skin due to an increase in melanin, the natural substance that gives skin its color or pigment. This can be caused by sun exposure, fluctuating hormones, genetics, and ethnicity. Another common skin condition in skin of color is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can occur after an injury or inflammation to the skin. Since acne, eczema, psoriasis, and other skin conditions can cause this increased pigment production, Dr. Hartman’s first tip for people of color is to try and avoid triggers.
“Control acne, rosacea, eczema and any other inflammatory skin conditions so that hyperpigmentation can be decreased or prevented,” he says. “Patients with more melanin in their skin are more prone to discoloration after the inflammation has subsided. Avoidance and maintenance of such conditions is important to prevent the discoloration in the first place.”
TIP #2: BE WARY OF SOME LASER TREATMENTS
Laser technology has come a long way in the last few years, making hair and tattoo removal a safe option for darker skin tones. However, skin resurfacing still has some room for improvement in this category. “While some fractionated lasers are safe for correcting melasma, acne scars and stretch marks in skin of color, more ablative lasers like CO2 should still be avoided for fear of intensifying hyperpigmentation that can be impossible to correct,” Dr. Hartman says.
As a refresher, CO2 lasers are fractionated lasers that address visible signs of aging by delivering energy to the deeper layers of the skin, ultimately stimulating new collagen without causing damage to the skin’s surface. While Dr. Hartman suggests people of color avoid CO2 lasers, it’s important for all individuals—regardless of skin tone or type—to have a consultation with a dermatologist or laser practitioner prior to the laser service. During your appointment, discuss any risk factors and potential side effects.
For more information on different types of lasers and their benefits, check out our ultimate guide to skin lasers, here.
TIP #3: WEAR BROAD-SPECTRUM SUNSCREEN
While it’s true that dark skin tones may be less likely to burn compared to lighter skin tones, that’s no excuse to skip out on sunscreen. Melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer—can affect anyone. Unfortunately, since many people of color wrongly assume that they’re safe against the damaging effects of UV rays, skin damage and even some cancers can go undetected for quite some time. “Melanoma can go unnoticed in patients who are not instructed to look for skin changes,” Dr. Hartman says. “By the time they are discovered, many have spread to later stages of development.” It’s also not uncommon for these skin cancer diagnoses to be made. “I diagnose 3-4 skin cancers in black and Hispanic patients each year,” Dr. Hartman says. “So it is important for all skin types to adequately protect themselves.”
Keep in mind that melanoma is not always a direct result of too much sun exposure. Genetics may also play a role in its development as well, according to Dr. Hartman. “Melanoma incidence can be inherited and is not always dependent upon sun exposure,” he says. “Not to mention that the deadliest form of melanoma has a higher mortality rate in people of color because it is often diagnosed at a later stage.”
Everyone should book yearly skin checks with a dermatologist. In between appointments, monitor your moles and lesions for any changes. For specifics on what to look for, we break down the ABCDEs of melanoma, here.