There are a slew of specialized, non-invasive skincare treatments available these days. But there is no one-size-fits-all treatment protocol that works for everyone. In fact, the skin of clients with darker skin tones needs to be approached with extra care so that unintended side effects—like post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation or scarring—don’t occur.

So what are the rules of thumb for darker skin types? Below we will break down some of the basics for you and your clients.

Darker Skin Types Are Prone To Certain Skin Conditions

Due to increased melanin (the substance that gives skin its color), darker skin types are genetically prone to certain skin conditions. Below are some of the common conditions:

  • Moles & Other Skin Color Changes: Similarly to fair-skinned individuals being prone to freckles, darker skin types are prone to moles or dermatosis papulosa nigra, which are small, dark, or skin colored bumps typically found on the face and neck.

  • Ashiness: We all get dry skin once in a while. But for those with darker skin types, it is more easily seen. Luckily, this is an easy fix with a good moisturizer with ingredients like cocoa butter-based or coconut, for example.

  • Keloid Scars & Hypertrophic Scars: Darker skin-toned people, in particular African Americans and Asians, are prone to scarring due to the fact that their pigmentation cells differ from other skin types. In addition, these cells are also larger and located in different areas, which allows them to be more reactive and susceptible to various kinds of discolorations. Specifically in Asians and African Americans, the fibroblast cells and collagen are also more reactive and disobedient than in fairer-skinned individuals, paving the way for a higher incidence of raised scars.

Any Kind Of Trauma To The Skin Can Cause Post-Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

People with darker skin tones are more likely to develop hyperpigmentation after inflammatory conditions eczema or acne because the skin contains larger melanocytes and more melanin. When skin cells are damaged by inflammation, the pigment drops out and is deposited into the skin leaving what is known as a “dark spot”. Inflammation and hyperpigmentation go hand in hand for those with darker skin tones because of the proximity of the pigment and inflammatory cells, which activates the cells even more.

Chemical Peels, Dermalplaning, Microneedling, And Microdermabrasion Can Help With Dark Spots

As we stated above, treating darker skin types with various non-invasive treatment options requires care so that no permanent damage is caused. Medium-depth chemical peels, microdermabrasion, microneedling, and dermalplaning are relatively safe and effective at treating acne, pigment issues, and scarring for those with darker skin tones. It may take several treatments spaced out over a period of time to see the results. But when you are handling skin that is delicate, a conservative treatment approach is the prudent way to go.

When it comes to chemical peels and darker skin specifically, if your clients are prone to hyperpigmentation, you may want to start (and stay) with a light peel to err on the side of caution.

Daily Sunscreen Use Is Vital

Everybody needs sunscreen—even darker skin types. It is a common and dangerous misconception that melanin-rich skin doesn’t need UV protection. Dark skin types are not naturally sun resistant. In fact, UV exposure can speed up aging skin, cause hyperpigmentation, and increase the risk of skin cancer.

If your clients with darker skin tones are not wearing daily sunscreen, you may want to nudge them to do so. There are a variety of options available and ones specifically for dark skin tones that blend seamlessly rather than leaving a white cast. Suggest a sunscreen with at least a SPF 30 that offers full spectrum UV protection for both UVA and UVB rays.

Approach Laser Hair Removal With Caution

Not all laser hair removal devices are suitable for dark skin tones. However, one tried-and-true technology stands out from the pack, which is the 1064 Nd:YAG. This laser works by this specific wavelength being attracted to the pigment of the hair rather than the pigment of the skin, so there is less risk of scarring or blistering.

The most important part of removing hair with a laser for darker skin types is to do a test patch—especially since people’s reactions to lasers can vary greatly. The reaction (or lack thereof) will dictate if the settings need to be adjusted one way or another. Regardless, laser hair removal should be approached with caution and on a case-by-case basis for individuals with melanin-rich skin.