Skin of Color

Skin of color is important to many areas of dermatology. Your skin color can impact your response to dermatological treatments. Pigment changes and scarring issues, skin cancer, uneven skin tone, and folliculitis from shaving, dark spots, melasma, in grown hairs, eczema, psoriasis and even hair loss all disproportionately affect people of color. Scarring issues, especially keloids, which are excessive and disfiguring affect almost 16% of people of color. A condition called Dermatosis papulose nigra is small bumps that are not moles but appear as if they are. They are aesthetically unpleasing and affect many people of color.


Acne is a common dermatology diagnosis in people of color. Skin of color acne tends to develop post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and have a higher risk of keloids as a result of acne.

Pigment Disorders, Melasma, and Keloid and hypertrophic scars.

Certain Ethnic skin types are more vulnerable to pigment disorders, hyperpigmentation and Melasma, and keloids and hypertrophic scarring. Inflammatory skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis can affect the outcome of cosmetic procedures. Injectibles can result in hypertrophic scarring at the injection site, and in some cases discoloration in skin of color. For all these reasons, it is vital to have your skin analyzed by Dr. Roberts before any procedures are scheduled.

Skin Cancer

People of color have a lower risk of skin cancer, but are not immune. Unprotected sun exposure is the main risk factor for people of color. Unfortunately, people of color who develop skin cancer are at a disadvantage because it is more difficult to treat and is often diagnosed at a more advanced state.

Basel cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer diagnosed in African Americans and Latinos, and is usually found on the head and neck. The 5 year survival rate of melanoma in African Americans and Latinos is 73% while it is 91% for white people, primarily because it is diagnosed at a later stage.

Skin cancer prevention is recommended. This means stay out of the sun, protect yourself with clothing, hats and sunglasses as well as a blocking sun screen. Take Vitamin D3 supplements, because people of color are at a higher risk of Vitamin D3 deficiency.

People of color are at risk for skin cancers in areas not typically exposed to the sun. 30-40% of melanomas diagnosed in people of color are found on the bottom of the foot. About 8% of melanomas found in Asians are found in the mouth. The most commonly diagnosed type of cancer in African Americans is squamous cell carcinoma on the buttocks, hip, legs and feet.

Dr. Roberts recommends you do a thorough skin exam on yourself on a monthly basis. Focus on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, fingernails, toenails, mouth, groin and buttocks. Notice any areas that seem to be changing, itch or bleed, and any ulcers or wounds that do not heal.

People of color benefit from a specialist in skin of color because skin color also affects your response to cosmetic procedures. Skin of color differs not only by color, but also aging patterns and a distinct pattern of cosmetic problems.

To aid in the ability to understand how a particular color type and will respond, Dr. Roberts has pioneered the Roberts Skin Type Classification System©. This groundbreaking approach is the key to predicting the skin’s likely response to insult, injury and inflammation for people of color. The information is used to address the special concerns and challenges of multicultural ethic skin.

This classification system comprehensively identifies skin type characteristics that can help determine the appropriate course of treatment, clarify post-procedure expectations, and optimize outcomes for better skin care. It is an individualized approach that identifies the features and elements of various skin color types to predict potential complications so they can be avoided. It includes determination of the skin’s phototype and photoage, pigmentation risks, and scarring risks. This assists Dr. Roberts in evaluating a patient’s skin and developing a cosmetic plan. All this information will positively impact Dr. Roberts’ communications with you, your awareness of your skin type’s problems and treatments, compliance and preventive measures.

It is important to identify skin type before undergoing any cosmetic procedures, especially:

  • Chemical peels
  • Laser hair removal
  • Laser skin resurfacing
  • IPL

Dr. Roberts is a woman of color and understands the needs of people of color. She appreciates that skin of color is easier to irritate. Any irritation to dark skin can cause discoloration which can last for months to years. Brown skinned people are more vulnerable to melasma, vitiligo and certain medications like blood pressure meds, diabetes and heart disease meds that can cause brown skin to discolor. Simple skin irritations like acne and ingrown hairs can cause discoloration. The hair of black women who shampoo daily tends to exacerbate dry scalp and increase breakage. Sadly, many women of color from different cultural backgrounds may react differently to the same procedures and often may receive inappropriate treatments unless they seek care from a specialist in skin of color, like Dr. Roberts.