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Acne-associated hyperpigmentation an important consideration in patients with skin of color

NEW YORK– When treating patients with skin of color for acne, treatment goals may vary from those of patients with lighter skin, according to Andrew F. Alexis, MD.

For example, in patients with Fitzpatrick skin types V and VI, the desired treatment outcome is not only resolution of acne, but also resolution of hyperpigmentation, said Dr. Alexis, chairman of the department of dermatology at Mount Sinai St. Luke’s and Mount Sinai West, New York, N.Y.

“Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation is often the driving force for the dermatology consult” in individuals with skin of color, Dr. Alexis said at the summer meeting of the American Academy of Dermatology. “They may be just as concerned about their dark spots as underlying acne,” he noted, citing a study that he coauthored (J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014 Jul;7[7]:19-31).

In the study – a survey of patients with acne to determine which treatment outcomes were most important – 41.6% of the nonwhite female patients reported that clearance of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation was the most important goal, compared with 8.4% of white female respondents (P less than .0001).

As with so many conditions that require a prolonged course of treatment, setting expectations is a key part of the dermatologist’s communication with the patient, Dr. Alexis continued. “Make sure that they know that you are going to treat the dark spots,” and that it will take time “to get to the desired endpoint.”

It’s important to avoid undertreating patients, especially darker-skinned patients, where ongoing subclinical inflammation may contribute to hyperpigmentation. Even in lesions that appear grossly noninflamed, biopsies may find histological evidence of inflammation, with increased T-cell infiltration of the pilosebaceous units, Dr. Alexis said.

However, there’s always a balancing act in determining how aggressively to treat patients, he added. Dermatologists have to be aware of the risk of hypertrophic scar formation in darker-skinned individuals, especially in truncal areas.

When addressing the acne, step one is to aggressively reduce acne-associated inflammation to reduce potential sequelae. This can be done with any of a number of agents, such as retinoids, benzoyl peroxide, dapsone, azelaic acid, and even intralesional corticosteroid injections, he said.

“All agents have been considered in darker skin types,” he said, noting that “retinoids are particularly important because they can also treat postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.” Tretinoin 0.1% cream and tazarotene 0.1% cream are both good choices, he added.

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About Dr. J. Kim

Dr Kim developed (and is continuing to develop) dermatology research news as we way from dermatologists to stay on top of the latest advances in the field of dermatology.

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