Explore a simple and effective 6-step skincare routine on how to get rid of acne in dark skin.
For those of us with skin of colour, particularly those with oily and sensitive acne-prone skin types, getting rid of acne can be agonising, as acne in dark skin is often accompanied by dark spots or patches called post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH).
The term “dark skin” here refers to diverse skin types and complexions. It includes people of African, Asian, Latino, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Native American descent, because they share some common skincare concerns.
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Whilst we continue to try out an array of fancy and not-so-fancy skincare products, with the hope of finding the holy grail that will give us the smooth skin we are after, there are a few things people with darker skin can do at home to safely help treat their acne.
Successfully clearing acne or reducing skin inflammation in people with melanin rich skin is essential for helping effectively fade the dark spots that linger afterwards.
Whether you are dealing with whiteheads (closed comedo), blackheads (open comedo), pimples (a pustule or a papule), nodules, cystic acne or a combination of these breakouts, here are simple tips that helped clear my skin 10 years ago that you might wish to explore.
Make some diet and lifestyle changes to help reduce skin inflammation
I cannot emphasise enough how important it is for people with dark skin suffering from severe acne, particularly those with oily and sensitive acne-prone skin types, to revisit their diet and their lifestyles if they are serious about getting rid of acne in a sustainable way. Work needs to start from the inside out to achieve the best possible outcome, and only you can do it.
Spend time identifying over a three to six-month period the food that might trigger your skin inflammation, and make the conscious decision to either reduce their consumption or eliminate them completely from your diet.
People of colour with oily and acne-prone skin should do the best they can to stay away from occlusive skincare, haircare, and colour cosmetics containing waxes, petrolatum, dimethicone, silicone and mineral oil due to their heavy consistency.
Regular weekly exercise in non-heat induced environments and drinking 2.7 litres of water daily help you maintain a healthy weight, flush toxins out of your immune system, and lock in moisture, giving you a healthy glow.
Adopt double cleansing in your skincare routine
Double cleansing is a two-step process to deeply cleanse skin of all makeup and surface impurities. It involves two cleansers with distinct purposes that are used in a specific order.
To effectively get rid of acne in skin dark skin, double cleansing with an oil and then a water-based cleanser is ideal as it helps take away excess sebum and grime on the skin.
I must confess that at the beginning of my sensitive acne-prone dark skin “purging” journey, double-cleansing was embedded in my morning and evening skincare routines. Now, I double-cleanse two to three times per week and everytime I wear makeup.
TATCHA Camellia Cleansing Oil, DHC Deep Cleansing Oil, Heimish All Clean Balm, and Eve Lom Gel Balm Cleanser are some of the best oil cleansers in the market for oily acne-prone skin. For people of colour with sensitive acne-prone skin type, I will recommend you go for non-comedogenic fractionated coconut oil or hypoallergenic AROMATICA Natural Coconut Cleansing Oil instead.
For a water-based cleanser, look for a foam-based face wash or cleansing gel containing AHA, BHA, niacinamide, charcoal and clay that deep cleanses without stripping the skin of all the oil. BHAs (Beta Hydroxy Acids) such as salicylic acid as oil-soluble acids are more suitable for oily skins, as they penetrate deeply into the pores.
Mario Badescu Acne Facial Cleanser, Dermalogica clearing Skin Wash, CeraVe Foaming Cleanser for normal to oily skin, and La Roche Posay Effaclar Mousse Cleansing Gel are all options you could consider.
For sensitive acne-prone skin of colour however, lactic acid or mandelic acid as AHAs (AHA Alpha Hydroxy Acids) work much better and are much gentler on the skin than salicylic acid at 5% concentration, and other AHAs such as citric acid and glycolic acid, or benzoyl peroxide that tend to dry out the skin. These AHAs primarily work on the surface of the skin. Both lactic acid and mandelic acid help reduce pore appearance, treat hyperpigmentation, and improve skin tone.
My daily go-to product at the moment is the affordable Eucerin DermoPURIFYER Oil Control Cleansing Gel for blemish-prone skin whose lactic acid and Ampho-Tensides and a lower concentration of salicylic acid at less than 2% are simply AWESOME.
Two other water-based cleansers definitely worth checking out are fragrance free and non-comedogenic Cetaphil Gentle Skin Cleanser and CeraVe Hydrating Cleanser. The latter contains 3 essential ceramides and skin retaining moisture hyaluronic acid.
However, I need to state that at a friend’s recommendation I started the “purging” phase of my skincare journey with the Dudu Osun African black soap, which despite its drying effects, rapidly cleared and helped fade dark spots on my African dark skin in less than 10 days.
You have no idea how impressed I was and still am 10 years later by this life-changing heritage product that did for me what my expensive dermatologist-approved and recommended skincare products and clinical treatments could not do in 25 years. This is the reason why the African black soap still remains a staple 2 to 3 times a week in my skincare routine when I go for a deep cleansing, and it does the job brilliantly.
