Dark skin has unique dermatological characteristics that distinguish it from other skin types, so it is important to understand how this skin differs and what specific care it requires. These features include higher melanin levels, larger sebaceous glands and less visible signs of aging.
However, despite the protection against sun damage and aging that melanin provides, dark-skinned people can still experience skin problems such as hyperpigmentation and ingrown hairs. In this blog, we will discuss these dermatological features in detail and also provide tips for proper skin care.
The Fitzpatrick rating is a system used by dermatologists and skin specialists to rate the skin’s response to sun exposure. The classification is based on a person’s genetic predisposition to producing melanin, the pigment that determines skin color, and the skin’s response to sunlight. Fitzpatrick classification is useful in determining appropriate skin care products and treatments, predicting skin cancer risks and assessing the results of certain medical procedures such as laser treatments.
There are six different skin types in the Fitzpatrick classification, which range from very fair (type I) to very dark (type VI).
- Skin type I: Very fair skin, often with freckles, burns easily and does not tan.
- Skin type II: Light skin, burns quickly and tans slowly.
- Skin type III: Light skin, sometimes burns and gradually tans.
- Skin type IV: Medium skin, rarely burns and tans easily.
- Skin type V: Dark skin, rarely burns and tans very easily.
- Skin type VI: Very dark skin, rarely burns and tans very quickly and deeply.
Skin characteristics in people with dark skin
Dark skin has some unique dermatological characteristics and properties. Some of these features are:
Higher melanin content: Melanin is a pigment that occurs naturally in the skin and provides the color of the skin, hair and eyes. Dark-skinned people naturally have a higher level of melanin in their skin than lighter-skinned people.
This is because melanin is produced by special cells in the skin called melanocytes. These cells are stimulated to produce more melanin when the skin is exposed to UV radiation, causing the skin to darken. The higher melanin content in the skin of people with darker skin provides several benefits.
Melanin protects the skin from the harmful effects of the sun and other environmental factors. It absorbs UV radiation and thus prevents this radiation from damaging the skin cells. This is why darker skin types are less prone to skin cancer and premature aging due to sun exposure.
Another advantage of a higher melanin content is that it protects the skin against pigment disorders such as hyperpigmentation, where areas of the skin darken due to an overproduction of melanin. Dark skin types are less likely to have these pigment disorders than people with lighter skin tones.
However, the higher melanin content in darker skins can also lead to challenges in treating certain skin conditions, such as acne, as the skin is thicker and tougher and therefore more difficult to treat. So it is important that people with dark skin use the right skin care products and treatments that are specially designed for their skin type.
Higher risk of hyperpigmentation: Due to the higher melanin content in the skin, darker skin types have a higher risk of hyperpigmentation, which results in dark spots on the skin. This can be caused by skin damage, inflammation, or hormonal changes.
Sebaceous glands in dark skin type
Larger sebaceous glands and more sebum production: The size of the sebaceous glands differs between skin types and darker skin types often have larger sebaceous glands than lighter skin types. Sebaceous glands produce sebum, an oily substance that moisturizes the skin and protects it from drying out. However, excessive sebum production can lead to oilier skin and increase the risk of acne and related skin problems such as blackheads and pimples.
Epidermal permeability is the skin’s ability to retain and regulate water. Dark-skinned people generally have a higher epidermal permeability than lighter-skinned people. This means that the skin can lose more water and therefore be more prone to dryness and flaking. Dry skin can lead to itching, irritation, and eventually it can compromise the skin’s barrier function, making the skin more susceptible to infections and other skin problems.
That is why it is important to keep the skin well hydrated with moisturizing creams, ointments, oils and other products suitable for this skin type. When choosing products for dark skin, it is important to look at the ingredients and choose products that do not contain irritants such as harsh chemicals or excessive exfoliation. It is also recommended to choose products rich in oils and butters, such as shea butter, coconut oil, jojoba oil and argan oil, as these products can hydrate the skin and protect against moisture loss.
Skin aging in dark skin types
The higher melanin content in the skin of people with darker skin not only provides protection against sun damage, but it can also help keep the skin young for longer. Melanin not only protects against UV radiation, but also against other factors that contribute to skin aging, such as pollution and oxidative stress.
