Skin and Hair Care for Women of Color (cont.)

So that gives you a range of some of the possibilities. The treatment for each problem is a little different, so it is very important that you consult with your dermatologist so that the proper diagnosis may be made.

Member question: I am a light-skin African American female. For about four years, I have begun to develop these cyst-like pimples on my face. I am very compulsive with picking or digging or popping pimples and the like; therefore I have developed these very dark spots along the jaws and the jaw line. I'm afraid to use an over-the counter bleach to lighten these spots, unless you can suggest something.

Taylor: It is extremely important for women of color to keep their hands away from their faces. Picking and squeezing and popping bumps will cause very dramatic dark spots on the skin, as well as scars. So it is very important not to pick, squeeze, or pop, particularly if you are of color.

To heal the damage that has been done you may consider using some of the gentle exfoliating products that contain glycolic acids. Hydroquinone bleaching creams may also be helpful.

Member question: I have some hairs that grow on my chin and I've been tweezing them and it's been leaving dark spots. Is there any way to get rid of them?

Taylor: The most important thing that you can do is to address the excessive growth of hair. You may consider exploring electrolysis, laser hair removal, or even a prescription cream that in some women blocks the growth of hair.

You do not want to pluck the hairs. Plucking will cause an ingrown hair, which, in turn, will cause a bump that will then cause a dark mark. Instead of plucking consider clipping the hair with a pair of scissors.

To answer the question of how to address the dark mark, again, exfoliation or bleaching can help restore the natural color of the skin.

Member question: Does laser hair removal work on women of color?

Taylor: That is a very important question. I have many women of color in my practice, who range from a cafe au lait color to a chocolate brown color, who successfully undergo laser therapy. 

There are lasers specifically designed to remove hair in women of color. It is important that your dermatologist use such a laser. Typically the diode of the 1064 YAG laser is suited for skin of color. Laser hair removal often requires four to seven treatments, performed monthly, before one observes a permanent reduction in the growth of hair.

Member question: Every once and a while I will wear makeup, and by the middle of the day my face is so oily. What can I do to combat that?

Taylor: There are several suggestions that I have for you to combat your oily skin:

  • Select a makeup that is oil-free. In fact, there are some foundations that contain an ingredient called salicylic acid that will help to control the oil.
  • Make sure that you use a cleanser designed for oily skin.
  • You should probably pass on using moisturizer on your face in the morning.
  • Blotting paper may be purchased from several cosmetic counters, and that paper will absorb excessive oil on the face throughout the day.

Member question: I would like to know the best facial cleanser, toner, and moisturizer to buy at any local retail store and or drug store without spending too much for products that do not work. I am looking for a very soft and smooth feeling for my face and cannot seem to achieve it.


"Healthy living with adequate intake of water, exercise, and nutrition go a long way into improving the health of our skin."

Taylor: There is no one best product for everyone. There are many very good skin care products that one can purchase in a drug store. In general, you want to select a cleanser and moisturizer, and perhaps a toner, for your skin type. Your skin type may be dry, oily, or normal. In general, the Cetaphil, Aveeno, Nutrogena, and Purpose products are gentle products to use on skin that tends to be sensitive. Each of these product lines has cleansers, moisturizers, sunscreens, etc.

Member question: I am 36 years old and I have always had very dry skin. My hands are wrinkled and dry with lots of lines. My skin looks like an old woman. It's so embarrassing when shaking someone's hand. What can you recommend for my problem skin?

Taylor: The key is to keep your hands out of water and apply moisturizer throughout the day. Dry hands are a particular problem during the cold weather, especially if your hands are in water a great deal. So try to minimize the number of times a day you wash your hands. When doing wet work wear cotton gloves topped with rubber gloves. The gloves will protect your hands from the water.

In addition, applying a good moisturizer many times throughout the day is a must. There are many hand creams on the market, and they can range from Neutrogena hand cream to Lubriderm to Vaseline.

Member question: I have a very dry skin type and I try to moisturize as often as possible, but my scalp is just out of control. It flakes constantly. I wash, condition, and moisturize my hair as often as I should but it just flakes so much whether I itch or not. When I scratch it this dead skin just falls all over me, and it's pretty embarrassing. 

Taylor: Dry, flaky, itchy scalp is a problem caused by seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis, or even a fungal infection. If your flaking has not improved after using over-the-counter dandruff shampoos, then it's time to see a doctor. Prescription medication is often required to treat the conditions that I named. Also, if one suspects a fungal infection, a culture would need to be performed.

Member question: Is there any harm in keeping your hair braided or cornrowed constantly, or wearing weaves? I'm a swimmer and felt the constant heat to dry and curl my hair daily was causing it to break off.

Taylor: I have no problem with the use of cornrows or braids with extensions, as long as they are not braided too tightly. If the braids or cornrows are very tight a type of hair loss may develop called traction alopecia. Make sure that when your hair is braided, it is done very loosely. If you notice thinning along the hairline it is time to stop braiding the hair.