Most men have a difficult time considering a skin care regimen for themselves since the majority of advertisers target women and anti-aging issues for that gender. However, men have the same skin care needs to reduce the risk of acne, breakouts, personal care cleansing and anti-aging. And men of African American decent have specific needs that are related to their skin color, tone and hormones.
Skin care for African American men should be kept simple. For the most part, care will be determined on several factors ranging from the diet, to the environment, genetics and hormones. But there are several things that seem to affect men of color more frequently than others. While all people can experience acne, eczema, dry or oily skin, psoriasis or vitiligo, African American men can also encounter small moles, ingrown hairs, keloids and skin discolorations. All of these things will affect the skin care regimen appropriate for the individual male.
Pseudofolliculitis Barbae, or ingrown hairs, are a common experience of both African American men and men of Latino decent. It is caused by the curly hair emerging from the man’s face which turns, piercing the skin and eventually grows back into the skin. They are referred to as “razor bumps” which can be small or large and will be common along the cheeks, chin, jaw or neck. The inward curling hair causes the inflammation, irritation, pain and bumps.
These ingrown hairs can also result from shaving. If the man or barber cuts too closely the hair can retract below the surface. To avoid these unsightly bumps some men just avoid shaving altogether and grow beards. But there are other options. Men should shave daily with a sharp, single blade razors which are disposed of after 2-3 shaves because dull blades will cause irritation. Men of color should also soften their beard with liberal amounts of shaving cream or a warm wash cloth before shaving.
While there is no cure for ingrown hairs there are treatments that can help. Topical antibiotics, such as erythromycin or clindamycin can help reduce the inflammation and infections. Retinoids, applied at bedtime, can help decrease the bumps and marks. Tazorac is another medication that has been shown to help decrease the overall severity after 60 days.
Men with dark skin tones can have an ash or grey appearance when the skin becomes dry. It is important to keep the skin well-moisturized and reinforced with topical vitamins for a smoother look. Hot water will pull the moisture from the skin on the body and face, so long, hot showers should be avoided – take a quick lukewarm shower instead.
Men should use a gentle liquid cleanser instead of bar soap, or a product developed specifically for men of color. Although it may seem that using a moisturizer is reserved for women only, men of color should put on an active moisturizer within 5 minutes of leaving the shower to take advantage of locking the moisture into the skin. An oil free product containing Aloe, Vitamins A, D, and E and Hyaluronic acid will help to improve the appearance and health of the skin.
A common misconception about people who have darker toned skin is that they can’t tan or burn by the sun. Although the darker the natural color of the skin the more melanin the skin has, which offers some protection against the sun, people who are dark still have risk for some sun-related diseases.
Unfortunately, men of darker skin color are at higher risk because their natural color makes changes harder to detect, which means it may be longer before a person seeks the advice of their physician for a change in skin color or tone. Wearing skin protection of SPF 15 or higher, which also offers protections agains UVA and UVB rays, is best.
Vitiligo is another common skin condition of men and women of color. In this condition the pigment in the skin cells are destroyed and white patches appear on the skin. The extent of the color loss will be different for each person – some people lose pigment over their entire body while others lose it in just patches. Michael Jackson, famous singer and entertainer, suffered in silence from vitiligo for decades and the condition was only revealed to the public after his death.
The extent of the disease will determine the type of treatment that will be recommended. In some cases the body is able to repigment the areas. There have been several treatment methodologies developed but none have been perfected. Topical medications, corticosterioids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications are all commonly used in treatment. A dermatologist can determine the best base of treatment for the disease.