If you image search “eczema symptoms” you will see primarily light skin tones with patches of inflamed red skin, but the examples of eczema symptoms on darker skin are few and far between. This is alarming considering that eczema is more common and often more severe in people of African descent.
Experts believe that eczema is also underdiagnosed amongst black individuals, because of this lack of visibility – less than five percent of images in medical textbooks feature dark skin.
The appearance of eczema varies person to person, and the medical literature doesn’t contain the skin tone diversity necessary to diagnose all races with skin conditions. So let’s delve into how eczema symptoms vary between skin tones, so you can have a better grasp on your health and communicate your concerns with your doctor or dermatologist.
What is eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that affects 1 in 10 Americans. There are seven types of eczema, but it most often refers to atopic dermatitis which is the most common form of eczema.
It’s unknown what exactly causes eczema, but your genetics, environment, and immune system all come into play.
It typically begins in childhood and carries on into adulthood, but it can develop during any time. There are not many risk factors for eczema, but over time it can damage your skin barrier which can lead to an increase in infections.
While there is no treatment for eczema, it is a very manageable condition. With the correct fragrance free, sensitive skin care, help from a dermatologist, and a few extra tools, the symptoms of eczema can be controlled.
Symptoms of eczema
The main symptom of eczema is extremely dry, rough, flakey, itchy skin. If symptoms worsen it could develop into:
- More severe itching
- Thickened, scaly skin (lichenification)
- Small, raised bumps
- Soreness and rawness
- Scratch marks (excoriation)
- Oozing yellowish fluid (could signal an infection)
The symptoms of eczema can appear on any part of the body, but it’s most common on the neck, upper arms, back, elbow and knee creases, and the backs of hands, feet, fingers and toes.
Eczema flare ups can occur when exposed to irritating ingredients, extreme weather conditions, pollutants, stress, pollen, pet dander, and other common allergens.
Is Eczema more common on Dark Skin?
African Americans and other dark skinned individuals make up a large portion of the eczema population. Eczema affects about 20% of black children, the risk for severe eczema is six times higher than that of white children. Additionally, those with dark skin and eczema may suffer from more inflammation and lasting pigmentary changes than those with light skin.
It’s unknown why exactly eczema rates vary amongst skin tones, but some studies show that skin with high levels of melanin (the pigment that is responsible for the dark brown or black appearance of skin, hair, and eyes) is less likely to retain water, so those with melanin-rich skin are more likely to deal with excessive dryness and eczema.
How Eczema on Dark Skin Varies
To reiterate, eczema is a manageable condition, but in order to manage it you need to recognize and correctly diagnose it first.
Itching and dryness can be detected on any skin tone, but the discoloration and rashes that come with eczema can vary person to person and they are often less visible on dark skin. On white skin, eczema appears as patches of red skin, but on black skin, it may be dark brown, purple, or gray patches.
Additionally, black people with eczema are more likely to have additional eczema symptoms like:
- Dryness and dark circles around the eye area
- Papular eczema - small bumps on the torso, arms, and legs that resemble goosebumps
Regardless of skin color, eczema treatment is the same, so if you have any of the symptoms of eczema, see your doctor or dermatologist for a diagnosis and treatment plan which may include:
- avoiding hot showers
- applying topical steroid creams to affected areas
- light therapy treatments
- using fragrance and sulfate free skin care products
- taking prescription oral medications
- managing stress
Examples of Eczema on Black Skin
Skin Care for Eczema
The most important element of your eczema skin care routine is a nourishing moisturizer to restore and lock in any water that your skin has lost. Dermatologists recommend a rich, fragrance free moisturizer with simple ingredients.
Cleure Night Cream