[OPINION] Black Skin, White Dermatologist

I am a dermatologist’s dream. I was diagnosed with eczema as an infant, skin sarcoidoisis as a teen and a nasty case of scalp seborrheic dermatitis just last week. I’ve spent so much time in my derm’s office, I can randomly spout off a legion of steroid creams and ointments in order of medicinal strength. The sum total of my life’s co-payments (I’m only 28, by the way) could probably bless someone with a down payment on a house – a nice one. Though my ridiculously sensitive skin has caused me plenty of tears and embarrassment, it forced me to learn more about my body as a Black woman.

Simply put, we are different. After my first bout with sarcoid, which affects African-American women more than any other ethnic group, I took it upon myself to begin healing myself from the inside out with herbs, supplements and natural cures. However, after six years of effectively managing my inflammation and dryness, my itchy scalp was determined to destroy me. After vying never to go back to the seventy-year-old, Caucasian male dermatologist my insurance first suggested, I scoured the city for a more modern approach. Yes, I’m biased and I’ve found comfort in having Black female doctors for all of my needs. My therapist is a sister. My OBGYN is a sister. If for some reason I needed a podiatrist, I’d search the high heavens for a sister.They understand me.

“Dr. Baker is available…” the assistant told me after I’d requested the new facility’s only Black female dermatologist and read through her long list of specialties. “But not until three weeks from now.” Unacceptable. I took the next best thing and chose another non-black female doctor with an adorable smile because I needed care immediately.

As I sat there attempting to share my issues with my new cutesy doctor, she rushed me and tossed out a few thousand creams for the nurse to jot down—many of which I’d already tried. Dealing with scalp issues, I’d been concerned about hair thinning and I wanted to ensure that her prescriptions would not further break down my tortured curls.

“What will this serum do to my hair?”

“It’ll be fine. See you in four weeks,” she unenthusiastically said before jetting out of the door without answering the bulk of the questions I’d asked. Many were personal and kind of ethnic-specific, concerning discoloration and how the scalp serum would affect natural hair. The nurse was even less interested. I left with a stack of prescriptions and a hope that at least one would work. As I headed back to my car, I vowed to check out Dr. Baker, but to also continue my own skin education.

Though these medical professionals spend more than a decade learning the inner workings of the human body, they are not expertly trained in addressing my brown skin matters and it shows.

However, several skin care lines created by Black women have done an amazing job of addressing many of our plaguing issues. Harvard-trained Dr. Susan Taylor’s RX for Brown Skin works wonders for evening our varying tones and banishing dark spots and scars. We’re head over heels for Dr. Heather Wooler-Lloyd's Specific Beauty line, a godsend for people of color with severely sensitive and dry skin.

Both women also offer a wealth of skin gems on their websites. Do yourself a favor and infuse tons of personal research into your regimen. 

What are some of your skincare stories? Tell us how you're dealing.