When using the Dudu Osun soap bar that I foam in my hand with a few drops of water, I reverse my double-cleansing method. I first start with the soap foam and then I follow it with AROMATICA Natural Coconut Cleansing Oil that I wipe off my face with a cotton pad infused with Eucerin DermoPURIFYER Oil Control Toner. This leaves my skin fresh, supple, and hydrated. Another skin-brightening lactic acid infused toner that works wonders in the treatment of acne in skin of colour is the REN Clean Skincare Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Tonic. This is my second go-to toner that I get if I cannot get hold of my first option.
Include gentle exfoliants in your skincare routine to unclog pores
Using a gentle exfoliant 2 to 3 times a week, after your face wash (and toner if one is used), is a handy way of cleansing oil build-up in oily and acne-prone skin, and it is effective in supporting the treatment of acne in skin of colour.
Paula’s Choice Skin Perfecting 2% BHA Liquid Exfoliant , Dr Murad Hydration AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser, and No7 Laboratories Clearing Skin Paste that contains salicylic acid at 2% only, applied 1-2 times a week are highly efficient in treating acne in skin of colour.
Charcoal face masks and clay face masks applied once a week, in conjunction with one of the above exfoliants used 1-2 times weekly, will help decongest large and clogged pores and even skin tone. Both charcoal and clay have unique absorbent properties that gently draw out skin impurities and can help dislodge debris from congested pores. Alternatively, you can initially opt to use charcoal and clay face masks 2 to 3 times a week with no other gentle exfoliant to softly unclog pores.
Apply a facial oil or a serum to reduce inflammation and hyperpigmentation
After your face wash and toner, you can opt to apply 2 drops of pure and unrefined jojoba oil twice daily on your face. It helps regulate sebum production of oily skin and acne-prone skin while soothing sensitive or inflamed skin. Jojoba oil stimulates collagen production and can help shield skin against UV damage.
This is an option I will recommend going for in the first 3 months of your anti-acne skincare routine. The Jojoba Company 100% Natural Australian Jojoba Oil is my all-time favourite product that I use all-year round to maintain a balanced sebum production.
Another safe option to treat acne in skin of colour once your skin becomes less inflamed is to swap your jojoba oil for a bakuchiol serum , a plant-based alternative to retinol, you can apply twice daily. This will help lessen the appearance of dark spots by evening your skin tone and will speed up skin cell regeneration without causing skin irritation or dryness.
Choose an appropriate moisturiser for people with skin of colour
When treating acne in skin of colour it it is important to go for moisturisers with unsaturated fatty acids such as alpha-oleic acid, oleic acid, and linoleic acid, because they are suitable in the treatment of hyperpigmentation and acne in skin of colour due to their ability to decrease tyrosinase production.
Organic shea butter, organic argan oil, Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturiser, or Skinceuticals Daily Moisture are a few options for you to explore.
Select the right mineral sunscreen formulated for skin of colour
Apply sunscreen as the last step of your daily skincare routine, 30 minutes before leaving the house and every two hours to maintain optimum performance.
Mineral sunscreen, also known as physical sunscreen better supports the treatment of acne in skin of colour, because of the zinc oxide and titanium oxide active ingredients which form a barrier on the surface of the skin that helps reflect UV rays away from the skin.
There are already a number of mineral sunscreens on the market that leave no white cast on skin of colour that you can opt for. Biossance Squalane + Zinc Sheer Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30, Black Girl Sunscreen SPF 30, Krave Beauty The Beet Shield sunscreen, Eleven By Venus On-The-Defense Sunscreen, and Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen are options for you to choose from.
To safely and efficiently treat acne in skin of colour, here are a few simple steps to consider following:
- Make some diet and lifestyle changes to help reduce skin inflammation sustainably
- Adopt double-cleansing in your skincare routine with an oil cleanser and a water based gel or foam cleanser
- Include gentle exfoliants 2-3 times per week in your skincare routine to unclog pores
- Apply a facial oil or a serum to reduce skin inflammation and hyperpigmentation
- Choose an appropriate moisturiser with unsaturated acids for people with skin of colour
- Select the right mineral sunscreen formulated for skin of colour
This blog post is not intended to provide diagnosis, treatment, or medical advice in any form or shape. Content provided on this platform is strictly for informational purposes only. This is based on my own research and reading of clinical studies in the beauty industry, keeping updated about new changes in the cosmetics market, and my personal journey of battling for over 25 years with severe acne and pigmentation disorders. Please consult with a physician or other healthcare professional regarding any medical or health-related diagnosis or treatment options you might have. Information on this platform should not be considered as a substitute for advice from a healthcare professional. The statements made about specific products throughout this article are not to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent disease.