For decades skincare was solely targeted at women, and as brands began to offer men’s options, they ignored men of colour in the same way as they had ignored women of colour too.
Dark skin rarely showed up in medical textbooks, meaning those in the medical profession had little understanding of how certain physical conditions manifest in darker skin tones, or even what skin conditions were specific to people of colour and how best to treat them.
Thankfully times are changing, and aesthetic doctors and dermatologists alike are now more equipped to treat Black and brown skin. This is in part because we are seeing a more diverse group of people entering these professions, but we are also seeing Black and brown doctors, and brand founders leading the charge when it comes to education, skincare and treatment options for Black skin.
We spoke to Dr Sandra Gamper about the issues that Black men have to contend with when it comes to their skin and how to treat them…
Razor BumpsThis is actually a condition called pseudofolliculitis barbae and is an inflammatory disorder that leads to papules and pustules developing in the beard area, chin, underarms, and groin. It is caused by the body producing an inflammatory response to ingrown hairs. It is more common in black men, however, can also affect men from other racial groups as well as women.
It is more likely to occur if you have coarse, tightly curled hair, as shaving causes the sharp hair shaft to curl back into the skin and create a foreign-body inflammatory response. Although shaving is the major predisposing factor, other forms of hair removal such as plucking and waxing have also been implicated. Subsequent long-term complications include post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and keloid scars.
Skincare actives like retinoids and glycolic acid help exfoliate the skin and to reduce hyperkeratinisation aka ‘bumps’.
Trimming hair instead of fully removing hair by way of shaving, waxing or plucking is a great option. If a hairless look is preferred, laser hair removal using an ND:YAG laser which is suitable for Black skin is also an option.
Chemical peels are extremely effective in treating the bumps, as well as any associated hyperpigmentation.
HyperpigmentationPost-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) that presents as dark patches of skin can occur following any kind of trauma to the skin, particularly in Black skin.
It is very common with or following acne and often the long lasting pigmentation can cause more upset than the spots themselves. PIH can be a tricky condition to treat due to high recurrence rates, however, with the right education, skincare and treatment plan, it can be effectively managed.
Tyrosinase inhibitors like hydroquinone, arbutin, kojic acid, and liquorice extract reduce excess melanin production in the skin. While retinoids, azelaic acid and Vitamin C help exfoliate the top layers of the skin, and daily sunscreen of at least factor 30 protects the skin from UV exposure and prevents photodamage that leads to hyperpigmentation.
Regular superficial chemical peels, microneedling and laser performed by a practitioner with experience in treating Black skin.
Oily SkinThe literature looking at the differences in oil production in Black skin is conflicting. Some studies suggest that Black skin has larger oil glands associated with higher levels of sebum production, and some studies suggest that the poor size may be larger.
If oily skin is a concern, choose skincare products that are non-comedogenic (non-pore blocking). Wash skin regularly with a cleanser that won’t strip your skin completely and damage the skin barrier and look out for ingredients such as salicylic acid and mandelic acid as these help to rid skin of excess sebum. Use a light moisturiser to reduce transepidermal water loss and support the skin barrier.
Dermatosis Papulosa NigraDermatosis papulosa nigra is a benign skin condition that very commonly affects Black skin. It results in multiple brown and black papules of 1-2 mm in size. These occur mainly in areas of the face that receive the greatest exposure to sunlight and so is often thought to be associated with cumulative ultraviolet exposure.
Daily SPF protection is a must.
To remove papules, options include electrocautery, cryotherapy and laser treatment. However, these should be used with caution to avoid scarring and pigmentation.
Keloid ScarringKeloid scarring and hypertrophic scars are most prevalent in Black skin and should be an absolutely essential consideration before doing any aesthetic treatments. Keloid scarring is an abnormal healing process that results in excessive dense fibrous tissue that extends beyond the borders of the original wound. This does not resolve spontaneously and if excision is attempted they can recur. They most commonly develop around the earlobes, beard area, upper back and chest.
The key is to prevent any keloid scars developing by avoiding shaving nicks and cuts, not popping pimples, thinking twice about tattoos and piercings, avoiding cosmetic surgery and keeping wounds clean and well moisturised.
The use of corticosteroid injections into the scar is probably the best known method of treatment. Steroids break the bonds between collagen fibres, which reduces the amount of scar tissue beneath the skin, helping to reduce the size of the keloid.
Sandra Gamper, Aesthetic Doctor
Hey guys! My name is Sandra, I am a GP and Cosmetic Doctor with over 12 years medical experience. I deliver the best...Book with Sandra Gamper