Black Women With Skin Conditions Share Their Paths to Diagnosis

“Accepting that having acne was my new normal, it opened up a portal in my life,” says influencer Nazhaya “Barce” Barcelona. In the fall of her sophomore year of college, she returned to school with her face in an acne breakout that only worsened over time. “I couldn’t put my finger on the root of the issue for years,” she recalls. “I blamed it on so many things: skin-care products, hair products, food, the water in my college town.” 

Unlike many of the other skin ailments featured in this piece, acne is something most people encounter (up to 85 percent of us, in fact). But, as Aguh explains, it can present differently on darker skin, and treatment may look different as well. While acne pimples look similar in all skin tones, Aguh explains, acne is more likely to leave behind spots of discoloration in more deeply pigmented skin tones, which feels like a problem caused by another problem. “For this reason, when treating acne in brown skin, it is very important to use medications that will not only treat the active, inflamed acne pimples, but also are designed to treat the discoloration as well,” says Diggs.

For Barcelona, a visit to the dermatologist meant she had medical intervention: “My first time going to the dermatologist, I was very excited to get a topical prescription that was medically engineered to clear my skin.” 

But a doctor’s prescription can only do so much; treatment required work on her mental health too. Barcelona felt that acne had tainted her membership in the community of “beautiful people.” With acne, Barcelona shares, “self-love and self-discovery presented itself to me in a way I would’ve never experienced if I had clear skin all my life.” She explains, “I had to navigate social interactions, romantic relationships, and self-reflection with a new face. Acne created a mental and spiritual wound that was very painful and uncomfortable to wear every day. It blinded me to who I really was.”

“Then, one day,” Barcelona continues, “I decided to be brave. I was exhausted from trying to hide and feeling shame about how I looked. I told myself that I wasn’t going to torture myself like this anymore. I wasn’t sure if people really thought I looked as disgusting and scary as I thought I did, but I decided that day that even if they did, I didn’t care anymore. I was beautiful before the acne, and I’ll continue to be beautiful with it.” 

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