Skin care is another arena where BIPOC folks are often ignored.
We’ve learned that racism is pervasive, disrupting society at a structural level, including the way our healthcare system runs.
Colorism — the preferential treatment of lighter-colored skin and demonization or dismissal of darker skin — is just one of the ways this shows up, especially when it comes to media representation.
Adeline Kikam, DO, FAAD, author, consultant, and social media ambassador, has seen a direct correlation between what’s seen (or not seen) within media, skin concerns from her dermatology clients, and the under-education of Black communities around skin health.
This is where her platform @brownskinderm comes in.
Kikam shares how her passion for Black representation within the skin care space started in childhood, continuing into her experience with acne and a lack of treatment options for melanated skin.
She never saw acne treatment products with Black folks on the packaging, and there was a lack of discussion about the ways acne and hyperpigmentation could affect melanated skin.
When she searched for solutions for her own acne and subsequent scarring, she wondered if the options available would even work for her. “This led to years of insecurity in my own skin. I avoided low neck and backless dresses for a long time,” Kikam says.
“I struggled back then with finding information on how to care for my skin as a Black woman.”
When Kikam went into the medical field, she was ultimately drawn to dermatology because of her personal experiences, and her training led to continued conversations with other BIPOC folks about their skin concerns that weren’t adequately being addressed.
Kikam’s friends encouraged her to share her knowledge, and she noticed the lack of Black-led skin care focused social media accounts. Thus, the creation of her IG account @brownskinderm.
But, Brown Skin Derm isn’t just a social media account.
It’s a platform that aims to combat this lack of representation of health care professionals and skin condition through building trust, credibility, and re-establishing Black providers’ roles as thought leaders in their respective fields.
“The Brown Skin Derm Platform is an extension of what I feel is my commitment as a physician of color specializing in skin to make sure we are represented from a beauty but more importantly dermatologic health perspective.”
Brown Skin Derm has goals of:
- increasing the positive presence of Black medical professionals
- redefining how providers connect with clientele through social media
- shaking up the ways beauty has been defined in our society through a Western, white-centered lens
Kikam says she also aims to use Brown Skin Derm to advocate for accurate representation of BIPOC folks in the larger discussion on skincare.
“I started my page in 2017 and was encouraged to continue it after seeing the overwhelming positive response from followers not only of Black or African descent in the US but internationally as well,” she says.
Brown Skin Derm tackles the necessity of representation and more accessible information, but Kikam felt a push to also address how many Black folks aren’t able to access actual skin-focused healthcare.
“Inspired by the community of Black and Brown people and having a deeper understanding of their dermatologic needs, I realized access to dermatologic care is a major barrier to their skin health,” Kikam says.
This prompted the launch of the Brown Skin Derm Consult site and Skinclusive Dermatology— a teledermatology platform and an in-person clinic specializing in skin of color, set to open soon in Florida.
“This new chapter also gives me the opportunity to connect with my ever-growing community on a deeper patient-doctor level,” Kikam says.
“While following me on social media is a great way for them to have reliable evidence based information, I also realize that access to dermatologic care continues to be a major barrier to care.”
The problem of colorism within media representation isn’t a lost cause.
Kikam emphasizes the importance of inclusion not only for marketing and media companies, but for medical providers, clinical trials, product formulation, and medical therapy.
“More importantly, it is important to highlight issues that disproportionately affect communities of color because those tend to be forgotten or not prioritized because they don’t affect the greater population of people,” Kikam says.
“Having a diverse team that patients can relate to is associated with higher ratings in terms of satisfaction, trust, adherence to care which overall contribute to better health outcomes, and such diversity also fosters culturally competent healthcare delivery and inclusivity.”
The Brown Skin Derm platform is intent on an inclusion media presence, but Kikam says she also hopes BIPOC folks gain a shared value system from both her practice and social media.
The skin care expert says her goal is for this collective system to not only promote equity, inclusivity, and representation within healthcare, but increase the Black community’s access to evidence-based information within the skin care industry.
Addressing The Lack Of Black Doctors In The Dermatology Field
Kikam shared that she was initially hesitant to share her personal story openly, but has since realized that her speaking candidly about her experiences has a major impact.
Because only 3% of dermatology students are Black, this includes encouraging other Black medical students to push past the current lacking statistics.
“I talk freely about my journey and struggles as a black woman in one of the least diverse subspecialties in medicine,” she says. “It is impactful in terms of inspiring minority medical students to pursue dermatology, a competitive specialty to get into but certainly not impossible.”
“People of color everywhere demand to see themselves reflected in the way skin care is discussed and beauty is portrayed. They want inclusion but not assimilation.”
Shedding Light On Conditions With Racial Disparities and Myths
Another major component of this work is to increase access to education around and encourage open conversations about skin conditions that predominantly affect Black folks.
For example, she mentioned conditions like Hidradenitis Suppurativa — a painful chronic inflammatory condition that results in draining abscesses and scarring. noting how that affects Black women at a higher rate than other demographics.
Kikam is also adamant about the overall representation of BIPOC folks within skin health awareness pushes, citing the harmful narrative around melanated skin not needing sunscreen. When in reality, unprotected and prolonged exposure to UV rays can have negative effects for anyone.
This myth has permeated its way into the media, shown through sunscreen ads and media around skin cancer advocacy lacking in darker-skinned people and an overall gap in education around sun protection.
“When we do get skin cancers, it is worth knowing also that we have the
Ultimately, Kikam hopes Brown Skin Derm continues to have a hand in uplifting the needs for melanated and lessening the presence of harmful narratives.
This dermatologist has hit the ground running with a social media platform that’s growing into an in-person and telehealth option focused on melanated skin, all with the hopes of spreading education, empowering communities of color, and squashing harmful narratives.
When it comes to skin care culture as a whole, Kikam says she hopes it continues “to evolve, and to be representative and accessible to people of color who have traditionally been left out.”