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04-08-17 | Posted by

After attending a very informative presentation with a panel of 8 prominent dermatologists and skin researchers from all over the country by the Skin of Color Society at the London New York, I learned a whole lot more about skin of color.

Some of their comments may surprise you too. For example, did you know that psoriasis scales may look purple or brown on darker skin types? Or that melasma is hereditary and more prevalent in Hispanics and other skin of color? Or that laser resurfacing can be performed safely on skin of color if you go to an expert who chooses the right device and the best settings?

Dr. Seemal Desai, Founder & Medical Director, Innovative Dermatology, PA, Plano, TX and Clinical Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology, Univ of Texas Southwestern Medical Center

  • Using sunscreen is still important even if you are of darker skin tone, SPF 30 or higher sunscreens, and re-applying every 2 hours especially when out in the sun is so important
  • Psoriasis in skin of color patients may not look like the classic red, thick, scaly plaques that people typically think. Instead, it can often look purple or even brown and be less scaly. This is one of the reasons it’s so important to see a dermatologist early and get evaluated and treated
  • Hydroquinone still remains the gold standard in the topical treatment of melasma
  • Retinol containing products should be stopped at least 7 days before proceeding with any cosmetic procedure.


Dr. Maritza Perez, Director of Cosmetic Dermatology, St. Luke’s Roosevelt Medical Center / Associate Director of Procedural Dermatology, Beth Israel Medical Center / Clinical Professor of Dermatology, Mount Sinai Icahn School of Medicine

  • Many people do not realize that the Hispanic population is at risk of developing skin cancer.  The incidence of melanoma has increased by 20% in Hispanics in the past two decades.  They develop tumors at a younger age, the tumors are thicker upon diagnosis, they have a more advanced disease when diagnosed hence higher mortality.
  • Hispanics often practice risky behavior under the sun.  They do not apply sun protection when outdoors, do not wear sun protecting clothing, do not do skin self-examination and go to tanning parlors often. Even though they know that they are prone to sunburns, they do not always associate the sunburn with skin cancer, and they do not always educate their children of the potential of skin cancer from sun exposure.
  • Melasma is a hereditary condition of the skin that prefers Hispanics and Skin of Color.  The condition an be induced by ultraviolet A and B light, visible light and infrared.  Treatments for this condition should include bleaching topical treatments without inducing inflammation, sun protection for UVA, UVB, visible light and infrared. If laser treatments are used, low-heat, or non-heat mediated long wavelength lasers are the safest choices.


Dr. Amy McMichael,  Professor and Chair, Department of Dermatology, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Winston-Salem, NC

  • Patients who have semi-massive and massive keloids tend to be those who have had surgical intervention.  For this reason, cryosurgery may be a better option for treatment.
  • There is data to suggest that there is no difference in survival in connection with the time of diagnosis of melanoma in a Memphis cohort of African American patients compared to Caucasian patients.


Dr. Nada Elbuluk, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, NYU Medical Center

  • All individuals regardless of skin color have the same number of melanocytes which are the cells that produce melanin (pigment which gives everyone skin color).
  • Individuals with skin of color can get skin cancer and it is often more aggressive when diagnosed.
  • Individuals with skin of color can also experience sunburns and should wear moisturizer with sunscreen SPF 30 or higher on daily basis.


Dr. Marta Rendon, Founder Skin Care Research, Medical Director, Rendon Center for Dermatology / Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Miami School of Medicine

  • Latinos are the fastest growing segment of the US population, and it is estimated that they will be the largest minority group by the year 2030.
  • Pigmentary disorders are the third most common complaint in patients with skin of color.


Dr. Susan Taylor, Founding Director, Skin of Color Center, St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center; Faculty, Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

  • A common location for melanoma skin cancer to develop in skin of color patients is the fingernails and toenails.
  • Skin cancer in skin of color patients is often diagnosed at a later stage with a poorer prognosis as compared to whites.


Dr. Andrew Alexis, Chairman, Department of Dermatology, Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai West and Director, Skin of Color Center, Mount Sinai Health System, New York, NY

  • Laser hair removal and laser resurfacing can be performed safely on skin of color as long as the appropriate device, treatment parameters, and techniques are used. It is important to see a dermatologist with expertise with laser procedures in darker skin types as there are nuances to treating skin of color (including a higher risk for pigmentation abnormalities). Over the past decade, my patients have done very well with these procedures, which we frequently perform for excess facial hair, ingrown hair bumps (pseudofolliculitis), acne scars, and facial rejuvenation.
  • A scalp condition called CCCA almost exclusively affects women of African ancestry. It starts with a small area of hair loss on the crown and then spreads over the course of several years. It is important to catch this early such that treatment can be started to prevent extensive and permanent hair loss. Dermatologists can diagnose this condition by examination of the scalp (which may include an in-office biopsy).


Dr. Babar Rao, Founder and Director of Rao Dermatology NY, NJ, CA / Clinical Professor of Dermatology, Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School / Clinical Associate Professor, Weill Cornell Medical School

  • There are safe methods to treat pigmentation in skin of color.
  • Vitiligo is treatable.
  • Keloids and scars can be reduced safely.
  • Hair loss can be stopped.
  • There are specialists who treat skin of color and are members of the Skin of Color Society.