Ageless Black Skin Care

It is well known that melanin in brown skin provides protection from the ravages of aging due to ultraviolet light (UVL). In fact, the melanin in African American skin provides a natural sun protection factor (SPF) of about 13.4 as compared to 3.4 for white skin. This natural protection from the sun means less damage to the skin and fewer signs of aging. Therefore, melanin in the skin of African American women accounts for the fact that they often appear younger than Caucasian women of the same age. In addition, the changes that do occur as African American skin ages are often delayed so they occur at a later age as compared to whites. As would be expected, photoaging in African Americans is more pronounced in individuals with lighter skin hues. When aging changes do occur, most prominent are changes in the texture of the skin (roughness), the appearance of benign growths (dermatosis papulosa nigra), pigmentation changes (dark marks or discolorations) and a loss of the volume of the skin (sagging).

Skin Roughness
As African American skin matures, changes in the texture of the skin become noticeable. Skin that was once baby smooth and soft becomes rough and bumpy especially on sun exposed areas. The roughness is due to skin cells that stick together and do slough as they normally would. Black skin care is directed towards exfoliation either with topical agents, chemical peels or microdermabrasion.

Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra
Benign growths occur frequently in African American skin as it matures. Of the benign growths, seborrheic keratoses are the most common type that appears. Dermatosis papulosa nigra (DPN), a cluster of small seborrheic keratoses, are prominently located on the faces of both African American men and women. They are small, brown or black bumps that are sometimes mistaken for moles. It is felt that a combination of heredity, aging and exposure to the sun are factors in the development of DPNs.

Since DPNs are non-cancerous, they do not have to be treated. They do, however, increase in number and size as women mature and it is for these reasons that many women want them treated. Since there is no cream that has the ability to remove DPNs, treatment involves either excising (cutting) the lesions with as special surgical instrument, called a gradle scissor, or desiccating (burning) them with an electric needle. These procedures are well generally tolerated and healing generally occurs within one week. Side effects of removal may include light or dark skin discolorations which usually fade rapidly.

Pigmentation changes
Changes in the skin’s pigmentation occur as we age and are very prominent in African American skin. Exposure to both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) light stimulates the production of melanin which most likely accounts for darkening of the skin. There are 4 commonly occurring types of darkening.

  • Localized areas on the face and neck
  • More generalized areas on the face and neck
  • Dark under eye circles
  • Uneven skin tone

The dark discolorations (hyperpigmentation) can be treated with topical creams, chemical peels or microdermabrasion.

Light areas (hypopigmentation) on the skin also occur as African American skin ages. A specific condition, idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis, which appears on the legs, lower abdomen and arms, is characterized by many small, white, confetti-like spots. The spots which are round and are painless, are unrelated to the disease vitiligo. To date, there is not treatment for idiopathic guttate hypomelanosis.

Sagging
A loss of volume of the skin occurs as African Americans mature. Slow degradation of collagen in the dermal layer of the skin accounts for the loss of volume. This change leads to a hollowness of the face and sagging of the skin. The hollowness is most prominent on the cheeks just under the cheek bones. Sagging is especially prominent in the area between the nose and the outer corner of the mouth (nasolabial fold) and in the neck and jawline areas. The hollowness may be improved with the use of dermal fillers. Sagging is most readily treated with surgical a facelift.

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