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Know Thy Brown Skin

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By Dr. Susan C.Taylor

Updated June 19, 2014

Another advantage to having more melanin is that people of color are less susceptible to developing skin cancer, particularly the more common types known as basal and squamous cell skin cancers. The rate of skin cancer among African Americans, though significant, is many times lower than the rate for Whites. As women of color, we also have the advantage of possessing the naturally warm, glowing skin sought after by White women without having to go to the beach or a tanning salon.

However, we must accept the down sides as well. A disadvantage to having more melanin is that it makes our skin more "reactive." That means almost any stimulus -- a rash, scratch, pimple, or inflammation -- may trigger the production of excess melanin, resulting in dark marks or patches on the skin. These dark areas are the result of what is called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Less commonly, some Black women will develop a decrease in melanin or postinflammatory hypopigmentation in response to skin trauma (burns, etc.). In either case, the dark or light areas may be disfiguring and devastating for women who experience them, especially because the discolorations may take months or years to fade.

That's why handling your skin gently, wearing sunscreen, and preventing pigmentation problems are keys to our skin care.

Skin of color is also more susceptible to developing certain conditions such as keloids, or large, raised scars that grow beyond the original site of injury. We are more likely to be affected by several different types of disfiguring bumps, such as razor bumps or bumps that occur in the back of the scalp called acne keloidalis nuchae. I discuss these conditions and others later in the book.

Copyright 2003 Susan C. Taylor, M.D.

The above is an excerpt from the book Brown Skin: Dr. Susan Taylor's Prescription for Flawless Skin, Hair, and Nails by Susan C. Taylor, M.D. (Published by Amistad; June 2003; $24.95US/$38.95CAN; 0-06-008871-0). At last -- a book devoted to the concerns of people of color that will help you enhance and protect the health and beauty of your skin, hair, and nails. Dr. Susan Taylor, a Harvard-trained dermatologist and a beautiful woman of color, bases her advice on more than fifteen years' experience treating patients in private practice and at the first-of-its-kind Skin of Color Center in New York City, which she directs.

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