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How Common Skin Conditions Affect People of Color

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Here are 5 facts that you may not know about skin of color

Posted by Candrice R. Heath, MD

As a dermatologist, my specialty is caring for skin of all types. I'm also a woman of color and have taken a particular interest in studying how conditions like eczema, acne and psoriasis affect different types of skin.

My goal is to provide the best skin care to the diverse set of patients whom I see in my practice. Today, I want to share some facts that you may not know about skin of color, and when to see a dermatologist if you have a skin condition.

1. There are reasons why people with darker complexions should wear sunscreen.

You may have heard that people of color are not affected by the sun in the same way as those with pale skin tones. But the truth is, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays over time has an effect on all skin types.

In fact, one of the most prominent issues for people with darker skin complexions is hyperpigmentation, which is when the skin produces more melanin and creates darker patches.

Everyone can benefit from using sunscreen on a daily basis. Be sure to choose a water-resistant sunscreen with broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection, and an SPF of 30 or higher.

2. Red rashes may look different in people of color.

Rashes can have many features, including:

  • Swelling
  • Itching
  • Irritation
  • Discoloration

Historically, rashes have been described as being “red.” But in people of color, they may see purple-like discoloration. Some rashes may not show any distinct color at all, but can appear as darker or even lighter patches on the skin.

Sometimes it may look like the skin is irritated with tiny, raised bumps all gathered in one area. And at times, rashes may barely show up at all. It’s important to remember that this does not mean that the rash is any less severe.

3. All skin types can age gracefully.

Aging skin is directly linked to sun exposure, particularly UV rays, which cause your skin to wear over time. And hyperpigmentation — some may call this “sun spots” in lighter tones — may become an issue.

Darker skin produces more melanin, which is a natural protectant from the sun. It’s still not enough to prevent the deep penetration of some types of UV rays, though. Wearing sunscreen is one of the best ways to help prevent premature aging.

Besides protecting the skin from the sun, there are other things that can be done to help with skin tone and skin aging. Those with darker skin tones may develop small, brown and black bumps on the face, which can be a normal part of aging. But it’s always a good idea to get these skin conditions checked out to make sure they’re not causing harm to you.

4. Risk of melanoma is lower in many ethnic groups.

Asian, Hispanic and Black people have a lower incidence of melanoma overall, but they’re more often diagnosed at a late stage. While melanoma is less prevalent in Black people, it most often shows up on the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet.

A lower public awareness — and even by medical professionals — that people of color can get melanoma may lead to decreased early detection and ultimately the increase of late-stage melanoma.

When skin cancer is diagnosed early, it will lead to a better outcome for the patient.

5. All skin conditions look different depending on the color of your skin.

Nearly all skin conditions can affect a person with skin of any color. But some conditions are more likely to occur in people with skin of color, or present with a different appearance than in those with lighter skin tones.

Here are some of the most common diagnoses for skin of color:

Experiencing a Skin Condition? See a Temple Dermatologist.

Any and all skin colors are affected by skin conditions. But some show up differently or are more prevalent, depending on the skin color. Knowing what your skin is more susceptible to and how to treat it is important.

Your dermatologist can help you learn more about what’s best for your skin if you’re experiencing a condition or issue.

Find a Temple dermatologist near you >

Request an appointment today or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536).

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Candrice R. Heath, MD

Dr. Heath is a dermatologist with a special interest in skin of color (ethnic skin), acne, eczema, and adult and pediatric dermatologic conditions. An Assistant Professor of Dermatology at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University, Dr. Heath is also a member of several organizations including the American Academy of Dermatology, Society for Pediatric Dermatology and Skin of Color Society.

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