Identifying Skin Conditions Can be a Pain for People of Color. This Instagram Account Can Help

According to a story from offspring.lifehacker.com, medical abnormalities and conditions that affect the skin are often something that many of us will notice on our own. Once a skin problem appears, many people will turn to the web in order to find images that resemble what was noticed and try to figure out what is going on. However, for people with darker skin tones, the process isn’t so cut and dry.

There is a simple reason why. For the diagnosis of skin conditions, the baseline identifying factors too often assume a white or otherwise lighter skin tone. This is how dermatologists are taught—to identify skin problems on light skin. Try to look things up for yourself if you’re skeptical; medical websites like WebMD, the Mayo Clinic, and even the American Dermatological Association generally displau reference photos for different skin diseases on white skin. 

The reason why white skin is used as a reference and no other races are represented is just one more example of how the medical system regularly and consistently caters to certain types of people (white people, and more specifically, white males). While it may be unintentional, it leaves everyone else facing greater health risks and substandard treatment. 

Ellen Buchanan Weiss realized the gravity of this issue as her own son is of mixed racial heritage. She tried searching the internet for photos of common skin diseases like chicken pox or eczema and couldn’t find images of these illnesses on the skin of black children, even when she specifically googled for them. So she decided to take action and start collecting photos herself. She now posts them regularly on Instagram under the account name brownskinmatters.

These images demonstrate the fact that many of these conditions do look different on darker skin tones. To be clear, Ellen does not claim to be a medical professional, but she does collaborate with physicians to help confirm the accuracy of the images that she uploads.

“I’m just a regular person who dearly loves her son and wants equitable representation and resources available to him and other people who look like him.” – Ellen Buchanan Weiss

Check out the Instagram account here.


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