link-external pause play close arrow arrow arrow-left arrow-right-thin twitter time phone avatar facebook search email linkedin

Multicultural Dermatology: Exploring the Relationship between Skin Color and Skin Conditions

Are skin conditions the same for everyone? As it turns out, skin conditions can affect people differently based on skin color. For example, people of non-European descent, including people with olive, tan, or dark skin, are more likely to have certain skin conditions and experience varying symptoms when compared with those that have fair skin.

“This is important to understand because some skin conditions can have a different appearance in different skin types,” explains Dr. Deborah Scott, Director of the Multicultural Dermatology Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “In addition, medical and cosmetic skin treatments may affect these patients differently. That’s why it’s important to work with a dermatologist who understands different skin types and how to treat them effectively and safely.”

The Multicultural Dermatology Program at BWH, led by Dr. Deborah Scott, provides specialized treatment for skin and hair conditions more commonly found in women and men of African American, Asian, Hispanic, and Middle Eastern descent.

Scarring, Eczema, and Aging

A keloid scar, a scar that has overgrown its natural boundaries, is formed from collagen that the body produces after a wound has healed. Keloid scars, which are most evident on areas such as the chest, back, shoulders, and earlobes, are more common in people with darker skin.

Eczema (atopic dermatitis), a rash that often looks red and scaly on light skin, may be either darker or lighter on darker skin. Because of this, eczema and other rashes are often misdiagnosed in people with darker skin. In addition, aging in darker skin, which contains more melanin than light skin is associated with more volume loss and pigmentary changes (light or dark spots).

Adjusting Treatments

Treatment instructions and dosing may also differ in people with darker skin. Corticosteroid creams, for example, are commonly used to treat many skin conditions. In people with darker skin, corticosteroid cream that is too strong or used for an extended period can result in long-lasting lightening of the skin in the treated areas. 

“Our experienced team offers advanced medical and cosmetic treatments for persons with darker and other skin types, including laser treatments, chemical peels, fillers, and Botox injections,” said Dr. Scott.

Learn more about the benefits of multicultural dermatology in this video with Dr. Deborah Scott.