Does Skin Color Make A Difference To Skin Diseases?

Skin is the largest organ of the body. Skin comes in all colors, ranging from the palest to the darkest of brown. Nearly all shades in between can be found represented amongst the population of the world. However, till now it was believed that skin problems do not distinguish amongst what color of skin they affect. Skin conditions can occur in all skin types across every race. Now, new research has revealed that the color of the skin may very well make a difference to skin diseases. Today we take a look at what this is all about.

How Skin Color Affects the Diagnosis & Treatment for Skin Diseases?

New research programs have been started in many countries that are aimed at educating dermatologists on how skin diseases react to different skin colors. This is why when patients suffering from skin conditions come to a dermatologist, these doctors need to be aware of how the skin color can impact skin diseases. As, before today, this concept was not considered, this often led to ineffective treatments, misdiagnoses and oversights.

This is not to say that even minor skin problems such as acne and sunburn are affected by skin color. Common skin conditions such as these can occur in everyone, regardless of what their ethnicity or skin color is. However, the fact is that some skin issues appear to look different in different skin colors. For example, take the incidence of psoriasis. The scaly and itchy rashes of psoriasis look different in appearance and color on the darker skin. On darker skin, these appear to be purplish rather than reddish.

A small fact such as this can often lead to a misdiagnosis by dermatologists.

Research conducted at the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center in North Carolina, United States, future of treating skin conditions lies in the recognition of patterns. For dermatologists, this means identifying specific skin colors and understanding that specific skin colors can warn about things that are taking place at a cellular level.

How Skin Diseases Affect Dark Skin Color?

Yes, skin color does make a difference to skin diseases. Studies have shown that there are some specific skin diseases that tend to affect dark skin more severely and more frequently when compared to other skin colors. Not only this, but many of the treatments that are used for treating common skin conditions can actually cause more problems when used on darker skin. The reason why dark skin gets affected differently and in many cases, more severely, is because of melanocytes. The color of all skin is a resultant of cells known as melanocytes which contain the chemical melanin that lends skin its color.

Studies have shown that all individuals have more or less the same number of melanocytes in their skin tissue, regardless of what skin color they have. However, what differs is the distribution and size of these melanocytes. The bigger the melanocytes are in size, the darker a person’s skin will be. Furthermore, the role of melanin is to absorb and then scatter the energy which is present in ultraviolet light. This is why people who have a darker complexion have a reduced risk of sun damage to their skin.

While having a darker skin complexion saves you from sun damage, it is also more likely to develop skin conditions such as pigmentation issues. Even common skin injuries such as insect bites can lead to a change in the skin pigment, forming dark spots. This condition is known as hyperpigmentation. In fact, people who have darker skin color need to be careful while undergoing any cosmetic treatments such as laser surgery, dermabrasion, or even taking wrinkle-filling injects because these treatments have the potential to cause hyperpigmentation issues in darker skin.

Does Skin Color Make A Difference To Skin Diseases?

Darker Skin and Pigmentation Issues

Hyperpigmentation happens when the skin produces either too much pigment or when the pigment gets deposited too deep within the skin, thus resulting in the creation of dark spots that are visible on the skin. Meanwhile, people having darker skin are equally prone to getting hypopigmentation, in which the pigment color gets lost, causing light-colored patches to show up on the skin. Individuals who have darker skin color are also prone to another pigmentation-related problem known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This happens as a result of any skin injury. It can be as simple as a small cut, or it can also be a resultant of a scrape, burn, or as mentioned above, an insect bite. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation is also known to occur together with acne or eczema.

In this condition, the area of the skin that becomes darkened may take months to years to fade away if medical treatments are not administered. There are treatments available for dealing with hyperpigmentation problems including chemical peels and bleaching treatments. If you are prone to hyperpigmentation problems, then using a sunscreen daily will also help prevent any pigmented area on the skin from darkening further.

The situation becomes even more complicated if you have dark colored skin that is particularly sensitive. People having sensitive skin are much more prone to pigmentation issues. Even the use of any skin care product that irritates your skin or dries it out can increase the risk of hyperpigmentation. Some products that are known to cause irritation to the sensitive skin include salicylic acid, which is commonly used to treat acne, and benzoyl peroxide. Even products that have anti-aging compounds, such as glycolic acid and retinoids, can cause irritation to sensitive skin. Individuals having sensitive skin also need to watch out for the skin-bleaching compound hydroquinone as that is known to cause irritation, leading to pigmentation in the affected area.

This does not mean that people having lighter skin do not get skin irritation. It only means that if they suffer from any cosmetic product-related irritation, it generally subsides when the product use is discontinued. However, in people having dark skin color, this skin irritation will usually lead to post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can develop even after the product has been discontinued and can last for many months or even longer at times. This is why it is very important that if you have darker skin color then you should be well aware of all the ingredients that irritate your skin. Use cosmetic products correctly and make sure you buy them from reliable sources.

Do Dermatologists Need to Consider Skin Color While Making a Diagnosis?

Yes, dermatologists do need to consider skin color while making a diagnosis and starting any skin treatment. Till now it has been frequently observed that most dermatologists remain unaware of how skin color impacts several skin conditions and diseases. This is why many hospitals and medical societies these days are beginning new programs that help to increase the awareness and understanding of how skin color affects various dermatological conditions. These programs are being hailed for throwing a spotlight on these issues and are serving to educate dermatologists on the various issues that face dark skin people. One can hope that these educative programs will go a long way in changing the field of dermatology and revolutionize the treatment of skin conditions based on different skin colors.

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