People of color often have more severe courses of atopic dermatitis, including more intense itching that can lead to chronic scratching and scarring, said Mamta Jhaveri, MD, MS, board-certified dermatologist and assistant professor of dermatology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
“Melanin, the pigment that gives skin its color and that varies in amount and type among people of different ethnicities, is very sensitive to inflammation,” she explained. “That means that people of color are more likely to develop hypo or hyperpigmentation — lightened or darkened areas of skin where the eczema has been and remain after it has gone.
We asked Jhaveri and Andrew F. Alexis, MD, MPH, professor of dermatology at the Icahn School of Medicine and director of Mt. Sinai’s Skin of Color Center, for advice on managing eczema across a broad range of skin tones.
Commit to regular moisturization.
Some people of color, particularly African Americans, may have a drier skin type, making moisturization even more important. Start with a moisturizing cleanser (not soap, which strips skin of its natural oils), and follow with a thick emollient moisturize.
Carefully follow instructions for using topical corticosteroids.
Overusing topical steroids can cause unwanted side effects, including thinning or lightening of skin.
Use sun protection.
Apply sunscreen often and wear hats and sun-protective clothes to block ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, which makes areas of hyperpigmentation even darker.
Ask your dermatologist about your vitamin D status.
Because melanin protects against the effects of vitamin D-producing sunlight, people with darker skin types often have lower-than-optimal levels of this vitamin that may play a role in eczema severity. If your levels are low, your doctor may prescribe vitamin D supplements.