Skin Problems


Conditions that irritate, clog or inflame your skin can cause symptoms such as redness, swelling, burning and itching. The fact is that any type of skin condition can happen regardless of the pigment of skin you have. When it comes to African American skin care and others with darker complexions however, there are a few skin care problems that are much more prevalent, including acne scarring, ingrown hairs, post inflammatory hyper pigmentation, vitiligo and keloids.


Alternative Names

Cutaneous disorders, Dermatologic disorders


UV Exposure

The leading cause of skin cancer is regular exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. These rays can damage the skin’s immune system, causing the development of pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions. Outdoor activities can expose the skin to harmful rays, which is why physicians always recommend sunscreen. UV exposure isn’t always from a natural source, however. Tanning beds are equally dangerous and should be used sparingly, if at all.


It doesn’t always take long-term UV exposure to cause skin cancer. Just a few sunburns in a person’s life can lead to cancerous skin developments. According to Steven Q. Wang, MD, of New Jersey’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, these burns could occur in childhood and not become a problem until decades later. This doesn’t excuse adults from protection, however, as skin cancer can develop at any time.

Immune Problems

Immunosuppression is when a body’s immune system is adversely affected, either by disease or other factors. People with immune problems are more susceptible to becoming sick and developing cancers. Skin cancer becomes a higher risk for those being treated for HIV/AIDS, leukemia, rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of cancer. Although it is always important to wear sunscreen or limit exposure to radiation, those with immune problems should be especially mindful about preventing skin cancer.


Exposure to the radiation from medical X-rays can increase the chances of developing skin cancer. This happens because the cells are damaged from X-rays, making them more likely to grow cancerous lesions. The occasional X-ray carries very minimal risk, however. Those who receive multiple X-rays, particularly high-powered ones like a CT scan, will be at higher risk.

Chemical Exposure

Exposure to certain chemicals can cause the development of skin cancer. Fortunately, most of these dangerous chemicals are not found in everyday environments. Those with occupational exposure to arsenic, coal, tar, paraffin, creosote or radium should be aware of the dangers. Certain medications can also lead to an increased risk of skin cancer, so it is important to research every medication’s effect on the body.


Those with a history of skin cancer in the family may be more likely to develop pre-cancerous and cancerous skin lesions.


Skin diseases and disorders can range from eczema-like rashes and topical irritations to internal or autoimmune disorders that manifest in skin symptoms.


Acne is a chronic disorder characterized by excess production of oil from sebaceous glands causing the hair follicles generally on the face, chest and back to become plugged. Pimples, papules, pustules and comedone, (black heads and white heads) cysts and infected abscesses can be treated in acne. Acne affects most teenagers to some extent. However, the disease is not restricted to any age group; adults in their 20s – even into their 40s – can get acne. In regards to African American skin care, acne may result in long lasting discolorations of the skin. Therapy is the same for all skin types but it is very important to use topical agents that minimize irritation of the skin.

Ingrown Hairs of the Beard (Razor Bumps)

Another African American skin care issue is Ingrown Hairs. African Americans have curved hair shafts and this is true of beard hair as well as other body hair. Often after a very close shave, the pointed hair may curl back into the skin and it may pierce the wall of the hair follicle, causing a reaction resulting in bumps called “pseudofolliculitis barbae.”

Variations in Skin Color

African American skin has larger melanosomes (cells that determine skin color ) and the melanosomes contain more of the pigment melanin than those found in white skin. Because of the protective effect of melanin, African-Americans are better protected against skin cancer and premature wrinkling from sun exposure.

Post inflammatory hyper pigmentation is quite common in dark skinned individuals, even after minor trauma. An area of the skin may darken after an injury such as a cut or a scrape, or after certain skin disorders such as acne. To avoid or reduce post inflammatory hyper pigmentation, avoid picking, harsh scrubbing, and abrasive treatments.


Vitiligo is a common African American skin care condition where pigment cells are destroyed and irregular white patches on the skin appear. Many dermatologists think that the cause of this common disorder is an autoimmune process, where the cells of the body attack the pigment producing cells.

The extent of color loss differs with each person; some people lose pigment over their entire bodies. Some patients with vitiligo do not regain skin color, however some cases of vitiligo do repigment. See your dermatologist as soon as possible, as the extent of the disease will determine the appropriate treatment.

Several skin care methods are used to treat vitiligo, but none have been perfected. Topical medications, including corticosteroids and new non-steroid anti-inflammatory preparations are commonly used. In cases where vitiligo affects most of the body, it is sometimes best to destroy the remaining normal pigment. A dermatologist can determine what treatment is best based on the extent of the disease.


