Acne is a common problem in all skin tones. However, people with dark skin may have different concerns regarding acne treatment, including the prevention of post-acne dark spots.
According to a 2010 study, 37% of African American women have acne, which was more prevalent than women with other backgrounds.
Certain populations may be at higher risk of residual dark spots, or hyperpigmentation, from acne.
The authors of a 2014 study of various groups with acne noted that over two-thirds of black women experienced post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation from their acne and had significant concerns about it.
While the underlying process that causes acne is the same for everyone, some differences may occur due to the way an individual chooses to treat their skin. Read on to learn about a variety of natural acne treatments for black skin.
Tea tree oil
The antimicrobial properties of tea tree oil may help kill the bacteria that contribute to acne.
Tea tree oil has antimicrobial properties, which means that it may help kill the bacteria that contribute to inflammation and acne.
A 2015 review found that tea tree oil could reduce acne spots in people with mild to moderate acne. Tea tree oil caused a similar number of side effects as other treatments.
Tea tree oil can burn or sting, so people should take care when applying tea tree oil directly to the skin.
Try using just a small amount on the end of a cotton swab. Another option is to invest in a skin cleanser that contains tea tree oil.
Tea tree oil products for acne are available in drug stores and online.
Citric acid, which is most prevalent in citrus fruits, such as oranges and lemons, may help reduce acne lesions in some people. A 2016 study suggests that it may help kill certain types of acne bacteria.
While there is little research on whether citric acid can clear up acne, people can try applying lemon juice directly to pimples.
Lemon juice can make the skin more sensitive to sunlight, so apply it at night and remember to wear sunscreen.
Dark spots can appear on the skin for many reasons. People with dark skin often notice these spots after a minor skin injury, such as an acne spot or other skin irritation.
Applying sunscreen to the skin may prevent dark spots from appearing or getting worse. It is also a healthful habit to maintain, as limiting sun damage can help reduce a person’s risk of skin cancer.
Sunscreen is available for purchase in many grocery stores, drug stores, and online.
A person may be able to prevent dark spots by treating acne at the earliest possible sign.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD)suggest the following lifestyle remedies to fight acne in skin of color:
- Treat acne at the earliest possible sign to help prevent dark spots.
- Use hair oil only in the middle of the scalp. Hair oils can cause acne on the hairline and forehead.
- Do not touch the hair and then touch the face, since this can get hair oil on the skin, clogging pores.
- Avoid using skin care products that contain heavy oils or shea butter on acne prone areas.
- Choose oil-free skin products marked as “non-comedogenic,” since they are less likely to clog pores.
- Avoid popping pimples, as this can worsen inflammation and cause scarring and dark spots.
- Use only non-comedogenic make-up.
- Frequently wash scarves, hats, and anything else that comes into contact with the face or hair.
Some of the best acne treatments are not “natural” and rely on specific substances that are tried and true to treat the condition.
These treatments are generally safe and effective, so a person can consider trying them if natural methods fail.
Medical treatments can increase the skin’s sensitivity to sun. For some, such as the topical retinoids, it is best to apply them at night, as the sun inactivates them. Always wear sunscreen when using these products.
The AAD suggest that acne products containing the following ingredients are the most effective on dark skin:
Benzoyl peroxide can help kill the bacteria that contribute to acne. While it does not bleach dark skin, it can bleach clothing and other fabrics.
Benzoyl peroxide can irritate or dry out the skin, so it is best to start with a 2.5% solution or a 4% wash and use it every other day, gradually working up to daily use with a more concentrated solution, if necessary. The chest and back can usually tolerate higher concentrations of benzoyl peroxide than the face.
Products containing benzoyl peroxide are available in pharmacies and online.
Salicylic acid can help unclog pores and prevent new acne from forming.
The peeling function of salicylic acid may also help with melasma, a common skin problem that causes discoloration.
People can buy salicylic acid products for acne at their local drugstore or online.
Retinoids may help prevent acne by fighting inflammation and unclogging pores.
Retinoids, such as retinol and tretinoin, are chemicals that derive from vitamin A. They can help fight inflammation and unclog pores, preventing acne. Retinoids may also help prevent signs of aging.
Like other medical treatments, retinoids can irritate the skin. A doctor can help determine what concentration is best for each person.
Retinoids prevent acne and are not suitable for treating spots. It may take several months to see the full effect of retinoids.
People should wear sunscreen when using topical retinoids since they make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.
Look for products containing retinoids at the pharmacy or online.
Treatments to avoid
One myth suggests that cocoa butter can help even out black skin. The AAD emphasize that there is no evidence to support this claim. There is, however, evidence that cocoa butter can clog pores, especially on the face, back and chest.
Skin lightening products may help fade dark spots, but they can also damage the skin and cause irritation.
However, skin lightening products may contain steroids or mercury, which are dangerous. They may also cause rashes, acne, or even make dark spots worse, so talk to a doctor before trying a skin lightener.
Natural remedies for acne in black skin may work well for mild acne, especially in conjunction with lifestyle remedies.
While there is data that certain natural remedies, such as tea tree oil, may be helpful for acne, they still do not replace conventional treatments.
Untreated acne is more likely to leave scars and dark spots. If natural remedies fail, a person can speak with a dermatologist, who can help them find the best solution.