Rosacea & Melasma in People of Color

Tuesday 9 February 2021
skin conditions

Table of Contents


I. Melasma in People of Color

a. Symptoms of Melasma

b. Coping with Melasma

II. Understanding Rosacea

a. Rosacea Symptoms in People of Color

b. Rosacea Triggers


Several conditions may affect skin pigment. Melasma and rosacea are two skin conditions that result in skin discoloration. These skin issues are not typically harmful, but they may cause the person affected to feel self-conscious about their appearance. 

These two skin conditions can occur to anyone but may be more noticeable in people with lighter complexions. This may lead to the misconception that only people with lighter skin can get these diseases, but that is not the case. People of color can also develop melasma and rosacea, but it may be missed altogether if you do not know what to look for. Several medications are available to assist in these conditions, including Azelex cream (azelaic acid), Oracea, and hydroquinone 4% cream. Learn more about rosacea and melasma in people of color. [1]    

Melasma in People of Color

Melasma may be more noticeable in lighter complexions, but it predominantly occurs in people with darker skin color. Those of Latin American, Asian, Middle Eastern, and Northern African heritage are more susceptible to melasma. Having a family history of melasma may also increase your risk of this skin condition. [2]

a woman standing in front a bush

Over 90 percent of people with melasma are women. There is no exact reason why melasma occurs, but researchers think it may be related to estrogen and progesterone sensitivity. If your hormone levels fluctuate during pregnancy or hormone therapy, you may trigger melasma. Birth control pills, stress, and thyroid disease are also thought to cause melasma. [3] 

a. Symptoms of Melasma

Melasma patches appear darker than your usual skin color. Patches of discolored skin typically occur on the face in a symmetrical pattern, matching marks on both sides of the face. If other body parts are exposed to the sun regularly, those areas may also be affected. Colored patches most typically occur on the:

  • Cheeks
  • Chin
  • Bridge of the nose
  • Forehead [3]

b. Coping with Melasma

Medications like hydroquinone 4% cream may improve your melasma patches, but other lifestyle changes can also benefit your skin. A daily sunscreen routine of at least 30 SPF can minimize the appearance of patches and discoloration. You may also want to:

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shield the face when you are out in the sun
  • Use makeup to cover areas of discoloration
  • Take your prescribed medication every day
  • Seek out a support group or counselor if you are self-conscious about your melasma [3] 

a blanket with sunglasses, a hat, and sunscreen on top

Understanding Rosacea 

When people think of rosacea, they may only envision the telltale redness and blushing on a pale face. But this is not the case. People of color may be overlooked for this skin condition because the rash is not as noticeable as it is on lighter complexions. This common skin condition involves visible blood vessels on the face that may also produce red, pus-filled bumps on the skin.

Rosacea may resemble acne, but they require different treatment methods. If you have a darker skin tone and suspect rosacea, it is essential to seek out a dermatologist to start rosacea treatment. [4]

Rosacea patients may be self-conscious of their facial redness. They may also experience burning and stinging when water touches the skin or when a skin product is applied. Over time, rosacea may cause more severe problems, like problems with your eyes or rhinophyma (an enlarged, red nose). Because of these unpleasant symptoms, it is essential to receive a proper diagnosis so treatment can begin. Medications like Oracea and Azelex cream (azelaic acid) can assist in rosacea symptoms. Oracea reduces skin inflammation and bumps on the face. [5]  

Azelex cream (azelaic acid) treats mild to moderate acne as well as rosacea symptoms. These drugs reduce the amount of pimple-causing bacteria on the skin, keeping pores open and unblocked. A dermatologist will determine if you are suffering from rosacea or another face-reddening skin disorder. [6]

a. Rosacea Symptoms in People of Color

If you have a darker skin tone, you may have to look out for specific symptoms to determine the presence of rosacea. These symptoms include:

  • Dry, swollen skin patches of darker skin
  • Hard, yellowish-brown bumps around the mouth and/or eyes
  • A dusky brown discoloration to the skin
  • A warm feeling on the skin most of the time
  • An acne-like breakout that acne treatments won’t clear

a man popping a zit on his chin

Rosacea may be affecting your eyes even if you have mild rosacea. Ocular rosacea can cause several unpleasant symptoms, and you should see a dermatologist or ophthalmologist if you experience:

  • Pink eye
  • Burning and stinging in your eyes
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Swollen, warm eyelids
  • Red, bloodshot eyes
  • Crusty eyelids or eyelashes
  • Tearing or dry eyes [1]

b. Rosacea Triggers

Rosacea may develop for several reasons. It may be hereditary or triggered by certain environments or situations. Rosacea symptoms may worsen at certain times of the year, especially in the winter when the face is exposed to cold winds. Rosacea triggers vary from person to person, but the most common ones include: 

  • Spicy foods
  • Hot beverages
  • Exercise
  • Red wine
  • Wind
  • Heat
  • Stress
  • Sunlight exposure [1]

People of color may sometimes ignore rosacea symptoms because they may not be as noticeable on darker skin. If you suspect that you are experiencing odd skin symptoms that are more complicated than acne, you may want to find a dermatologist who can assist in your treatment plan.

The content in this article is intended for informational purposes only. This website does not provide medical advice. In all circumstances, you should always seek the advice of your physician and/or other qualified health professionals(s) for drug, medical condition, or treatment advice. The content provided on this website is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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