Ryan Stanton, MD, doesn't want to meet you this summer. The Lexington, Ky., emergency room physician knows that when the weather starts heating up, so do a host of health hazards that can quickly turn a festive day at the beach into a disaster. He tells WebMD the Magazine about what brings summer revelers into his emergency room most often -- and how you can enjoy the warm weather while escaping the same fate.
That said, there are certain skin conditions that seem to affect dark skin more frequently or with more severity. Further, many treatments used for common skin conditions can sometimes lead to even more problems when used on people of color.
But before you can learn how to protect your face and body, it's important to know a little something about the biology of dark skin.
Understanding Dark Skin
The color of all skin stems from cells called melanocytes. They produce melanosomes, packets containing the natural chemical melanin.
Studies show that all people have roughly the same number of melanocytes in skin tissue, regardless of color. What differs is both the size and distribution of the melanosomes. The more and larger they are, the darker skin will be.
Since the role of melanin in the skin is to absorb and scatter energy from ultraviolet (UV) light, having a dark complexion reduces the risk of sun damage, particularly as it pertains to skin aging and skin cancer formation.
At the same time, dark skin is more likely to develop pigmentation problems. Even minor skin injuries, such as bug bites, can cause an change in skin pigment, allowing dark spots called hyperpigmentation to occur.
When not properly administered, any cosmetic treatment that injures the skin -- such as laser surgery, dermabrasion (removal of dead skin cells), wrinkle-filling injections like Restylane, or Botox injections -- has the potential to cause pigmentation problems.
Pigmentation Changes in Dark Skin
In hyperpigmentation, the skin either produces too much pigment or the pigment is deposited deep within the skin, resulting in dark spots. When color is lost, it's called hypopigmentation, which results in light-colored patches. All people with dark skin are at risk for both skin conditions.
Among the most common types of pigment problems in dark skin is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. This occurs as a result of skin injury, such as a cut, scrape, or burn. It can also occur in conjunction with eczema or acne.