How Skin Of Color Ages

african american man in boxers looking into mirror(BlackDoctor.org) — Does skin of color age differently? This is an interesting question, since most people do believe that Black skin “doesn’t crack.” In general, the process of aging for skin of color is indeed slower, and typical signs of aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles, tend to occur 15 to 20 years later than what is seen with other groups.

But this is not to say that Black skin doesn’t show its age – it just shows it a little differently.

So while my patients with darker skin may not complain as much about wrinkles and fine lines, they do discuss the following five issues that are associated with aging skin of color:

Flesh Moles

Also known as dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN), these are flesh colored bumps that start in late 20’s and early 30’s. Most people of color will develop these on their face, neck, chest and back. Patients will continue to grow them as they have more and more birthdays. While these these fleshy bumps are easily removed, removal will not prevent the growth of more moles.

Discoloration/Uneven Skin Tone

This is a major issue for patients of color and can occur for many reasons. But first, understand that no one is uniformly pigmented. The forehead and chin are often darker than the cheeks, and the left side of the face may be darker than the right, due to unbalanced sun exposure.

It is imperative that people of color use sun protection daily, not only to help preserve a more balanced complexion, but to avoid other serious skin conditions, including skin cancer. While skin cancer is less likely (although it still happens – Bob Marley died of a melanoma), many patients of color have other medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, that require medications that make the skin more sun sensitive.

Dark Eye Circles

As we age, we lose fat (sadly only on the face) and portions of the face can become hollow, and many people, particularly those with allergies, may often have discoloration under the eyes. This can be treated with topical medications that lighten the area, as well as injectable fillers (hyaluronic acids) to replace some of the volume lost through the natural aging process.

Loss Of Volume

Regardless of skin color, everyone loses volume of the face as they age.  Children and young people have most of the volume in their face in the upper portion, like an inverted triangle.  As we age, the volume is decreased and the skin sags causing our faces to resemble a triangle. Many of the cosmetic treatments are now being aimed at volume replacement (again, treatments such as injectable fillers can aid with this).

Hair Loss

This is a huge issue which warrants its own article! Women’s hair can thin just like men’s hair. This hair loss can be due to many factors, including long term chemical use, hormonal fluctuations, anemia and/or medication use. For the best treatment solutions, hair loss should be evaluated by a dermatologist. A standard evaluation may include lab work and a scalp sample (biopsy).

By Brooke Jackson, M.D., BDO Dermatology Expert

About Dr. Brooke Jackson:  As a board certified Dermatologist and Dermatologic Surgeon, Brooke Jackson, M.D., is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology as well as the American College of Mohs Micrographic Surgery and Cutaneous Oncology and the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery.  She is also the founder of the Skin Wellness Center of Chicago (www.skinwellnesscenter.org), a a full service cosmetic dermatology practice.  Her specialties include ethnic skin care, laser therapy and skin cancer prevention. Dr. Jackson is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor at Northwestern University and lectures nationally on the use of lasers and cosmetic procedures in ethnic skin.

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