The Expert's Guide To Skincare For Darker Skin Tones

Expert Advice

skincareSource: wavebreakmedia/Shutterstock

If there’s one thing we’ve learned in the last twenty years, it’s that there’s no one-size-fits-all for skin, and everyone’s skin needs a unique regimen: Kinda like how every hair texture needs a different shampoo and conditioner. On our quest to keep you guys up-to-date on the latest skincare and treatments from around the world, we recently came across Dr. Carlos Charles, and his clinic Derma Di Calore. The clinic, which is based in New York and led by Dr. Carlos Charles, is dedicated to discovering more about the “challenging issues encountered in the treatment of darker skin tones.” We decided to get in touch to get all the info and find out what he had to say on two issues that he outlined as the most common skin conditions among deeper complexions and people of color; hyperpigmentation and acne scarring.

Both hyperpigmentation and acne scarring are two super common skin conditions that most of us will experience at some point in our lives, but Dr. Charles explains that “The main reason darker skin is more prone to blemishes and dark spots stems from the melanocytes or pigment cells. In darker skin tones, the melanocytes are stronger, which means they can produce color more easily leading to stubborn hyperpigmentation. This can occur as a response to external trauma, from sun exposure, or as a result of inflammation from rashes or acne.” So, if it’s something you’d like to know more about treating, Dr. Charles is breaking it all down. Equally, if you’re happy and confident in your skin, there really is no need to do anything at all, it’s totally your decision. Here’re all the details:


What causes hyperpigmentation: Okay, get prepared for it to get a little scientific for a minute while Dr. Charles explains exactly what hyperpigmentation is and why it’s common in deeper complexions. According to Dr. Charles, hyperpigmentation is a result of the “hyperpigmentation is the overproduction of melanin” (melanin is the pigment found in our skin that gives it its color). “This process is performed by cells called the melanocytes.” What causes melanin to form in the skin varies from any “skin-related trauma” to “skin inflammation such as rashes of acne” to sun exposure.

How can you prevent hyperpigmentation: Dr. Charles explains that the best way to prevent hyperpigmentation is to wear “daily protection from the sun’s UV rays as this will help prevent sun-related hyperpigmentation.” Although, for hyperpigmentation caused by other factors such as various rashes and trauma, it will be treated as necessary.” Check out our fav sunscreens that work well under makeup here.

How to treat hyperpigmentation: When it comes to treating hyperpigmentation, Dr. Charles says that he “typically prescribes prescription strength retinoid and fading agents such as hydroquinone including topical antioxidants such as Vitamin C serums to also assist in the treatment of hyperpigmentation.”

What to avoid: When treating hyperpigmentation, he does warn against “over the counter creams marketed for the treatment of hyperpigmentation as they contain high potency topical steroids and have “serious side effects.” Dr. Charles explained that “high concentrations of hydroquinone should only be used for limited periods of time and under the guidance of a board-certified dermatologist as they can cause skin darkening and irritant reactions.” Finally, Dr. Charles adds that although you may assume “aggressively exfoliating the skin will help with hyperpigmentation,” he insists that “nothing could be further from the truth. Vigorous exfoliation can, in fact, lead to worsening of hyperpigmentation.” A lot of people have also been recommended vitamin C injections, which again, Dr. Charles does not endorse.

skincare for darker skin tonesSource: Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

Acne Scarring

Dr. Charles explains “The approach to treating acne in skin of color is unique in that we must address both the active acne as well as the hyperpigmentation caused by the acne.”

How to treat acne scarring: “Retinoids are an amazing option as they target the active acne as well as inhibit the melanin formation by the melanocytes.” Dr. Charles also states that when “treating skin of color, you must aggressively treat the inflammation to ensure that hyperpigmentation does not worsen in the setting of acne.” Finally, he says that “many of the commonly used acne treatments can cause irritation and inflammation of the skin, which can, of course, lead to more hyperpigmentation. So, he insists that you should “use these treatments carefully to ensure that they are effective without causing more problems.”

How to treat acne scarring: Dr. Charles told us his go-to ingredients for the “treatment of acne and hyperpigmentation in skin of color include various retinoids, careful application of superficial salicylic and glycolic acid chemical peels.” He also recommends combining “several of these agents with various concentrations of hydroquinone to assist with the hyperpigmentation.” He also notes that “laser treatments can be beneficial in treating hyperpigmentation when combined with the ingredients mentioned above.” More specifically, he recommends “the Clear and Brilliant laser as it can help with blemishes and textural skin changes. Also, Fraxel lasers can help with acne scarring in darker skin when used appropriately in combination with other topical agents.”

Laser Hair Removal

When it comes to laser hair removal, Dr. Charles explains that it’s “more challenging for darker complexions, because the lasers used in hair removal commonly work by targeting pigment. This is why many lasers are more effective in treating dark, thick hair. However, since those with darker complexions have more pigment in the skin, certain lasers can inadvertently target the skin instead of the hair, leading to burns and other complications.” Dr. Charles confirms that “by using the appropriate laser wavelength for darker skin, you can significantly minimize the risk of complications. For darker skin, you will typically use a long-wavelength laser that bypasses the pigment in the skin and specifically targets the hair follicles.”

Check out Dr. Barbara Sturm’s Darker Skin Tones collection, which was formulated with actress Angela Bassett and “tailored to the essential dermatological needs and characteristics of darker skin tones. The collection‘s potent active ingredients nourish the skin, reduce inflammation and hyperpigmentation, and even the skin tone while minimizing pores and helping to prevent breakouts.” Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.