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Dermatologists Turn Focus to Ethnic Skin Conditions

Posted: November 27, 2006

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Instead, she uses a series of steroid injections.

Women with dark skin sometimes develop melasma, also called "the mask of pregnancy," a darkening of the face related to hormones. Vitiligo, a disorder affecting pop star Michael Jackson, leads to white patches on the skin.

A type of scarring hair loss that starts at the crown of the head can affect black women. The Skin of Color Center at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York is conducting a study to compare common treatments for that type of hair loss, which used to be called "hot comb alopecia," but now is called "central centifugal cicatricial alopecia."

Researchers aren't sure of its cause. One theory holds that hair-processing techniques such as chemical relaxers and tight braiding may contribute, said Dr. Roopal Kundu, director of Northwestern University's center.

Dr. Kundu, who is Indian, said her heritage gave her "an innate curiosity about understanding the biological differences in hair, skin and nails in persons from India and also those with darker pigmented skins."