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Erma L. Benitez, M.D.
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Black Skin
Most skin diseases that occur in Caucasians also occur in African-Americans. Certain skin problems, though, are more common among balck people.

Dry or "Ashy Skin"
Dry skin can be a problem for African-Americans. It's uncomfortable, and its also easily noticed because of its grayish, "ashy" appearance. Using moisturizers can help, although these products may worsen acne pimpls. Black patients with acne should discontinue using moisturizers and see Dr. B for advice.

​Ashiness can slo affect the scalp. Pomades that make the hair more manageable can decrease scalp dryness. But if pomade spreads to the forehead during sweating it can block pores, causing pimpls called acne cosmetica or pomade acne. If this occurs, stop using the pomade, or apply it one inch behind the hairline.

Pomade can also contribute to a bacterial infection of the scalp called folliculitis, pis bumps and redness around the hair. It can cause hair loss and the spread of infection. If this occurs, discontinue using the pomade and see a dermatologist.

Variations in Skin Color
Skin color is determined by cells called melanocytes. All races have the same number of these cells. In African-American skin, melanocytes produce more pigment and produce it faster than does white skin.

Because of thier skin color, African-Americans are better protected against skin cancer and against premature wrinkling from sun exposure.

Some pigmentary conditions common in blacks are too much color or too little color in certain areas. In the first case, areas of the skin may darken after an injury, such as a cut or a scrape, or after certain skin disorders, such as acne.

If breakouts occur, treat black skin gently. Avoid picking, harsh scrubbing, and abrasive treatments, unless prescribed by Dr. B. Darkened areas of skin may take many month or years to fade, even with medication.

In vitiligo, pigment cells are destroyed and irregular white patches on the skin result. No one knows what causes this condition.

The extent of color loss differs with each person and there is no way to predict how much pigment a person will lose. Some people will lose. Some people lose pigment over their entire bodies. Most patients with vitiligo do not regain skin color without treatment.

Several methods are used to treat vitiligo, but none are perfect. The most common method is PUVA therapy, combining light treatments and medication. In cases where vitiligo affects most of the body it is sometimes best to destroy the remaining normal pigment. Dr. B can determine what treatment is best, based on the extent of the disease.

Pityriasis Alba
People with Pityriasis Alba have round, light patches of the skin covered with fine scales. Most commonly found in children, the patches can occur on any part of the body, but are most noticeable on the face and upper arms. The white patches are the result of mild eczema, and the loss of color is only temporary. This condition can be treated by Dr. B.

Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra
This condition, also called "flesh moles," occurs almost exclusively in African-Americans, and most frequently in women. The brown or black raised dark spots usually appear on the cheeks. They resemble moles or flat warts, although they are not the same. In fact, they are a variant of Seborrheic Keratoses. They are not cancerous but some patients hace them removed for cosmetic reasons.

When the scar from a deep cut or wound extends and spreads beyond the size of the original wound, it is known as a keloid. Keloids may vary in size, shape and location and are found more often in black skin.

Common on the ear lobes, neck, hands or forearms, an injury or infection. Occasionally they occur spontaneously, especially on the mid-chest area. Some person develop keloids after surgery; they may appear on the ear lobes after ear piercing.

Depending on the location of the scar, treatment may consist of cortisone injections, pressure, silicone gels, surgery, laser treatment or radiation therapy. Unfortunately, keloids tend to return, even with treatment.

Folliculitis Keloidalis
SOme black men develop keloid-like scars on the back of their necks. The area may itch and sometimes becomes infected. The sooner these bumps and scars are treated by Dr. B the better. They will continue to grow and become harder to treat.

African-American hair is unique in its shape and structure. The hair on the head, as well as in the beard, is likely to be rightly curled. Certain techniques and preparations used to treat black hair, can lead to a variety of problems.