Unique Skin Issues for Dark Skin

Alisha Bridges | May 24th 2016

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Skin diseases on dark skin look very different from those with lighter skin tones due to different amounts of melanin these skin types produced. Melanin is responsible for differences in skin color, and while it provides benefits to dark skin such as protection from UV rays (decreasing the risk of cancer), it also has special challenges. The next 5 slides will highlight the unique challenges and differences seen in dark skin.

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My psoriasis is not red

Medically, psoriasis is defined as, “red, flaky, scaly patches of dry skin.” But for those with dark skin, “red” doesn’t apply for psoriasis. Instead, the disease on darker skin can look purple or brown. I’ve had conversations with many who have said they were misdiagnosed with another disease because their skin didn’t look like the textbook definition of psoriasis.

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Too much of a good thing

According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, dark skin is more prone to dark spots caused by acne, injuries, and sun damage. These conditions cause an excess amount of melanin to deposit in areas of the skin. The main treatments to lighten or fade dark spots are bleaching crèmes, but chemical peels are also an option. Several laser treatments have hit the market, but this option can, in some cases, make the skin worse.

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All Curled Up

Research has also shown that 45-83 percent of African American men will acquire pseudofolliculitis barbae, the fancy word for hair bumps, according to American Academy of Dermatology studies. Hair bumps occur when the hair grows inward instead of out and above the skin.  This can cause painful bumps which can sometimes become infected. Those with curly hair are at a higher risk to encounter the problem.

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Hair bump, or something more?

A disease that is now receiving more attention is Hidradenitis Suppurativa (HS), which is caused due to inflammation and infection of the sweat glands. Up to 200,000 people a year are reported to be diagnosed with the disease, and HS is more prone to occur in African Americans. The disease can be mistaken for a hair bump, so it’s key to learn the differences between HS, ingrown hairs, and razor bumps.

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The lighter side of things

Doctors are unable to pinpoint the reason for the cell malfunction that causes vitiligo, but the condition causes patches of the skin to lose its color (depigmentation). This occurs when cells that create melanin somehow become damaged. Athough it can affect anyone, the depigmentation is most noticeable in those with dark skin. There are no other major diseases associated with vitiligo, but depression and emotional stress are often reported by those with the disease.

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Do You Have Extra Tissue?

Keloids are an excess growth of scar tissue at the site of a healed skin injury, and can result from various injuries such as piercings, cuts, traumatic wounds, burns, acne, vaccination sites, or chickenpox. The Henry Ford Medical Center states that African American’s are seven times more likely to have keloid scarring. The reason why keloids are more likely in blacks is still being researched, and so far, the answer remains unclear.