On May 5th and 6th of this year, the 2018 Skin of Color Update took place in NYC and gathered physicians and dermatologists from the world over. As was the case for the past editions, it gave attendees and healthcare practitioners the opportunity to leave with critical annual updates and fresh practical insights in skin of color dermatology.

The Skin of Color Update has now become an institution in the world of dermatology. The event was first established by Susan C. Taylor, MD. in 2004. An Associate Professor of Dermatology at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Society she founded is committed to the education of health care providers and the general public on dermatologic health issues related to skin of color.

Lighter skin as a cultural ideal : a legacy

As the skin of population in the US and in many other regions of the world is shifting to darker complexions due to demographic and migratory changes, and therefore the dermatology community will inevitably be confronted with cutaneous diseases that occur more often in people with pigmented skin and which are unique to this population. An increase in the volume of specialized dermatology literature, as well as mutualized research are necessary, and this is what the SOC Update is endeavoring to foster.

It is projected that by 2020, individuals of non-Caucasian, multi-racial descent will comprise more than 50% of the population. At the same time, and for centuries, lighter skin and blond hair have been – and still are – associated with a beauty ideal. Whether consciously or unconsciously among individuals and populations, light skin has often been a marker of social status and potential professional and personal success throughout the world. Most of it stems from memories from Western nations’ colonial times which have left an imprint on the countries formerly colonized.


Skin lightening products: Growing sales worldwide

Just about all skin lightening manufacturers and resellers have recently noticed the increase in sales volumes for skin bleaching products and treatments, and this is true for virtually all regions around the world: primarily the Asia-pacific area, but also for many African states, such as Nigeria, not to mention the Middle East and the United-States.

This global phenomenon has led cosmetics brands to target and develop markets based on the global trend of skin lightening. In fact, global spending on skin lightening is projected to triple to $31.2 billion by 2024. As expected, treatment options are very diverse, and range from topical skin bleaching creams and ointments to muscular and I.V. injections. This is where expertise from dermatology practitioners and awareness from skin care professionals must come in and address the needs of individuals who wish to undergo skin lightening treatments or purchase skin lighteners.

This is precisely one of the main motives behind the creation and development of events such as the Skin of Color Update: throughout the seminar, dermatologists and skin care professionals have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with different procedures and techniques specific to skin of color products and treatments, and have numerous opportunities to obtain updates on the latest research and to attend roundtable sessions, workshops, working groups, live laser demonstration, or witness new cosmetic procedures. They also have the opportunity to attend panel discussions, and exchange with expert panels on a Q&A-basis.


One paramount piece of advice: photoprotection and dermatologist-monitored peels

All physicians and dermatologists attending the event reiterated the single most important piece of advice to bear in mind; although the incidence of skin cancers is much higher in Caucasians, individuals from all races can develop skin cancers in sun exposed sites, and yet many patients with skin of color do not realize that they need to adopt a comprehensive photoprotection to prevent skin cancer and photoaging. Indeed, skin cancers are the most common types of cancer around the world, affecting every gender, race, skin type, and nationality. As a result, every professional speaker present at the seminar agreed that educating the patient was of crucial importance.

All agreed also that hydroquinone-free peels should be used for those patients who wish to undergo such treatments, and they should always be decided and monitored by patented skin care professionals and dermatologists, so as to guarantee appropriate treatment and care quality. Many professionals also emphasized the fact there is a difference between skin lightening and skin bleaching, which are different types of treatments which are not systematically interchangeable, and therefore not all patient situations and skins are eligible for both, especially in case of hyperpigmentation problems such as when patients are impacted by melasma or have to undergone treatment following excessive UV exposure.