Skin of Color

Atopic Dermatitis in Adolescents With Skin of Color

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Use of Cosmetics for AD

Many adolescents experiment with cosmetics, and those with AD may use cosmetic products to cover hyperpigmented or hypopigmented lesions.18 In patients with active AD or increased sensitivity to allergens in cosmetic products, use of makeup can be a contributing factor for AD flares. Acne associated with cosmetics is especially important to consider in darker-skinned patients who may use makeup that is opaque and contains oil to conceal acne or PIH.

Allergens can be present in both cosmetics and pharmaceutical topical agents, and a Brazilian study found that approximately 89% of 813 prescription and nonprescription products (eg, topical drugs, sunscreens, moisturizers, soaps, cleansing lotions, shampoos, cosmeceuticals) contained allergens.22 Patients with AD have a higher prevalence of contact sensitization to fragrances, including balsam of Peru.23 Some AD treatments that contain fragrances have caused further skin issues in a few patients. In one case series, 3 pediatric patients developed allergic contact dermatitis to Myroxylon pereirae (balsam of Peru) when using topical treatments for their AD, and their symptoms of scalp inflammation and alopecia resolved with discontinuation.23

In a Dutch study, sensitization to Fragrance Mix I and M pereirae as well as other ingredients (eg, lanolin alcohol, Amerchol™ L 101 [a lanolin product]) was notably more common in pediatric patients with AD than in patients without AD; however, no data on patients with skin of color were included in this study.24

Because of the increased risk of sensitization to fragrances and other ingredients in patients with AD as well as the high percentage of allergens in prescription and nonprescription products, it is important to discuss all personal care products that patients may be using, not just their cosmetic products. Also, patch testing may be helpful in determining true allergens in some patients. Patch testing is recommended for patients with treatment-resistant AD, and a recent study suggested it should be done prior to long-term use of immunosuppressive agents.25 Increased steroid phobia and a push toward alternative medicines are leading both patients with AD and guardians of children with AD to look for other forms of moisturization, such as olive oil, coconut oil, sunflower seed oil, and shea butter, to decrease transepidermal water loss.26,27 An important factor in AD treatment efficacy is patient acceptability in using what is recommended.27 One study showed there was no difference in efficacy or acceptability in using a cream containing shea butter extract vs the ceramide-precursor product.27 Current data show olive oil may exacerbate dry skin and AD,26 and recommendation of any over-the-counter oils and butters in patients with AD should be made with great caution, as many of these products contain fragrances and other potential allergens.

Alternative Therapies for AD

Patients with AD often seek alternative or integrative treatment options, including dietary modifications and holistic remedies. Studies investigating the role of vitamins and supplements in treating AD are limited by sample size.28 However, there is some evidence that may support supplementation with vitamins D and E in addressing AD symptoms. The use of probiotics in treating AD is controversial, but there are studies suggesting that the use of probiotics may prove beneficial in preventing infantile AD.28 Additionally, findings from an ex vivo and in vitro study show that some conditions, including AD and acne, may benefit from the same probiotics, despite the differences in these two diseases. Both AD and acne have inflammatory and skin dysbiosis characteristics, which may be the common thread leading to both conditions potentially responding to treatment with probiotics.29


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