If you have a darker skin tone, the good news is that as compared to individuals with a lighter skin tone, your skin contains more melanin that acts as a natural sunblock agent, protecting you from the damaging effects of UV rays from the sun. That is why darker skinned individuals exhibit the symptoms of sun damage like sun spots and freckles to a lesser degree than fair skinned individuals.
However, when hyperpigmentation problems do occur in darker skinned individuals, they are often ones that are harder to treat, like Melasma and Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Dermatologists believe that darker skinned individuals are more prone to these conditions because their skin has the capacity to produce a greater amount of melanin which makes them susceptible to abnormalities that cause an overproduction of skin pigmentation. Moreover, these conditions are also more likely to affect deeper layers of the skin. For example, PIH occurs when the skin produces excessive pigmentation as a reaction to injuries or imflammation caused by acne, psoriasis, burns and other conditions.
Use Hyperpigmentation Treatments With Care
The second area of concern for darker skinned individuals is the potential side effects of hyperpigmentation treatment. Hydroquinone, a very common skin-bleaching agent prescribed to treat hyperpigmention, for example, has been known to cause exogenous ochronosis – a permanent greyish-blue discoloration of the skin, especially when used for prolonged periods by darker skinned individuals. Although there have been only about 22 recorded cases of this condition in over 50 years of hydroquinone use in the USA, most of these cases have occurred among African American patients. Furthermore, South Africa has a high reported rate of incidence of hydroquinone related exogenous ochronosis cases.
Next, because hyperpigmentation tends to affect the deeper layers of skin in darker skinned individuals, on top of topical treatment like hyperpigmentation creams, more aggressive treatment regimes like chemical peels & Q-switched lasers are often used in conjunction with topical treatment to target the affected areas. These aggressive peels and laser treatment should be administered with caution and only by an experienced dermatologist because they risk triggering further post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation should the skin be inflamed or injured during the course of treatment.
Recommended Course Of Treatment
As a rule of thumb, you should start with less aggressive treatment options first and only seek more aggressive methods when you do not see desired results.
- Start with topical treatment i.e. hyperpigmentation creams that contain skin-lightening agents. Avoid hydroquinone creams if you can, but if you have to use them, restrict yourself to those that have a concentration of 2% or less, unless you are applying them under supervision from a qualified physician or dermatologist.
- If topical treatments to not deliver adequate results, you may have to consider more aggressive methods like chemical peels and laser therapy. It is highly advisable that you consult a qualified dermatologist before undergoing any of these treatments. It would be preferable if your dermatologist has had experience treating hyperpigmentation problems in dark skinned individuals so be sure to check with him/ her.