Psoriasis in Skin of Color

August is national psoriasis awareness month, and yes people of all skin colors can develop psoriasis. There are some differences between what you’ll see on varying skin colors.

Let’s start with what psoriasis is. 

Psoriasis is a skin disease associated with the immune system which causes your skin cells to reproduce too quickly. According to Dr. Sonam Rama, board-certified dermatologist with Forefront Dermatology, “a normal skin cell matures and falls off the body’s surface in 28 to 30 days. However, skin affected by psoriasis takes only three to four days to mature and move to the surface. Instead of the cells falling off, they pile up and form thick, itchy scaly lesions.”

What triggers psoriasis?

People with psoriasis have flare-ups that are caused by “triggers.” Triggers are not universal – what may cause one person’s psoriasis to become active may not affect another’s. Determining what your psoriasis triggers are is the best first step in long-term treatment success.

  • Stress – it is common for 30 to 50 percent of patients to report a flare-up following stress, usually within 30 days of the stress event. It is important for psoriasis sufferers to effectively cope with stress.
  • Skin Injury – studies have shown that up to 90 percent of patients have a flare-up that will develop in the injured site as it heals.
  • Infection – a study of 245 children revealed that 25 percent had an onset of psoriasis following an infection such as upper respiratory infections. Infections are a common trigger to the guttate subtype of psoriasis.
  • Alcohol – researchers believe that heavy alcohol consumption affects psoriasis by slowing down or stopping the effects of the medications, lowering your immune function, increasing inflammation, and causing dehydration. All of these effects of alcohol consumption tie heavily into the healthiness of your skin in general, not just individuals with psoriasis.

How does psoriasis differ in different skin colors?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, in fair-skinned people, psoriasis tends to be red or pink, and the scale is often silvery white. A Hispanic person is more likely to have salmon-colored psoriasis and silvery-white scales. In African Americans, psoriasis often looks violet and the scale gray. In dark skin, psoriasis can also be dark brown and difficult to see.

“There are also differences when individual psoriasis plaques clear up,” noted Dr. Rama. “On medium to dark skin tones, you may see lighter or darker patches of skin where psoriasis once was. This is known as hyperpigmentation. These patches are not scars and will eventually disappear, but it may take anywhere from 3 to 18 months to completely disappear.” The amount of time depends on the patient’s skin tone.

Treating Psoriasis

Treatment for psoriasis is relatively the same no matter what color of skin. “Treatment depends on how serious the disease, the size of the psoriasis patches, and the type of psoriasis,” noted Dr. Rama. “Treatments work differently for each sufferer. Your dermatologist may switch treatments if one doesn’t work, if there is a bad reaction or if your current treatment stops working.  The most common treatment options dermatologists use include topical treatments, light therapy, prescription medication, or combination therapy. Everyone’s body and immune system are different, so we tailor the treatment towards you as the patient, not just psoriasis as the disease.”

Are you suffering from psoriasis?

If you believe you are suffering from psoriasis and don’t know where to turn, the skincare experts at Forefront Dermatology are here to help. We offer comprehensive and compassionate care for all skin conditions, not just psoriasis, and create customized treatment plans to fit your lifestyle and budget!  Find a location near you today.