Acne and Black Skin

Acne Vulgaris is a common inflammatory skin condition that can strike at any period in your life. Once thought a right of passage for teenagers in the throes of puberty, acne is now increasingly also experienced by adults giving rise to the term ‘Adult Acne’.

What is Acne?

It is a functional disorder of the skin, caused by excess sebum (oil), sluggish dead skin cells, Propionibacterium acnes (p. acnes) bacteria which already lives on the skin and inflammation.


When pores become clogged with a sticky concoction of sebum and dead skin cells, P. acnes bacteria becomes trapped in the pore and starts to multiply, resulting in inflammation. The inflammation can appear as blackheads, whiteheads, pimples and nodules deep within the skin.

There are several external factors that also influence the development of acne. Lifestyle factors – stress, diet, sleep, hormones, skincare products, habits and regimes play a part as does environmental factors like pollution.

Cultural Influences on Acne

Research has noted that there are some cultural factors that come into play for people with skin of colour:

- Using shea butter and cocoa butter which are both quite occlusive substances that clog pores.

- The use of certain types of hair products such as pomades that contain petroleum, mineral oil and heavy waxes all of which can affect the skin causing ‘pomade acne’ along the hair line.

- Heavy make up and concealers used to mask dark marks on the skin can also induce skin congestion and clogged pores.

- In places were skin bleaching is popular, the use of corticosteroid products to lighten hyperpigmentation or the complexion in general can lead to ‘steroid acne’.

Treating Acne

Acne is experienced by all ethnicities and skin tones, however with skin of colour, the concern lies with the resulting scarring and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation issues. Evidence shows the presence of hyperpigmentation and dark marks on the skin can be even more significant and cause more psychological distress than the acne itself.

Sadly acne can be a life long skin condition that flares up from time to time. However, with careful management, it can controlled. The treatment across all skin tones is broadly similar, however in skin of colour particular attention has to be paid to the increased risk of post inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Acne-busting regimes must be strenuous enough to clear the current acne as well as prevent future acne lesions but at the same time not too extensive that it causes further dark marks and patches on the skin.

BSD Advice

Acne is so VERY individual and management of the condition varies from person to person, which means the best advice that we can give is to encourage you to visit a Dermatologist to receive a personalised treatment plan which can be developed after careful analysis of your skin. Sometimes even blood, allergy and hormonal tests are required before a plan of action can be implemented.
— Black Skin Directory

A treatment plan may involve using an oral or topical retinoid product, high-grade cosmeceutical skincare, oral or topical antibiotics, professional treatments e.g. chemical peels, diet and lifestyle modifications and taking supplements. With so many products and brands available, the only way of knowing what's best for you is to consult a professional skincare specialist.

Some things to remember if you are currently experience acne:

-       Cleanse your skin properly twice a day using appropriate skin care products that relieve clogged pores.

-       Avoid using skin care products that strip your skin, as this will cause an imbalance in the physical and chemical barrier of the skin and trigger breakouts.

-       Don’t skip moisturiser. Opting for a lightweight serum or lotion is enough to replenish the moisture level in the skin.

-       Focus on gentle exfoliation using Alpha and Beta Hydroxy Acids to encourage optimal shedding of dead skin cells.

-       Don’t pick at your skin as this spreads inflammation and causes more scarring.

-       Pay attention to your lifestyle and diet, especially your gut health. Repeated bouts of acne can be signs of an internal imbalance. Consulting a Wellness Practitioner may help.

-       Use sunscreen to prevent hyperpigmentation from worsening.