Acne and Women of Color

woman of color without acneAt 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.




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