In this article you'll learn:
1. Why melanin is important to overall health
2. Why acne scarring is a problem with dark skin guys — and what you can do about it.
3. Sunburn is a problem for everybody, regardless of skin tone.
4. Vitamin D is hard to come by with dark skin, but there are options.
5. What hypertrophic scarring is and how you can deal with it.
6. The best skincare routine for dark skin guys
7. How to deal with pesky razor bumps.
By Dr. Steve
If you have dark skin, that means your body produces more melanin than people with lighter skin. It’s an adaptation humans living near the equator made hundreds of thousands of years ago to protect against damage from harsh UV rays. As a dermatologist, I see patients who reap benefits from more melanin, and I see patients who need treatment because of it. Here’s how:
Facts about melanin and dark skin
Melanin, a pigment that absorbs and protects the skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays, is created by cells called melanocytes. No matter the color of your skin, we all have the same amount of melanocytes, but some of us have larger melanocytes, which produces more melanin, creating a darker pigment.
The darker the complexion, the less likely you are to suffer from UV-related skin damage, like premature aging and skin cancer. Many studies have been done on the protective nature of melanin.
Although melanin is a natural protector, sun exposure can intensify the pigment, and a scratch or a pimple can leave a dark mark because the skin overproduces melanin.
Here’s the takeaway with melanin:
I think overall, the fact that some people’s skin has more melanin, and how that offers more protection against UV, is why individuals with darker skin look younger in general than caucasians. I see it all the time. It speaks to the damage that UV rays can cause, the photoaging effect. That doesn't mean that dark or black skin doesn't need SPF (we have a great SPF30); photoaging and skin cancer present themselves, they're just less at risk for that kind of injury or damage.
Darker skin & acne scarring
Individuals with darker skin tend to get darker at the point of skin injury — it’s called post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, which can take months, even years to fade.
This condition causes the skin surrounding and at the site of injury or inflammation to produce larger amounts of melanin, which can lead to darker skin color. While PIH can affect almost anyone, those with darker skin tend to be more commonly affected — they have more severe and persistent cases, and also have the most concerns about the pigment irregularities.
It drives my darker-skin patients nuts because the acne is gone, but he’s got all these splotches and it's taken so long to get rid of. So they're more prone to dis-pigmentation after acne or injury. In most cases, treatments for PIH include over the counter or prescription topical medications, hydroquinone therapy, and sun protection.
The sun protection helps because if you expose areas that are already dark, they actually get darker, and UV rays exacerbates the color mismatch. With sunscreen sunscreen is important, because you don't want to kind of lose progress right as your skin's healing as you're lightening it to then hit it with UV and it gets darker.
Dark skin & sunburn
Dark skin can absolutely get sunburned, but it's less evident because there's darker melanin. Same with rosacea — dark and black skin does get rosacea, but they never present to me because they don't get that red, it’s not as obvious. With ethnicities and skin, everything's on a spectrum — you have Hispanic individuals that are essentially blonde, type-one skin, then you have those that are a little bit darker. Asian skin has its own set of problems, like Asian flush.
Dark skin & Vitamin D
Darker-skin guys and women are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency — that's an outgrowth of living in areas where there's less intense sunlight, which their melanin stores block from penetrating. The answer is oral supplementation — not sitting outside and exposing yourself to UV rays.
Oil can be a problem too
There is some data that suggests that darker skinned individuals have more oil as they produce more sebum. If that's the case with you, retinol in the night cream is probably a good idea for you.
Dark skin is much more prone to what are called keloids or hypertrophic scars. Keloids are common on darker skin and may occur after severe acne, a piercing, or any type of skin injury, such as a cut or puncture wound. Their size and shape can vary depending on the part of the body where they appear.
Treatment options include surgical removal and an array of nonsurgical options, including corticosteroid injections and cryotherapy. Sometimes, doctors recommend a combination of treatments to reduce the likelihood of a keloid returning.
Another solution is to get the acne under control. The Essential Acne Set has a face wash and night cream with retinol.
Best cream for dark skin
Dark circles are a problem for guys with darker skin — a byproduct of the increased melanin in the most sensitive and thinnest part of the skin. The eye cream has Kojic Acid, an ingredient that actually reduces melanin production. Read about how it helps dark under eyes.
Hyaluronic acid, a powerhouse moisturizer capable of holding 1,000 times its weight in water, is the main ingredient in our morning cream, and it’s also in the night cream and the eye cream. Lock in the moisture!
The thing about razor bumps
It's called pseudofolliculitis barbae — that's the fancy term used to describe the bumps that can affect where the hair is shaved, plucked, or waxed. This condition occurs when the body has an adverse, inflammatory response to shaving, usually due to folliculitis (ingrown hairs). It happens a lot more in my African American patients than it does in my caucasian patients, though it's not uniformly so. People with dark skin, especially African Americans, their facial hair is a little bit different than caucasian hair. It’s typically coarser, shorter, and it curls more into the skin as it grows. And that is what leads to the inflammation and irritation.
How razor bumps can be prevented
One way to minimize razor bumps is to maintain the hair to a certain length and not irritate the skin. So one of the things I recommend is that instead of a clean shave, which causes micro tears and irritation, use an electric razor, which keeps the hair a short five o'clock shadow. This way, the hair is not long enough where it can dig into the skin, and it’s not a straight shave so you don't injure the skin.
When razor bumps occur, here’s what you do
We do sometimes recommend topical antibiotics and other kinds of things that reduce the risk of infection. Sometimes with really bad razor bumps, we do recommend laser hair removal, so I have some patients that actually get the hair removed with lasers almost permanently, so they never have to worry about razor bumps.
Daily skin care routine for men with dark skin
- Start with a face wash with salicylic acid, it exfoliates without the risk of dermabrasion — injury to the skin caused by physical exfoliants and peels.
- Our morning cream with hyaluronic acid locks in moisture; the retinol in the night cream helps mitigate oil production and encourages new skin cells to rise to the surface, good for fighting acne and wrinkles and fine lines.
- The Eye Cream is a must, targeting the melanin production in the one area where it's most visible. There’s a reason why it’s our best seller.
Take the quick diagnostic to learn about your skin, and then we can set you up with a 30-day trial to help tackle any problems you have.
Melanin cheat sheet:
- Melanin is a type of pigment that gives color to the hair, skin, and eyes in humans and animals.
- Melanin also absorbs harmful UV rays and protects against cellular damage from UV light exposure.
- Melanin levels are generally determined by genetics, but they can be influenced by sun exposure, hormones, or even age.
- After harmful UV rays from the sun penetrate through the skin and begin to damage the DNA in the skin cells, the body responds by producing more melanin. By protecting the cells, this excess melanin creates the signature “tan” on the skin.