Black women are at much higher risk of burning, scarring, and hyperpigmentation as a result of an aesthetic treatment than white women, especially at the hands of someone who’s not adequately trained or experienced in treating melanated skin.
Understandably, one bad experience is enough to keep many from going back. Some are deterred by simply reading about such experiences online—even though, in skilled hands, the majority of popular cosmetic treatments are safe and effective for all skin tones.
In an effort to draw more attention to that truth, RealSelf, the online dermatology and plastic surgery forum, asked four Black dermatologists to dispel some of the most common myths and misconceptions around aesthetic treatments for dark skin. These are the highlights of that article.
Fact: Not all dermatologists are trained in how to treat Black skin.
Such training depends largely on a dermatologist’s residency and how diverse the surrounding city’s population is. Medical schools, generally speaking, do not offer a curriculum that specifically addresses Black skin.
“It’s geographic—you learn what you see,” says Dr. Michelle Henry. “If you’re in a big city, you’ll encounter more patients of color who walk into the office, but it’s a lot harder if you’re in a place without a diverse population.”
Fact: Most lasers are safe for Black skin.
Yes, for much of their existence, lasers were recommended only for light skin tones. It was believed that the relatively unsophisticated lasers of the time wouldn’t be able to differentiate from natural pigment and dark spots, melasma, and hair follicles. But the technology’s improved significantly. Today, there are lots of lasers that effectively remove hair, treat skin aging and acne, and won’t cause hyperpigmentation on dark skin.
Fact: Black women are finding value in injectables, too.
“In the past, there was a lot of stigma against cosmetic procedures for women of color,” Dr. Henry says. “People always say ‘Black don’t crack’ or ‘Asian don’t raisin,’ but we still age. We just age differently.”
Black women typically don’t photo-age as readily as white women, but they do lose volume. So, as the stigma surrounding injectables fades away, more Black women are seeking treatment—only, it tends to be for filler rather than Botox.
Fact: Some chemical peels are safe for Black skin.
While it’s true that Black women are at a greater risk of burning, scarring, and hyperpigmentation from deep chemical peels, superficial and medium peels are perfectly safe for darker skin tones when they’re administered by a board-certified dermatologist with sufficient experience.
Fact: Microneedling punctures will not lead to scarring and darkening of Black skin.
Black skin is particularly sensitive to irritation and inflammation, which can quickly develop into post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, so it’s understandable that Black women would be wary of a cosmetic treatment that employs tiny needles to create thousands of micro-punctures in the skin. But microneedling is, in fact, safe and effective at treating scars, hyperpigmentation, and uneven texture in dark skin, especially when it’s combined with radiofrequency.