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Why Black Women Often Get Wrongly Diagnosed for This Uncomfortable Skin Condition

PhenomenalMAG Staff  |  Skin Care

Anyone who has rosacea knows that it can be uncomfortable at best and completely crippling at worst.

Even though there have been many studies on rosacea and its side effects (including redness, itching, and skin texture issues), we still don't know much about it on Black and brown skin. This suggests it's commonly under- or not-diagnosed.

The Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology says that rosacea affects up to 40 million people of color.

Why is rosacea so often missed in persons with darker complexion, and what can be done to help them? No one understands what causes rosacea, but it causes red, blood-vessel-filled skin.

After flushed cheeks, cheeks and nose become permanently red and tingly. Other indicators include drier skin, blemishes, and sensitivity.

SKNDOCTOR founder and CEO Dr. Ewoma Ukeleghe believes rosacea is more common in women but worse in men. Heat, alcohol, sunlight, spicy food, and wind might worsen symptoms.

When rosacea is evident on the skin, the blood vessels expand wider and the oil glands get red, hot, and flushed, explains Dija Ayodele, founder of Westroom Aesthetics and the Black Skin Directory. Inflamed oil glands can cause spots, papules, skin thickening, and swelling, especially around the nose and cheeks.

The redness that is the most visible indicator of rosacea is different on darker skin tones.

Why Misdiagnose Rosacea?

Since rosacea is easy to spot on lighter skin tones (at least when it comes to the redness of the skin), it makes sense that having a darker skin tone would change how the inflammation looks and what color it is.

Ayodele says that because Black skin is so dark, this doesn't always show up as much, if at all. On Black skin, rosacea can resemble acne. This can cause misunderstanding, erroneous diagnoses, and improper care.

Dermatology textbooks and publications lack photographs of black and brown skin. Medical professionals don't have the tools they need to care for patients of color, and the next generation of doctors won't have all they need to identify skin diseases on a range of skin tones.

As dermatology uses AI more, erroneous diagnoses may rise. Machines that learn algorithms mainly look at photos of lighter-skinned people.

People of color with rosacea need better treatment from the medical establishment (and many other dermatological diseases).

How to Perceive Rosacea on Black Skin

What indications or symptoms should doctors look for to diagnose rosacea if the skin color is different?

"Some symptoms are the same, such as sensitive skin, stinging, dryness, and/or oiliness," explains GetHarley dermatologist Dr. Alia Ahmed. People of color won't have "red" skin. Deeply pigmented skin is more likely to look gray or purple, and discoloration can happen where there is inflammation.

Whether or not you think you have rosacea, it's important to talk to a dermatologist before trying out a new product regimen to treat irritation.

Rosacea has no cure; treatment involves prescription and over-the-counter skin care treatments and lifestyle adjustments. But with the right medical help, your symptoms (and your quality of life as a whole) can get better.

Calming Rosacea-Affected Skin

Once your dermatologist confirms you have rosacea, you may need to test many products to find the right one.

"It's crucial to use active substances that rebuild your skin's barrier," explains Dr. Ewoma.

In some circumstances, in-clinic treatments like LED light therapy may be needed to strengthen and renew the skin. Doctors can discuss these possibilities during consultations.

“Short-term treatments like Mirvaso gel help decrease redness and flushing,” adds Dr. Ahmed.

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