When the scar from a cut or wound extends and spreads beyond the size of the original wound, it is known as a keloid. Keloids may vary in size, shape, and location. They occur more often in brown or black skin making this a very common African American skin care issue.

Keloids are a common skin care issue on the ear lobes, neck, chest, or back, and usually occur after an injury or surgery. Occasionally they occur spontaneously, especially on the mid-chest area. Keloids often follow inflammation caused by acne on the face, chest, and back.

Keloids may be painful both physically and emotionally (from a cosmetic perspective), but it’s important to address keloids primarily as a medical, rather than cosmetic condition.

Depending on the location of the keloid, skin care treatment may consist of cortisone injections, pressure, silicone gels, surgery, laser treatment, or radiation therapy. Unfortunately, keloids tend to return and even enlarge, especially after treatment with surgery.

Exams and Tests

The most common skin tests include:

•    Patch testing: Patch tests are used to help diagnose skin allergies. Identified allergens (substances that a person may be allergic to) are applied to the skin with adhesive patches and left for a period of time. The skin is then examined for any reaction.

•    Skin biopsy : Skin biopsies are performed to diagnose skin cancer or benign skin disorders. During a skin biopsy, skin is removed (after a local anesthetic is applied) and is taken to a laboratory for analysis. Skin may be removed with a scalpel or a cylindrical punch. Stitches may be used to close the wound.

•    Culture: A culture is a test that is done to identify the microorganism (bacteria, fungus, or virus) that is causing an infection. Skin, hair, or nails may be cultured to detect bacteria, fungi, or viruses.

A skin biopsy is a procedure in which a doctor cuts and removes a small sample of skin to have it tested. This sample may help your doctor diagnose diseases such as skin cancer, infection, or other skin disorders.

There are several types of skin biopsy, including:

•    Shave biopsy: The doctor shaves a thin layer from the top of a lesion.
•    Punch biopsy: The doctor uses an instrument called a punch to remove a circular section through all layers of the lesion.
•    Excisional biopsy: The doctor uses a scalpel to take off the entire lesion. This method is used for smaller lesions.
•    Incisional biopsy: The doctor uses a scalpel to remove a small sample of a large lesion.


There are many different drugs, creams, and therapies for skin problems. From over-the-counter lotions to prescription medicines, find out about the options.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Contact a doctor if you suffer from skin irritation or suspect that you may have a skin disease.


    •    Use sunscreen of SPF 15 every day; avoid sun tanning
•    Drink eight glasses of water a day
•    Get enough sleep
•    Eat a nutritious diet
•    Limit your caffeine consumption
•    Maintain a skin care regimen
•    Wear sunglasses with UVA/ABB protection
•    Do not go to tanning salons

Natural Remedies

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Your skin is the barometer of your health, and lifestyle
choices literally make their mark on your face. No need to cover your face or
panic. Just follow the commonsense guidelines below for skin preservation, and
you’ll be sure to radiate vitality and vigor.

Everyday skin care—keep it consistent
Create a consistent
skin-care routine. Regular cleansing rids the skin of excess oils and dirt and
sloughs off dead skin cells.

If you have dry skin, use a mild exfoliant with a heavier moisturizing cream
that contains nut oils or aloe.

If your skin is oily, occasionally use an exfoliant with astringent
properties and finish with a light, water-based moisturizer. Tea tree and citrus
oils help tone skin between washings.

If you battle with problem skin, avoid using harsh exfoliants on breakouts.
Instead, apply a deep-cleansing mask and a moisturizer with antibacterial
ingredients such as tea tree oil and lavender.

Cover up—almost
Let the sun shine, but choose your
exposure carefully.

A face cream with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher should be a
mandatory part of your beauty regimen. Look for a cream that matches your skin
type and wear it even on cloudy days.

Your body does, however, need some sun exposure, as the UV rays from sunlight
trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin. A 20-minute walk or bask in the early
morning or late afternoon sun should suffice; you might prefer to wear a hat and
let your arms and legs get the rays.

Let it glow
You are what you eat and drink and breathe,
so consider this:

A healthy diet full of antioxidants A, C, and E helps fend off free radicals
from everyday exposure to air pollutants, sun, and stress. Foods rich in vitamin
A and vitamin C include brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as
squashes, sweet potatoes, carrots, leafy greens, tomatoes, strawberries, and
kiwi. Vitamin E is found in a variety of nuts and their oils and wheat germ.

Exercise increases circulation, which helps nourish collagen fibers that give
skin its appearance of plumpness, while perspiration from your workout cleanses
the skin.

Water hydrates the skin from the inside out, so practice drinking enough
water that you rarely get thirsty.

Avoid smoking and breathing secondhand smoke, which causes blood vessels to
constrict, inhibiting blood flow and starving the skin of oxygen.