Treatment Options for Acne on Black Skin

By: Rebecca Prescott

Acne is a common skin disorder that has the same causes and develops in the same way, no matter what color of skin it is affecting. However, there is one type of acne that more commonly afflicts people of color. It has been given the name pomade acne.

WHAT IS POMADE ACNE?

If a hair style involves straightening curly hair or molding the hair into shape, a thick, oily dressing called pomade is applied to facilitate this. Where the pomade comes into contact with the skin, acne can occur. This is commonly on the scalp, forehead and temples. The heavy oil of the pomade can clog pores and start the formation of acne lesions. At the same time, other chemicals in the pomade may irritate the skin and lead to inflammation.

THERE ARE THREE OPTIONS TO TREATING POMADE ACNE:

1. If the pomade is being used to moisturize the scalp, its' application should begin one inch behind the hairline, in a effort to keep it off the facial skin.

2. If it's being used to style hair or make it more manageable, it should be applied solely to the ends of the hair, again avoiding the scalp and skin.

3. If all else fails, the use of pomade will have to be discontinued.

Usually, once the pomade is no longer getting onto the skin or its use is stopped, pomade acne should clear on its own. It if doesn't, it can be treated just like any other acne. The skin should be gently cleansed using a topical preparation such as benzyl peroxide. If the acne still hasn't cleared after 6-8 weeks, the person should see a dermatologist for advice.

WHAT ACNE TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE SPECIFICALLY FOR BLACK SKIN?

There are none, as acne treatments are generally safe on both dark and light skin. Some forms of treatment for acne scarring may cause dark skin to lighten temporarily, however.

Black skin may not be as well moisturized as lighter skin and for this reason, any treatment that may be very drying (such as benzyl peroxide) should only be used with a doctor's supervision or advice.

Black people who have severe acne may find that once the inflammation has gone, their skin is left with a darkened spot. This is because dark skin develops something called 'post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation'. This means increased pigmentation following inflammation. These spots go away in time but if they are distressing a dermatologist can prescribe topical retinoids which can help to fade the discoloration more quickly.

The removal of acne scars from black skin by dermabrasion or any form of chemical peel can cause temporary lightening (or darkening), in the areas that have been treated. This sort of treatment should always be discussed with a dermatologist before it is undertaken. Simply booking into a beauty salon is not recommended and may make the condition worse.

The dark pigment that gives skin its color is called melanin. Alterations in that pigmentation such as vitiligo and melasma can be present at the same time as acne - although the conditions are not related. They require specialist diagnosis and treatment from an experienced dermatologist.

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