Moisturizers containing ceramide can be a helpful adjunctive therapy in treating acne,14 especially in patients with AD. Modifications to application of acne medications, such as using topical retinoids every other night or mixing them with moisturizers to minimize dryness, may be beneficial to these patients. Dapsone gel 7.5% used daily also may be an option for adolescents with AD and AV. A double-blind, vehicle-controlled study demonstrated that dapsone is safe and effective for patients 12 years and older with moderate acne, and patients with Fitzpatrick skin types IV to VI rated local scaling, erythema, dryness, and stinging/burning as “none” in the study.15 Another potentially helpful topical agent in patients with AD and AV is sulfacetamide, as it is not likely to cause dryness of the skin. In a small study, sodium sulfacetamide 10% and sulfur 5% in an emollient foam vehicle showed no residual film or sulfur smell and resulted in acne reduction of 50%.16
Patients with skin of color often experience PIH in AD and acne or hypopigmentation from inflammatory dermatoses including AD.17,18 In addition to the dryness from AD and topical retinoid use, patients with skin of color may develop irritant contact dermatitis, thus leading to PIH.13 Dryness and irritant contact dermatitis also can be seen with the use of benzoyl peroxide in black patients. Because of these effects, gentle moisturizers are recommended, and both benzoyl peroxide and retinoids should be initiated at lower doses in patients with skin of color.13
For patients with severe nodulocystic acne, isotretinoin is the treatment of choice in patients with skin of color,13 but there is a dearth of clinical studies addressing complications seen in black adolescents on this treatment, especially with respect to those with AD. Of note, systemic antibiotics typically are initiated before isotretinoin; however, this strategy is falling out of favor due to concern for antibiotic resistance with long-term use.19
Impact of Athletics on AD in Black Adolescents
Because of the exacerbating effects of perspiration and heat causing itch and irritation in patients with AD, it is frequently advised that pediatric patients limit their participation in athletics because of the exacerbating effects of strenuous physical exercise on their disease.12 In one study, 429 pediatric patients or their parents/guardians completed QOL questionnaires; 89% of patients 15 years and younger with severe AD reported that their disease was impacted by athletics and outdoor activities, and 86% of these pediatric patients with severe AD responded that their social lives and leisure activities were impacted.20 Because adolescents often are involved in athletics or have mandatory physical education classes, AD may be isolating and may have a severe impact on self-esteem.
Aggressive treatment of AD with topical and systemic medications may be helpful in adolescents who may be reluctant to participate in sports because of teasing, bullying, or worsening of symptoms with heat or sweating.21 Now that dupilumab is available for adolescents, there is a chance that patients with severe and/or recalcitrant disease managed on this medication can achieve better control of their symptoms without the laboratory requirement of methotrexate and the difficulties of topical medication application, allowing them to engage in mandatory athletic classes as well as desired organized sports.