Dermatologist Adeline Kikam, Founder of @brownskinderm on IG, on the Importance of Representation and Diversity in the Skin-Care Community
Like many board-qualified dermatologists, Dr. Adeline Kikam struggled with acne and hyperpigmentation growing up. But as a Black woman, she found it difficult to find the right information and products that catered to her skin. That experience inspired her to become a dermatologist and start the Instagram account @Brownskinderm. She’s made it her personal mission to help make people feel beautiful and confident in their own skin through accessible information. Her Instagram account, which is dedicated to educating and sharing conversations with people of color about skin care, has now amassed over 36,000 followers. We had the chance to speak to Dr. Kikam to learn more about her personal journey and the importance of advocating for a more diverse, inclusive and representative skin-care community. Read on for our conversation.
Can you tell us about your background?
Growing up, I struggled with acne, not just on my face, but on my chest and back as well. The hyperpigmentation that came with my acne was a double blow to my self-esteem. This led to years of insecurity in my own skin. I avoided low neck and backless dresses for a long time. I struggled back then with finding information on how to care for my skin as a Black woman, what products to use, what to avoid and why black skin was so prone to hyperpigmentation. Naturally, I was drawn to dermatology in medical school as a specialty given my personal struggles with my skin. I’ve always wanted to make people look and feel beautiful in their own skin.
What made you start your Instagram account @brownskinderm?
When I began my dermatology training, friends and family were more comfortable opening up to me about their own frustrations dealing with skin issues such as keloids, hair loss, hyperpigmentation and more. I realized that there was no physician-led account on social media that talked about dermatologic issues in people of color with the credibility of a dermatologist. I was encouraged to create the @brownskinderm platform to include people of color in conversations about dermatologic health. I also wanted to create a safe space where women of color could ask questions about their skin and bodies to empower them in a way society doesn’t always allow.
Why is it important that dermatologist are competent in recognizing and treating dermatologic conditions in skin of color?
People of color, especially Black people, in this country have a long documented history of systemic racial biases in medicine that has affected access and quality of care. This has led to poor healthcare outcomes across all medical specialties, including dermatology. There aren’t enough images of skin diseases in darker skin patients represented in major dermatologic textbooks and our curriculum could be better at integrating more skin of color. It is important for dermatologists to recognize skin conditions that present differently in patients of color to avoid delayed or missed diagnoses that can contribute to poor outcomes in communities of color. Our society is becoming more racially diverse which means in order to meet the unique dermatologic needs of a multiracial society, dermatologists must learn to recognize, diagnose and treat conditions that often present in people of color.
How has working in dermatology impacted your life, and what moment in your career are you most proud of?
I love being a dermatologist and feel extremely privileged to do what I love. Being a dermatologist has put me in a position to better advocate and educate people of color about their dermatologic health — not just in the United States, but internationally as well. It’s allowed me to better advocate for representation of people of color when it comes to diversity in the skin-care and beauty industry through my platform @brownskinderm. I am most proud of the everyday impact I make in the lives of my patients, especially teenagers whose self-esteem I can improve by helping them feel better about their skin.
What’s your current skin-care routine?
For my morning cleanser, I use the Cerave Renewing SA Cleanser, which strips away excess oil and dirt without further drying my skin. I have acne-prone skin so the salicylic acid in this cleanser also helps. I love to follow that with a hydrating serum, like the Vichy Mineral 89 Hyaluronic Acid Serum or La Roche Posay Hyalu B5 Serum, another one of my favorite hydrating serums. Then I follow up with a hydrating cream from Good Science Beauty. Finally, UV radiation affects all skin types, including skin of color which can worsen hyperpigmentation. It’s very essential to use sunscreen if you’re prone to hyperpigmentation, like me. For this, I like TiZo Photoceutical AM Replenish Tinted Sunscreen with SPF 40. It's lightweight and non-greasy. At night, I usually exfoliate one to two times a week with the Biopelle 10% glycolic Acid Cleanser to slough off dull dead skin and stimulate skin turnover for more radiant, smoother skin. This also allows better absorption of other products in my skin-care routine. In the evening, I repeat every step in my morning routine except for sunscreen and add a prescription retinoid for its antiaging, anti-acne and anti-hyperpigmentation benefits.
What does beauty mean to you?
Beauty to me means being comfortable in your skin and in control of those things that make you feel worthy, unapologetically happy and content about yourself.
What are the top three skin-care tips you swear by?
First one is regular exfoliation, two to three times a week with chemical exfoliants to promote skin turnover that slows down as we age. Second one is regular use of sunscreen, preferably a mineral sunscreen to prevent UV induced skin damage. And finally, regular nightly use of topical retinoids to stimulate production of collagen, promote skin renewal and treat and prevent hyperpigmentation.
What do you hope to see in the skin-care industry in terms of diversity, representation and inclusion?
I hope that it would continue to evolve to be representative and accessible to people of color who have traditionally been left out when it comes to dermatologic health education, marketing, product formulation and imagery that celebrates and affirms their skin and features as beautiful.
Photo Courtesy of: Dr. Adeline Kikam