Simi Pharmacy

Acne treatments are color-blind

SIMI PHARMACY stocks a wide range of products intended to cleanse the skin and prevent or reduce outbreaks of acne.  Nevertheless, last week a customer requested a product we had never heard of before. The customer named a lotion, mentioning that it was an anti-acne product made especially for black skins. 

The request sent us straight to Google.  Skin care based on ethnicity?  Is that a thing?  Separate formulas depending on whether you are Korean, Hispanic, White, Black, Iranian …?

Here’s what we found out:

We get our skin color from melanin.  People can have the same ethnicity – let’s say Pacific Islander – but have widely varying amounts of melanin in their skins.  If you are talking about the kind and amount of sunscreen you need, then the amount of melanin in your skin is relevant.  If you are talking about products that clean your skin, then your particular melanin quotient is irrelevant.  As for acne, it is a worldwide phenomenon and all ethnic groups are equally vulnerable.  Ways to treat and manage acne are the same, regardless of how much or how little melanin is in your skin.

But aren’t there different skin care or acne management products for different kinds of skin?

Of course there are … but skin types are classified as dry or oily, a combination of the two, sensitive or “normal”. 

When it comes to managing acne with non-prescription products, your best bet is a deep cleanser and a night cream or serum containing one or more of six basic ingredients.  Over-the-counter medications can be highly effective, if your acne is not too severe … and they all work basically the same way, regardless of ethnicity.  Either they kill bacteria or they remove dead skin cells and excess oil.  Some claim to do both.

Before you buy, read the label.  Here is a brief description of common ingredients and how they work.


  • Salicylic acid is the principal metabolite in aspirin. When applied to the skin, it encourages shedding of dead cells and reduces inflammation. Non-prescription products may have a strength as high as 2%.
  • Azelaic acid occurs naturally in grains and in some animal products; it is produced by a particular kind of yeast (Malassezia furfur). It is antibacterial and keeps pores open. Dark spots that linger after acne clears respond well to azelaic acid.  This is the ingredient you may need if you naturally have more melanin in your skin.
  • Alpha hydroxy acids are synthetic versions of acids derived from sucrose, fructose or lactose. On the label you may see these acids mentioned as glycolic acid and lactic acid. Alpha hydroxy acids reduce inflammation and prompt the skin to slough off dead cells. These acids also spur the growth of new skin.
  • Both adapalene and retinol are retinoids derived from vitamin A. They work by unclogging pores, removing dead skin cells and oil.  Don’t put adapalene on skin that has a cut, sunburn or eczema. Dry skin is a side effect of adapalene; you will need a moisturizer to counteract it. Retinol is commonly found in anti-aging creams. It chiefly erases acne scars but may also keep acne in check. It stimulates the skin to produce collagen and elastin.
  • Benzoyl peroxide is an anti-bacterial. You don’t really need a strength higher than 2.5%.  In fact, higher strengths are likely to leave the skin dry and irritated. Stay away from benzoyl peroxide if you have sensitive skin.

Here is SIMI PHARMACY’S  advice:

Start with lower strength products and see how your skin responds.

If your acne is really bad, you may benefit from using more than one product.  Choose medications with different active ingredients or combinations of ingredients.

Choose a product you can stick with: Gels and ointments may sting or leave the skin dry.  Creams and ointments may feel unbearably greasy.

Some acne medications increase tendency to sunburn.  Use sunscreen. but not the oily kind.


Wash your face morning and evening. Go for a mild cleanser; don’t use facial scrubs, astringents or masks.

Noncomedogenic is a fancy word for non-oily. In other words, water-based. Noncomedogenic is what you want for your moisturizers, acne concealers and cosmetics.  Oily skin care products, sunscreen and hair products can make acne worse. Choose a hairstyle that keeps hair off the face.

Eat healthy.  Avoid high-glycemic carbohydrates, dairy, saturated fats and trans fats.  Prefer whole grains, legumes and fruits and vegetables.

Good luck with your treatment.  SIMI PHARMACY always likes to see you at your best.

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