In addition, dark-skinned people often have a thicker epidermis and dermis, which means their skin is generally firmer and more resilient. This can help reduce visible signs of aging, such as wrinkles and fine lines.
However, this does not mean that people with dark skin are immune to skin aging. Even with dark skin, overexposure to the sun can lead to pigmentation problems, such as dark spots and age spots, and can damage the skin, causing fine lines and wrinkles.
Most common skin problems in dark skin types
Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH): PIH is common in people with darker skin. It arises after the skin has been damaged by an inflammation, such as acne or eczema. The skin can develop dark spots that persist for a long time. More about PIH
Hypopigmentation: This is the exact opposite of PIH and arises after damage to the skin by burns, for example. Light spots appear on the skin.
Vitiligo: is an autoimmune disease in which the skin loses pigment and white spots appear. It is more common in dark-skinned people than in fair-skinned people.
Keloid formation: Keloids are thickened scars that often appear in people with dark skin. They are caused by an excessive production of collagen during the healing process.
Acne: is also common in people with darker skin. This is because their skin produces more sebum than, for example, the skin of Asians and whites. More about acne
Pseudofolliculitis barbae: is a skin condition caused by ingrown hairs. It is common in men with curly hair who shave. Dark-skinned people have an increased risk of pseudofolliculitis barbae because their hair tends to be curlier.
Acne keloidalis nuchae: is a condition in which inflamed bumps develop on the back of the neck and in the neck hairline. It is more common in dark-skinned men and is likely caused by ingrown hairs and irritation.
Seborrheic dermatitis: This is a form of eczema characterized by red, scaly patches on the skin. It is more common in people with darker skin.
Sarcoidosis: is a systemic disease in which inflammation develops in various organs, including the skin. It is more common in people with darker skin and can lead to skin abnormalities such as red, raised spots.
Other manifestations in eczema, psoriasis and lichen planus
Eczema, psoriasis and lichen planus are skin conditions that can affect all skin types, regardless of skin color. However, there are some differences in how these conditions manifest on darker skin compared to lighter skin.
With eczema, the skin of people with a dark skin type can look darker and light or dark spots can develop on the skin. In addition, eczema in people with a dark skin type can also lead to hypopigmentation (loss of pigment) or hyperpigmentation (increase of pigment) on the affected skin.
With psoriasis, the condition can look different in people with darker skin types than in lighter skin types. The patches of skin are often darker in color and the scales may be less noticeable. This can make psoriasis more difficult to diagnose in darker-skinned people.
Lichen planus can appear in dark-skinned people as dark brown to black spots, often with a shiny or scaly surface. The condition can occur in the mouth, genitals, and other parts of the body.
It is important to emphasize that having a darker skin type does not necessarily mean that one is more prone to these skin conditions. However, it is important to recognize that some skin conditions may be perceived and diagnosed differently in darker skinned people and should be taken into account in treatment and care.
People with dark skin often need a different skin care routine than people with lighter skin. A few tips for taking care of dark skin are:
Use mild cleansing products to cleanse the skin and avoid stripping the skin’s natural oils.
It is important to be careful when using soaps and other cleansers while showering. Avoid using soap on naturally drier areas of the skin, such as the arms, legs, and back, and use a mild, pH-balanced soap or cleanser for sensitive skin on the rest of the body.
It is recommended to shower shorter and less often, preferably no more than once a day and no longer than 10 minutes. After showering, it is important to gently pat the skin dry with a soft towel and immediately apply a moisturizing cream or oil to protect the skin and prevent the moisture from evaporating from the skin.
Use a moisturizer to keep the skin hydrated. When choosing a moisturizing product, it is important to look for ingredients such as heavier oils (coconut oil, argan oil, avocado, shea butter, macadamia oil), glycerin, hyaluronic acid and ceramides, which help to hydrate the skin and strengthen the skin barrier. strengthen.
Use products with antioxidants, such as vitamins C, E, Niacinamide to protect the skin from free radicals and to help reduce hyperpigmentation.
Avoid harsh scrubs and exfoliating products that can damage and irritate the skin.
Wear sunscreen daily with a mineral SPF sun protection to protect the skin against the harmful effects of UV radiation and in particular to prevent hyperpigmentation.