African-American skin disorders can range from mild and unnoticeable to extreme and health threatening and are classified as such because although they may occur in individuals of other races, they are most common in individuals with higher amounts of melanin in their skin. Learn about a few of the misconceptions that surround these types of skin ailments, as well as common types, traits and possible treatments of African-American skin disorders.
Many people believe that common African-American skin disorders like keloids occur solely in African Americans, when in actuality, they can occur in many other different races, such as Caucasian and Hispanic. Another misconception is that African Americans are immune to melanoma, a type of skin cancer caused by excess exposure to sunlight and artificial light. Because the majority of African Americans have darker skin, there is a belief that overexposure to sunlight or tanning is not a problem and protective sunscreens are not needed. This is untrue however, as melanoma has proven to be fatal in African Americans. Refer to the Resource link titled "Misconceptions of Melanoma" for more information.
Three very common types of skin disorders in African Americans include hyperpigmentation, flesh moles and keloids. Hyperpigmentation usually occurs after the skin heals itself from a traumatic event like acne or cuts. The pigment of the new skin may be noticeable lighter or darker than the surrounding skin, and will create an uneven look. Keloids are also a result of a traumatic skin injury like invasive surgery or cuts. Keloids are scar tissue that have become overgrown and appear raised on the skin. They can be lighter or darker than the surrounding skin. Flesh moles, also known as beauty marks, are black, brown, or white moles that can develop anywhere on the body, but are usually seen on the face. Flesh moles can be raised or flat, and can be caused by a clustering of melanocytes, or pigment cells. Another type of African-American skin disorder is vitiligo, which occurs due to a deficiency in vitamin B12, folic acid and copper, and causes patches of depigmentation, or skin with no pigment, throughout the body.
Instances of these skin disorders can vary from small and unnoticeable to large and unsightly, and they can be localized to a certain part of the body like the face or arms, or spread out throughout the entire body. Since keloids have a tendency to outgrow the original wound area, they can be very large and appear bubbly or bumpy. Flesh moles can also have a bumpy appearance as they grow from flat to a raised state.
Although most flesh moles aren't dangerous, moles that change in color and size should be examined by a doctor to determine if it could be cancerous. If your moles become painful, bleed, itch, begin to scale, or you have a large amount of moles, this could indicate melanoma and should be examined. Keloids should also be examined if their growth rate noticeably increases or they become painful. Hyperpigmentation causes an uneven complexion in African Americans that can vary from slight to very severe.
Skin peels, microdermabrasion, laser treatments and bleaching creams are all commonly used methods that aim at reducing or eradicating skin disorders like hyperpigmentation. Flesh moles can be surgically removed, but can reoccur if you are genetically predisposed to them. Surgery is also used on keloids, but the surgical procedure itself can cause more keloid scar tissue, therefore other preventative measures like steroid injections and silicone gel dressings are used to reduce the visibility of keloids. It is very important to refrain from forcibly removing or cutting off flesh moles or keloids yourself. This can cause skin damage and possibly worsen your skin condition. Also, discuss products or methods with your doctor before using them.