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The Treatment of Skin of Color

By: Jennifer Linder, MD
Posted: October 2, 2013, from the October 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

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During the first client consultation, it is important to obtain a complete health profile, because the skin often manifests outward reactions to internal conditions. As the body’s largest organ, the skin acts as a protector of the cells and internal organs, and a means through which the body detoxifies itself. If the client is experiencing health problems or consuming a large amount of prescription drugs, this can affect the skin’s appearance and ability to regenerate. Likewise, in cases of dehydration, the skin is the first organ to lose moisture, routing the much-needed water to vital organs. All of these aspects must be assessed in addition to skin color and tone when creating a customized treatment plan.

Additional considerations

Sebaceous glands tend to be larger in darker Fitzpatrick types, leading to increased likelihood of acne, which is often inflammatory in nature. Antibiotic treatment may be warranted earlier in those with darker skin to avoid the development of large lesions that will create more skin disturbance, and likely lead to PIH and potential scarring.

The process of melanin deposition resulting from abrasion or inflammation will occur much more rapidly in those with darker skin tones. Extreme care must be taken when working with topical exfoliants, such as chemical peels.

Complications can be avoided by utilizing low-percentage blends of multiple acids for treatment instead of a high percentage of one acid or active ingredient. Because hydroquinone at 4% or higher can trigger PIH in darker skin, instead consider using hydroquinone at 2% combined with other effective ingredients, such as lactic acid, kojic acid and ascorbic acid, for desired results to be achieved without complications.

Through a thorough understanding of the unique variances in SOC, skin care professionals can more effectively treat clients of color and attain positive outcomes while avoiding common complications. Treatments and education on important post-treatment care, combined with an easy-to-implement home-care regimen, can effectively improve or clear most client complaints, leading to healthy, beautiful skin.