Acne can affect anyone. People with dark skin and acne may face some other concerns regarding this issue.

Severe acne can cause keloids or hyperpigmentation, both of which are more common in people with darker skin.

Additionally, health care providers recommend that people of color use certain acne treatments more cautiously.

Here, we look at treatment options, home remedies, tips, and when to see a dermatologist or other doctor.

Many over-the-counter and prescription acne treatments may be safe for people with dark skin. Factors such as age, gender, and acne severity will help determine the most appropriate option.

However, it is worth noting that it can take months for the treatments to work.

Creams, gels and lotions

Topical treatments can be effective for people with mild to moderate acne. The following types are safe and available without a prescription:

Benzoyl peroxide

Benzoyl peroxide reduces the number of bacteria that can cause blackheads and whiteheads.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) assures people of color that although benzoyl peroxide can bleach clothes and bed linens, it cannot bleach skin.

The AAD recommends starting with a 2.5% benzoyl peroxide cream or gel to make sure your skin doesn’t become dry or irritated. After cleaning the area, apply the product once or twice a day. Use sparingly, especially at first, to prevent irritation.

People who used benzoyl peroxide tended to see an improvement after just 6 weeks.

Topical retinoids

Retinoids, such as adapalene 0.1%, work by removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, helping to unclog pores and hair follicles.

ONE 2013 Review Retinoids have been found to be effective and safe for people of color, and these products can also help reduce complications from acne, such as hyperpigmentation.

However, retinoids are not safe to use during pregnancy. They can also cause irritation and stinging, and increase sensitivity to the sun, so it’s important to use sunscreen.

A person applies topical retinoids at night, after cleaning the affected area.

Always use this treatment with caution and consider consulting a dermatologist or other healthcare provider before starting, to prevent adverse reactions.

A person usually only sees an improvement in their acne after 6 weeks of using a retinoid.

Antibiotics and other topical acids

As reported by the AAD, salicylic acid can help unclog pores and prevent new breakouts.

The British Association of Dermatologists also recommends azelaic acid and nicotinamide, also known as niacinamide. However, a 2020 review of these treatments found little evidence that they are more effective than benzoyl peroxide or retinoids.

Topical antibiotics can help kill bacteria on the skin. However, only use them for 6-8 weeks to prevent bacteria from developing resistance.

Drug

Women with acne may benefit from using combined oral contraceptives, especially if acne flares up around their menstrual period. However, it can take up to a year for the pill to improve acne.

Your doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics, such as doxycycline or minocycline, in combination with topical treatments. A course of antibiotics can last 3–6 months. However, some are not safe to use during pregnancy.

Also, keep in mind that taking antibiotics while taking birth control pills can decrease the effectiveness of birth control. A person may need to use a secondary form of birth control, such as a condom, while taking antibiotics.

Meanwhile, isotretinoin (Accutane) is a highly effective treatment for severe or persistent acne — but its side effects can be serious, including skin sensitivity, pregnancy complications, and suicidal thoughts.

Anyone taking isotretinoin in the United States must apply for iPLEDGE, a distribution program approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and laser therapy can all help treat acne, but they can cause dark spots or light spots on the skin of the same color if not managed properly.

For this reason, the AAD recommends that people see a dermatologist experienced in treating acne on skin of color and avoid any at-home versions of these treatments.

Tea tree oil can help kill bacteria that can cause mild to moderate acne.

A person can gently apply a small amount of tea tree oil to a pimple with a cotton swab. Cleansing and moisturizing agents extracted from tea tree oil are also available for daily use.

Learn more about using tea tree oil for skin problems here.

Additionally, zinc supplements may reduce the appearance of acne. One older studies, from 2010, found that nearly 80% of participants taking zinc supplements saw a significant improvement in their acne.

However, be careful to take zinc supplements exactly as directed.

The AAD recommends that people with oily and acne-prone skin use blotting paper to absorb excess oil. Press this paper to your face for a moment and throw it away.

Meanwhile, several small studies have found that a low-glycemic diet can help reduce acne.

A person may benefit from avoiding foods such as white bread, chips and chips, and eating more foods with a low glycemic index, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, when maybe. Regulating blood sugar in this way can reduce the amount of sebum or oil the body produces.

Learn more about natural remedies for acne on black skin.

The AAD recommends the following strategies for people with acne:

  • Do not pick, squeeze, or squeeze pimples as this can increase the risk of scarring and infection.
  • If acne only appears on the forehead and temples, it could be “acne”. Switch to a water-based product and use conditioner only at the ends of your hair and down the length of your scalp.
  • Use a water-based cleanser.
  • Choose products labeled “noncomedogenic,” which means they won’t clog pores.
  • Avoid using cocoa butter, as it can clog pores and cause breakouts.
  • Gently clean the skin, use a mild cleanser and a clean towel to pat dry.
  • Wash hats and sports equipment regularly to remove sweat, dirt, and oil build-up.
  • Always remove makeup before going to bed.

Find more skin care tips for dark skin here.

Acne occurs when the sebaceous glands in the skin produce an excess of sebum, or oil, which clogs pores and hair follicles. Bacteria may also play a role. The result can be blackheads, whiteheads, pustules, nodules, or cysts.

The following factors make acne more likely:

  • Adolescent: Increased testosterone levels during puberty can lead to excess sebum production.
  • Genetics: Teenage and adult acne can run in families. If one or both parents had acne as a teenager or an adult, their children are more likely to get acne.
  • Hormonal: Women are more likely to get acne in adulthood than men, due to changes in hormone levels during menstruation and pregnancy.
  • Medicine: Certain medications can trigger acne flare-ups, including steroids, antidepressants, and some seizure medications.
  • Smoke: Smokers are more likely to develop acne in adulthood.

Often, home-care techniques and over-the-counter products can control and reduce acne. However, a person with acne should see their healthcare provider or a dermatologist if:

  • At-home techniques and over-the-counter products don’t work.
  • Acne often affects self-esteem.
  • Nodules or cysts develop – these require professional care to prevent permanent scarring.
  • Severe acne runs in families, in which case earlier treatment may be needed.

Anyone can experience acne and its complications, but some, such as keloids and hyperpigmentation, are more common in people with darker skin.

Many acne treatments, including topical creams and gels, birth control pills, and antibiotics, are very safe for people of color. There are also some home care strategies to consider.

It is especially important for people of color to avoid the use of chemical peels, microdermabrasion, and home laser treatments, as these can cause dark spots or light spots. . For these treatments, see a dermatologist who has experience working with colored skin.

If over-the-counter treatments, home remedies, and other care techniques don’t work, see a dermatologist or other health care provider. This is especially important if acne affects self-esteem.

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