The dark truth about acne in darker skin tones

Dr-Portia-GumedeWhile melanin queens have the advantage of ageing more gracefully when compared to their lighter counterparts, they are not completely immune to other skin concerns such as acne. What’s even more concerning and difficult to treat are the remnants of acne that can linger or permanently leave a mark, long after the acne has cleared up. ‘In darker skin tones we have to treat acne much more swiftly and efficiently than in lighter skin tones as there is a much bigger chance of developing post inflammatory pigmentation and scarring,’ explains Dr Portia Gumede of Dr P Aesthetic Lifestyle Centre.

Treating Adult Acne at Dr P Aesthetic Lifestyle Centre

Many of us can testify that acne can literally pop up at any age, and that thinking it will subside once you leave your teens is a myth that has been cleared up only in a figurative sense. While it’s easier to tolerate acne during our pubescent years (because everyone is struggling with it) it gets harder as we mature. ‘Adult acne can be the result of many different factors like hormones, the wrong skincare, hair products, stress and even diet can play a role,’ says Dr Gumede. ‘Every patient is different, and a thorough assessment is necessary before we start treatment. This helps us to better understand the cause of the acne and subsequently choose the best possible treatment plan for the patient,’ she explains. Dr Gumede is ardent about educating patients with darker skin tones on the best way to treat acne: ‘There are a lot of myths and products out there that can permanently damage your skin if you have a darker skin tone. For me, it’s all about educating women and men of colour about how to correctly treat their skin and help them celebrate their dark skin.’

Today we are able to successfully treat adult acne in darker skin tones using chemical resurfacing treatments. These rejuvenation treatments usually use a combination of acids that are safe to use on darker skin tones and won’t bleach the skin. The treatments help to gently unclog pores, exfoliate and calm inflammation. A series of treatments are required, and the best results are achieved when it’s combined with a tailored at-home skincare regimen. Skincare products that contain salicylic acid, vitamin A and gentle chemical exfoliators can improve and speed up the treatment of acne. Though Dr Gumede warns that it’s best to first seek the advice of an aesthetic therapist or doctor before purchasing such products as they may irritate the skin if used incorrectly.

Pigmentation and treatment

Post-inflammatory pigmentation is what brings many clients through Dr Gumede’s doors and it’s more often than not caused by acne. Acne lesions cause unhealthy inflammation in the skin that triggers an overproduction of melanin as part of the healing process. Darker skin clients, such as Mediterranean, South American, Indian and African, already have very active melanocytes (the cells that produce melanin) and irritation can cause them to go in overdrive and cause pigmentation. These marks may fade but often they take permanent residence as a reminder of the breakout that happened. The best way to treat post inflammatory pigmentation is always by treating the cause – the acne. However, that’s not always possible.

In the past people of colour had very few treatment options available to them and as a consequence thereof they used products that were not suited to their skin. This nearly always resulted in permanent bleaching and damage of their skin tone. Thankfully today we have more safe options available to treat pigmentation and even scarring. Microneedling is not only safe but effective to use on all skin types as a pigmentation treatment option. The tiny needles punch through the skin to induce controlled inflammation, rejuvenate the skin and break-up the pigmentation. For the best results, a series of microneedling treatments are recommended.

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