African American Skin Treatment & Dermatology

Dr. Michele S. Green is a cosmetic dermatologist with a wealth of experience treating African American patients, male and female, at her private office in New York City. She uses the latest technology in dermatology treatments, including laser skin treatments, in order to find the best solution for your skin tone. The following guide provides an overview on some of the common issues surrounding darker skin tones and the treatments that are available.

Acne Scarring and Hyperpigmentation

There are a number of different ways to treat the scarring that has resulted from a previous episode of acne, however not all the treatments on the market are necessarily suitable for darker skin tones. For example, African American patients respond differently to laser treatment than those with lighter skin types.

One common issue that can affect darker skin is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), which results in the darkening of the skin from acne and acne scars. This can occur in Asian, Latino & Native American skin tones in addition to African American skin. The best treatment for this type of hyperpigmentation and scars are chemical peels, combined with topical skin lightening agents. Dr. Green uses her MGSKINLABS line of skin care products combined with Hydroquinone and Retinoids to treat these problem areas. In addition to that, acne scars can be treated with eMatrix, injections of Bellafill, Sculptra and Restylane.

Keloid Scars

A keloid is an overgrowth of the scar tissue that develops around a wound, usually after the wound has headed. Keloids most commonly develop in patients with darkly pigmented skin, with African Americans at greatest risks.

Typically, keloids affect younger patients, between 15 and 30 years of age. Keloids can occur years after the initial scar is created, and tend to occur most often on the head and neck areas. Dr. Green treats these keloids with a combination of VBeam Lasers and intralesional cortisone injections with great success.

In many cases, Dr. Green sees patients with a range of scars, bumps and blemishes, from razor bumps, keloids (scars usually from injury or surgery) and acne scars, to flesh moles located on the cheeks (dermatosis papulose nigra), scalp irritation and eczema.

Tattoo Removal

Dr. Green has worked on tattoo removals for various skin tones and patients, including those with African American skin. For tattoo removals on darker skin, she uses the Alex TriVantage laser, which can remove tattoos after several sessions. The number of sessions depends on both the patient’s skin type and the various colors in the tattoo itself. A consultation with Dr. Green is the first step in formulating a treatment plan for your tattoo removal.

Any procedure including laser treatment has potential risks of hypopigmentation or hypertrophic scarring in darker skin tones. Because there is more melanin in darker skin, there is an increased potential of having the laser emit too much energy. This is why the laser tattoo removal process is a gradual one and requires multiple sessions.

The good news is that laser tattoo removal is relatively pain free. There will be some minor discomfort and generally the feeling reminds some of an elastic band snapping on the skin. Find out about this and other FAQ’s about laser tattoo removal.

Dark Spots and Discoloration

For darker skin tones there can be some issues with chemical peels and laser treatments. Traditionally, many of the techniques that may be suitable for lighter skin tones are not necessarily effective on darker skin and can even be potentially damaging.

One of the main issues that can be caused by these treatments is an “over lightening” of the skin color along with hyperpigmentation issues. African Americans should opt for light chemical peel treatments and avoid strong chemical peels since these can potentially cause hypopigmentation or further scarring.

Skin Lightening for Darker Skin Tones

Another treatment that Dr. Green is often asked about are skin lightening techniques in order to achieve a brighter and more even skin tone. Here the goal is to brighten the skin and improve the overall look and feel without overly lightening the skin. There are a number of methods available to lighten the skin such as peels and laser treatment. The best approach initially is to book a consultation with Dr. Green to discuss the results that you are looking to achieve and then a tailored course of treatments can be arranged.

Cosmelan and Melasma

Melasma (also known as facial pigmentation) is a condition that can be caused by hormones, sun exposure and various other factors. Darker skin tones are prone to producing an excess of melanin, which can cause the skin to be even darker in certain areas. Cosmelan is a type of chemical peel commonly used in Melasma treatment and can help treat this type of hyperpigmentation.

Cosmelan masks include a professional-grade cream that is applied in Dr. Green’s office. The mask is left in place for several hours and then can be easily removed by the patient. Three weeks later, a second Cosmelan mask is applied. Between both of these appointments, various creams will be prescribed in order to keep the skin clear of pigmentation. One must also avoid sunlight during this period.

Laser Hair Removal

African American patients must be careful to select the appropriate laser for their skin tone. Laser hair removal procedures are highly sensitive to all color and melanin, which plays a critical role in the treatments of darker skin types. The laser is designed to target water, hemoglobin or brown melanin. If the proper wavelength or depth of penetration is not correctly set for darker skinned patients, the skin can be easily damaged.

Dr. Michele Green utilizes the Candela Gentle Yag (ND:Yag laser) since this laser is equipped with long wavelengths and pulse width, which is most effective and safe for ethnic tones and all darker skinned patients.

The reason the GentleYAG works so well is that it penetrates deeper than traditional laser treatments, which means the pigment in the skin is not affected in the same way. The GentleYAG laser can bypass the melanin in the surface of the skin and targets the hair root.

For more information about acne removal, acne scar treatments, chemical peels, tattoo removal, laser hair removal, skin lightening and other dermatology treatments for African American skin, please contact Dr. Michele Green at 212-535-3088 or contact us online. Based in NYC, Dr. Green is a Board Certified cosmetic dermatologist with experience treating male and female patients of all skin tones.