So here's the thing, you have acne, but you aren't alone in this.
Fact: Acne affects 80% of Americans at some point in their lives.
More Facts: As adults, studies have found that up to 22% of US women and 3% of men have adult acne. Acne is the most common dermatological diagnosis in non-Caucasian patients. In a community-based photographic study, clinical acne was found to be highly prevalent in Black/African American (37%), Hispanic/Latina (32%), and Asian (30%) women.
If you have acne and melanin-rich skin, should the approach be different?
While acne has typically been approached with the same protocols for all, unique characteristics like the potential for PIH (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation) in melanin-rich skin should be top of mind.
For anyone with melanin-rich skin that has experienced breakouts, it's probably no surprise that our derm council tells us even though acne is such a common diagnosis, it's the post-acne aftermath of dark spots that need clearing which usually serve as the catalyst for finally visiting a board-certified dermatologist.
The dark marks left by acne - a.k.a, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or post-acne dark spots, usually last a lot longer than the acne itself so the earlier you can treat the acne, the better chance you'll have at preventing the dark spots.
Here are a few tips for clearing acne in skin of color.
- Acne and dark spots are a package deal. Treating acne and dark spots early is the best chance for prevention.
Always treat acne and dark spots at the same time. If you have a breakout, it's important to go after it when it's just beginning to prevent acne for getting worse. If you can get rid of the breakout, you get rid of the root cause of future dark spots. Those dark spots get really annoying to get rid of.
- Take a gentle approach
You deserve to be able to indulge in products made for you, but don't get that twisted with seeking out the strongest products available thinking it might clear skin faster. As irritating as it might sound to have patience by using gentle products, it's nothing like the irritation you'll get if you aren't protecting your melanin from harsh products. Harsher treatments can not only lead to dryness but also irritation that can worsen the dark spots and scaring you are trying to avoid in the first place. Instead, start low and go slow. Think mild actives and a gradual approach to usage so skin can get used to active ingredients. This slow introduction poses less of a risk for irritation and hyperpigmentation.
3 Hands off your pimples!
A common type of pigment problem in melanin-rich skin is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation - a.k.a. post-acne dark spots or post-acne hyperpigmentation. We know it's basically Mission Impossible, but don't pick, pop, or squeeze pimples. Binge #pimplepopping on TikTok if you must, but leave extractions to the professionals like dermatologists and estheticians. Squeezing can go left quickly, leading to pimples spreading or delayed healing for anyone. However, for melanin-rich skin, even minor skin injuries like a bug bite can lead to hyperpigmentation and thickened scars. And guess what popping pimples is? It's a skin injury.
4 Check the ingredient labels on your hair products
Where pimples commonly pop up might be different for you. Facial acne typically presents on cheeks for non-Caucasian women. Specifically for Black/African American women, the hairline is a common area to find a breakout. Try switching to a water-based hair product or checking to see if noncomedogenic (pore-clogging) oils have been used if your favorite hair products in rotation.
5 Protect your melanin like you protect your peace
What planet would be living on if we didn't push a gentle reminder of daily use of a broad-spectrum, tinted sunscreen? Besides never wanting to find out what would happen if we stopped wearing sunscreen daily, we do know that sun damage is a huge risk factor for hyperpigmentation and SPF usage protects pigmented areas from becoming darker. Protect your peace, wear SPF daily.
6 When in doubt, stay off #dermtok and seek a consult from a board-certified dermatologist
Our Hot Jupiter besties who have a trusted team of esty + derm in their rotation throughout the year is a force to be recognized. We love to see it! It's great to rely on this team for maintenance treatments and skin checks in case something with a heavy lift like Rx or a combination of treatments is needed. It's great to establish a professional relationship with your skin from a young age to put together a treatment plan by a professional with experience on melanin-rich skin.