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The Best Acne Treatments for African Americans

The Best Acne Treatments for African Americans

Just as love sees no color, neither does acne. Race has no effect on the cause of acne. However, the one difference between "black" skin and "white" skin, is the amount of melanin. Melanin is the substance that gives skin its color. Having an abundance of it provides more protection from the sun, but also causes excessive darkening at the site of an injury. For many African Americans, a pimple could pose a serious cosmetic concern. One flare-up could result in lasting hyperpigmentation capable of remaining between 6 and 12 months, or longer. There is also the risk of keloid scarring; thickened raised scars occurring at the site of injury. For these reasons, acne in African Americans requires specialized treatment.

Oral Antibiotic Therapy

In people of color, the risk of further irritation in the presence of acne is great. Dermatologists sometimes opt for oral antibiotics as a first-line treatment. Tetracycline, clindamycin, erythromycin, doxycycline and minocycline are some of the most prescribed. Acne is caused by a combination of inflammation, trapped sebaceous oil and bacteria; the goal of antibiotic treatment is to reduce inflammation and reduce the amount of bacteria present on the skin.

Topical Medications

Depending on the severity of the acne lesions, a physician may decide to use a topical medication. Various antimicrobial gels, creams and ointments are available to reduce the amount of bacteria on the skin. Sometimes the physician may combine the treatment with another agent, aimed at reducing inflammation. A few of the drugs such as azelaic acid, have the added benefit of reducing hyperpigmentation. Some of the most common topicals are: Clindagel, benzoyl peroxide, erythromycin and sodium sulfacetamide.


Creams, gels and lotions derived from vitamin A are called retinoids, and they play a fundamental part in acne treatment. Retinoids are exceptional, in that they have the ability to unclog pores and prevent pimples from forming. They also have an added benefit of reducing wrinkles and fine lines. One drawback is the possibility of irritation as well as increased sensitivity to the sun. The first of these drugs to be developed was trentinoin or Retin-A; unfortunately, it can cause dryness and irritation. As a result, Dermatologists may avoid prescribing it to people of color, instead opting for Differin, a synthetic retinoid with fewer side effects.

Over-the-Counter Options

Even in the case of mild acne, where there is an occasional pimple or two, the potential for hyperpigmentation makes the condition a cause for concern. Because acne is one of the most common skin diseases in the United States, there are an abundance of over-the-counter medications available. The majority contain a maximum of 10 percent benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid. Benzoyl peroxide has powerful antibacterial properties, while salicylic acid is effective for clearing clogged pores. Both medications can be found in the form of creams, lotions, soaps and gels and are sold at most stores without a prescription.

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