At least once a week I get a question about the best way to manage acne in women of color and at the summer sesion of the American Academy of Dermatology, I finally got the right answers. A three hour power session on the treatment of acne with dermatologist super stars included Dr Andrew Alexis, Director of the Skin of Color Center at St Lukes Hospital in NYC
First the good news. Acne in women of color is usually milder and less frequent than seen in lighter skin tones. The bad news? Even mild acne breakouts tend to leave dark spots and patches that seem to last forever. Called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH, it is the result of irritation from both the acne and the treatments used to control breakouts.
Acne in Women of Color– Easy Does It
The most important word when treating the skin is GENTLY. Darker skin tones tend to be supersensitive and its essential to avoid irritants including scrubbing grains, astringents and even washcloths. I know all to well the feeling that you want to just scrub off all the blackheads and white heads. Please don’t do it. Instead use a mild cleanser like Neutrogena Acne Wash with salicylic acid. Use a light touch with your fingertips, rinse with several handfuls of lukewarm water and dry gently with soft dishtowel.
Now the skin is ready for treatment. If you want to use Retin A, start with the mildest form such as Renova and use it every other night. Retin A can be very irritating and can provoke irregular pigmentation. If the skin still seems irritated when Retin A is used every other night, drop back to using it only twice a week. On the nights when you’re not using Retin A, you can apply a dab of clindamycin or benzoyl peroxide or a combination of both. In the morning you can use the same combo products. Protect your skin from more pigmentation irregularities with an oil free sunscreen. For the first three months of treatment, doctors often prescribe an oral antibiotic like doxycycline to attack the bacteria that are driving the inflammation which leads to breakouts. To keep things going in the right direction, avoid cocoa butter or lanolin based skin and hair care products. Look for silicone formulations to keep pores clear and happy.
Acne Care and Glycolic Acid– The Perfect Couple
Glycolic peels are a great way to jump start acne care. A medium strength 70% glycolic peel will take off dead skin that is blocking oil clogged pores. You can these safe and effective peels from your dermatologist or a medi-spa. They can also be used once a month during treatment, except that you need to stop using Retin A 24 hours before and after the peel.
Acne and Dark Spots– Make Them Go Away
Even mild acne problems can produce long lasting dark spots and patches. Women with darker skin tones often use fade creams and some of them have ingredients that can be harmful and actually increase both acne and discolorations. According to Dr Alexis avoid fade creams until acne is under control. When the active breakouts calm down, both Retin A and glycolic peels will keep lightening the uneven pigmentation. For further improvements, Dr Alexis recommends a combination of hydroquinone and Kojic Acid, one of the newest hot skin lighteners. Follow his plan and Halle Barry will want to know your skin care secrets.