AviClear is a game-changer because of the way it works to target acne without damaging the skin. Typical acne-focused lasers address inflammation and scarring associated with breakouts by using thermal energy to stimulate collagen or light energy to target excess pigment, both of which can cause heat-induced trauma on dark skin. But AviClear gets to the root cause of acne by targeting the sebaceous glands (with a nonablative 1726 nanometer wavelength laser) and zapping their excess oil. Since AviClear’s wavelength is absorbed only by the glands and doesn’t affect the skin’s pigment at all, “it’s the first FDA-approved device that can treat all types of active acne, including comedonal [small bumps], pustules [pus-filled lesions], and cystic [painful red bumps], across all skin tones,” says Dr. Nichols.
Three monthly sessions are required and although they usually take less than an hour, there is some pain involved, as is the case with most lasers. When a doctor is gliding AviClear over your skin, it feels like “a slight rubber band snap,” explains Dr. Shamban. However, the discomfort (and temporary mild redness during recovery) comes with a big payoff: Clear skin for up to two years. Results like that aren’t cheap. AviClear isn’t covered by insurance, so expect to pay around $4,500 for three treatments. Your sticker shock will vary depending on where you live.
Radiofrequency (RF) microneedling for dark skin
If texture-related issues like acne scars, fine lines, wrinkles, and stretch marks are bugging you, Vivace Ultra could be your skin savior. It’s a radiofrequency microneedling device — and it’s a tech upgrade from traditional ones, which harness the power of radio frequency (thermal energy that induces damage to the skin) and tiny needles (to puncture the skin at various depths). Like its predecessors, this device kick-starts the skin’s natural repair response to promote collagen production for a smoother, tighter look. According to Dr. Shamban, “RF microneedling is generally a colorblind treatment. Unlike many other energy-based devices, it is not using heat, light, or any energy wavelength that is chromophore-dependent or targets melanin in the skin. Therefore, when it’s used correctly by an experienced provider, it’s safe for patients of all types of mixed ethnicities and the darkest tones on the Fitzpatrick scale.” But Vivace Ultra is the first RF microneedling device to also include ultrasound imaging and mapping, which could mean the results are more precise: “Vivace Ultra has the unique capability to visualize, through ultrasound guidance, the layers of skin one is targeting,” says Dr. Frank. This detailed view allows doctors to tailor the needle depth to a patient’s skin – and if you need to adjust the needle to meet a specific goal – smoothing acne scars or tightening the neck, for example — or to avoid a bad outcome — like heat-induced hyperpigmentation — the personalized depth measurements Vivace Ultra provides make it less of a guessing game. The bespoke approach delivers better results. “What is also unique about it is its ability to treat various skin types, including darker ones. We can deliver the energy deeper in the skin while minimizing trauma to the epidermis [that can cause hyperpigmentation],” says Dr. Frank. Depending on the treatment area, a Vivace Ultra session can take 15 to 30 minutes, not including the numbing process, which lasts 45 minutes to an hour. Even though a bunch of ultrafine needles are involved, Vivace Ultra (which received FDA approval in October 2022) has minimal side effects. A little swelling and redness for one to three days afterwards is the norm. Some people say radiofrequency microneedling is surprisingly painless; others say it hurts like crazy (ask your doctor if they use numbing cream, which can help a lot). As for the cost, prepare yourself. It’ll break the bank even more than Beyoncé tickets. Treatments can run $1,000 to $3,000 each and you might need up to four appointments to see a noticeable improvement in skin texture (results vary depending on factors like age and the condition of the skin, with some patients needing six treatments, according to recent clinical studies).
Resilient Hyaluronic Acid: The latest filler for laugh lines
“A common misconception that I still hear is that darker skin doesn’t age. While [deep complexions] may not experience the same fine lines and wrinkles forming that lighter counterparts do, age begins to show in loss of volume,” says Dr. Nichols. We’re all born with hyaluronic acid in our skin. It’s what keeps our complexions hydrated, smooth, and plump. The more candles you have on your birthday cake, the more the natural production process slows down. Fillers can help with that and, fortunately, dermatologists are standing by with their syringes. The new filler that dermatologists are raving about is called Resilient Hyaluronic Acid or RHA. It was first introduced in the US in 2020, but is still available only in select dermatologists’ offices. (Revance, the company that manufactures the line, hasn’t confirmed when it will be more widely available as of press time. You can search the practice locator on Revance’s site to see if a dermatologist near you offers RHA.)
RHA comes in different preparations (RHA 2, RHA 3, RHA 4, and RHA Redensity). “The numbered categories indicate features such as its thickness and malleability. Doctors can mix and match and use them like an artist’s palette to create the combo that’s going to give the best results for a client’s needs,” says Dr. Hartman.