The Skin of Color Society Media Day was an event to spread knowledge about the importance of not only maintaining ethnic skin, but to explain some of the advances made in technology. Sponsored by Proctor and Gamble, who provided all attendees with awesome swag bags (see below), as well as Merz Aesthetics and Bayer Healthcare, the morning event was full of medical expertise. Throughout every presentation, the statistics were somewhat startling. Although we (African-Americans) are least likely to suffer from various skin related diseases, in almost every instance we are more likely to miss opportunities for prevention and miss early detection. Additionally, more often than not we do not reach out to a board certified dermatologist, with special training in treating skin of color as soon as possible. We absolutely must do better. The Skin of Color Society aims to spread the word and it is an important initiative.
PREVENTION Women of Color are not immune to the ravages of the sun. We must wear sunblock of at least SPF 30 just like every other ethnicity. In addition to preventing serious and irreversible sun damage, taking an extra moment to put on sunblock, a hat, and sunglasses will keep us looking younger longer. Also, protect your hair while you have it! Avoid tight hair styles and harsh chemical treatments. Treat your hair with care. Make sure you are ingesting the proper amounts of iron, vitamin D, and zinc. Dr. Amy McMichael from the SOCS gave a great presentation about hair disorders in the African-American community. Prevention is a key factor.
DETECTION We must check ourselves at regular intervals for skin abnormalities. Yes, Black people can get skin cancer. In fact, we are more likely to die from it than other ethnicities. Dr. Andrew Alexis used the late Bob Marley who passed away from skin cancer at the age of 37 as an example. It started on his toe and later spread to his vital organs. Here's the important thing to remember, skin cancer is not always related to sun exposure. Many types start to show at the soles of the feet, in between the toes, and on the palms of the hands. Check these areas often. If you find any abnormal spots, get them checked out. If you notice something abnormal in your hair, have it looked at by a board certified dermatologist. Furthermore, not all alopecia (hair loss) is traction alopecia (hair loss due to tightly pulled styles that ultimatley lift hair from the root)! In the African-American community, we hear a lot about hair loss due to tight weaves, and braids. Frontal fibrosing alopecia (hair loss or scarring in the front areat of the scalp) can mimic traction alopecia. If you notice a small change in the pattern of your hair, don't ignore it. If you detect it, get it checked out!
INSPECTION Go to a doctor. Don't diagnose yourself. Don't assume something is minor or that nothing can be done. Often times a condition could have been easily remediated if caught early. If you notice an abnormalities in your hair, again you should have the area looked at by a board certified dermatologist with special training in treating skin of color. If you see a new growth in your skin, or abnormalities in your finger nails, go to a professional. Don't assume something will go away on it's own or that you have to live with it.
A qualified and certified dermatologist should have different technologies for different procedures. If you go to a facility that only has one laser for all procedures, do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Get out of there. In addition to preventing, detecting, and inspecting, here are five quick tips to help you on your skin journey:
- There are more non-invasive options than there were before. A biopsy may not be the only option. Talk to your doctor about procedures that don't require cutting.
- All melanomas are curable if caught early enough. Don't let fear stop you from seeing a professional. Use your resources
- A doctor's goal should be to treat the causes of pigmentary issues and not just the symptoms. Get to the root of the matter. Speak candidly with your doctor so that they can help you the best way they can.
- Research continues to show that as many as 40% of African-American women avoid exercise due to hairstyles. Find styles that allow you to take care of yourself and get active.
- Remember. Pay attention to your hair, skin, and nails. Don't ignore small changes in your body. Get these changes examined by a board certified dermatologist.
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