Rosacea, known as the “Curse of the Celts” since it was thought to affect mainly fair skinned people of Northern European descent, may appear more often in people of color than previously suspected and may be underdiagnosed or misdiagnosed.
According to Dr. Jerry Tan, Windsor dermatologist, researcher and spokesperson for the Acne and Rosacea Society of Canada. “Emerging research is showing rosacea is more common in those of various ethnicities and darker skin phototypes than previously thought.”
Egyptian-born Canadian actor, Christine Solomon, joined the society’s 2018 Rosacea Awareness Campaign to bring attention to the issue of rosacea in people of colour and share her experiences with the condition.
Dr. Tan, Canadian co-author of “Rosacea comorbidities and future research” (1), a recently published study discussing the issue of research into rosacea in people of colour explains that diagnosing rosacea in those with darker skin types is challenging.
“One of the classical hallmarks of rosacea is background facial redness. This feature, however, is particularly hard to evaluate in the context of dark skin. Because of that, it is likely that rosacea has been underdiagnosed and understudied in populations with darker skin.
“Rosacea symptoms in people of colour may well be the same but the sign of redness is often not prominent,” he added. “In darker skin types, the facial redness of rosacea can look like a dusky brown or purple discolouration.
“An alternative means of detection would be to ask about the sensations of rosacea such as skin burning, stinging, frequent flushing, as well as bumps and pimples.”
The symptom of pimples rang true for actress and person of colour, Christine Solomon, who has been dealing with rosacea since she was a teenager. “As a teen, I began to notice small breakouts on my cheeks. I thought it was acne. I purchased acne products off the shelf, and that turned out to be a big mistake! My cheeks became inflamed because of the ingredients in those products, and my condition worsened. That’s when I consulted a dermatologist for the first time, and he diagnosed me with rosacea at the age of 14 years old,” she says.
Christine, who limits rosacea outbreaks with careful attention to skin care, diet and stress, adds: “I take this condition very seriously and do my best to minimize its effects, because if blood vessels become visible on the cheeks and nose, I know it can be permanent.
“Rosacea does not go away on its own and if left untreated, it may worsen over time. There may be permanent skin and eye damage in the long term. It is not something you just cover up with no regard to trying to heal it.” (For full story, see Q & A with Christine Solomon).
On the emerging issue of rosacea in people in colour, Dr. Tan adds a final insight: “There is a possibility that rosacea is a global skin condition that affects people all over the world of different ethnicities and skin types. More research is needed as well as a clear means of diagnosis for patients of various ethnicities and phototypes when facial redness is not completely apparent.”
(1). Rosacea comorbidities and future research: The 2017 update by the National Rosacea Society Expert Committee. Gallo RL, Granstein RD, Kang S, Mannis M, Steinhoff M, Tan J, Thiboutot D.J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018 Jan;78(1):167-170. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2017.06.150
Read Christine Solomon’s Q & A sharing her experiences with rosacea and ways she copes with the condition
For more information about rosacea, please visit www.RosaceaHelp.ca , a website of the Acne and Rosacea Society of Canada.