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Skin Conditions in Dark Skin

Keloids and Dark Skin

Any time dark skin is injured in certain areas, there's an increased risk of keloids -- a scar that spreads beyond the boundary of the original injury and develops into a growth. The most common causes of keloids are cuts or burns. The most common locations are the earlobes, chest, back, and arms. While they can develop immediately after an injury, they can also take months or even years to grow -- and they can continue growing over a period of time.

In some people, keloids may itch, cause pain and burning, and be tender to the touch.

Though no one is certain why keloids develop, they are thought to be linked to a defect in collagen production. Treatments include cortisone injections, radiation therapy, pressure dressings, and silicone gel applications. Keloids can also be removed via surgery or with a laser. Regardless of the treatment, keloids return between 45% and 100% of the time.

Vitiligo in Dark Skin

In this condition, skin becomes depigmented. The loss of color causes large, white patches to appear. Vitiligo occurs in up to 2% of the population but is most noticeable in those with dark skin. Vitiligo is thought to develop when melanin-producing cells are damaged, though no one is certain why this happens.

When vitiligo hits the scalp, hair turns white -- and it's occasionally the cause of prematurely gray hair.

Treatment includes various procedures to "re-pigment" the skin. One such method is controlled exposure to UV light, called phototherapy. This can help increase the amount of melanocyte cells at the skin's surface. 

Another approach uses the topical eczema cream tacrolimus, although this is not very effective. When applied to the skin twice daily, research shows, normal pigmentation may return, although it may take months. Still another approach is the use of strong steroid creams which are effective if used on certain areas of the body such as the face and neck.

Melanoma and Dark Skin

Although dark-skinned people have a natural protection against skin cancer, that doesn't mean it can't occur. It does -- most frequently where skin is lightest, such as the palms, soles of the feet, and around the nail bed. This is most true for Asians, Native Americans, and people of African descent. In Hispanics, melanoma occurs most frequently on the legs.

Because it is frequently misdiagnosed as plantar warts (on the soles of the feet), tinea manuum (a fungus occurring on the palms of the hands), or a condition known as talon noir or black heel, and because many people do not seek treatment early on, the melanoma death rate is highest among people with dark skin. 

The lifesaving answer lies in awareness and early diagnosis. 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Norman Levine, MD on July 02, 2012

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