Ethnic Skin 101
Ethnic skin is beautiful, and requires proper care to maintain a fresh, healthy complexion. Treating ethnic skin and finding the right products can be challenging. Skin professionals are equipped to assist clients select the best treatments and products to help them reach their skincare goals.
Ethnic skin is beautifully brilliant in soft golden hues to rich dark brown tones. The approach to ethnic skin care and treatments can be challenging. Ethnic skins are prone to dark marks, discoloration and hyper-pigmentation. Some ethnic skins experience the opposite condition of lightened spots or hypo-pigmentation. It is common for the skin to stain, and to be sensitive. Either condition can be brought on by a variety of triggers.
Some skin discoloration can be caused from photo damage of unprotected skin that has experienced excess sun exposure. It is not uncommon for the skin to hyper-pigment, and to be sensitive. Also, improper product selection can contribute to skin irritation and skin tone changes resulting in an uneven tone or post hyper-pigmentation. Products such as shampoos and conditioners may also have a negative impact on skin as these run down the face and back during cleansing. Unfortunately, such contact with skin may encouraging fine bumps or pigmentation on some ethnic skins. Lastly, an injury or inflammation can cause the skin to react with excess pigmentation, post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation.
Another factor that is often overlooked is genetic background. Where a person comes from genetically will play a key role in how their skin behaves or reacts during treatments. When a client has an ethnically mixed background, many of the typical skincare guidelines are blurred. This can be because their appearance may look like a lower or higher Fitzpatrick Skin Type, but due to genetics and family history, the skin responds differently to the sun and environmental pollutants. It is important for skin professionals to do a thorough inquiry of clients by specifically asking about their genetic background. Not everyone we do an intake on will know what their genetic background is and where they come from. However, as much as a skin professional knows will contribute to the success of the treatment. So clients, too, have the responsibility to educate their attending skin professional regarding genetic history which will assist in an appropriately selected treatment.
How do we professionally identify ethnic skin?
The Fitzpatrick Skin Type classification is a tool skin professionals use to define ethnic skin and skin sensitivity. The scale is based on how one's skin reacts to the sun. The Fitzpatrick Skin Type color ranges are:
Skin Type I - very fair white skin - always burns
Skin Type II - white skin - usually burns
Skin Type III - light skin, olive - sometimes burns
Skin Type IV - golden, brown skin - rarely burns
Skin Type V - brown, dark skin - very rarely burns
Skin Type VI - dark brown, black skin - never burns*
*(Although this was the original thought, it is not the case).
Pigmentation or skin color in the skin is determined at the cellular level. The cells that make melanin or pigment in the skin are called Melanocytes. Melanosomes are the packages of melanin (pigment) produced by the melanocytes cells.
The number of melanocytes vary among races. All people have the same total number of melanocytes; "it is the distribution of melanosomes (pigment-us) in the keratinocytes that correlates with skin color. In white skin—typically types I–III—melanosomes are small and aggregated in complexes. In black skin—types V and VI—there are larger melanosomes that are distributed singly within keratinocytes.2"
To Tan or Not to Tan
Many enjoy the warmth of the sun and the tan that comes along with it. However the UV rays that encourage a tan are damaging to the skin. A tan is a scar. This causes free radical damage of the cell, and may cause discoloration, and pre-mature aging resulting in fine lines and wrinkles. The tan that the melanin produces in the skin is to absorb and scatter energy from UV light to protect the epidermal cells from damage. The Melanin protects the skin from sun damage. More pigmentation in the skin, the better the natural sun protection. This sun protection offers significant prevention of photo-aging, or sun damage. Thus, white and lighter skins are prone to burn and wrinkle prematurely when exposed to the sun. Skins that are darker and richer in color appear to simply tan.
Do not be fooled. Photo damage is the tan or post hyper-pigmentation of the skin. As this process repeats itself through sun exposure, the skin begins to stain, and is not able to recover from the previous tan. The result is discoloration. Also, in richer skin tone, the skin becomes loose and lax, which is a form of photo-damage, producing pre-mature aging.
Protect Skin Daily
Protect your skin with daily use of broad spectrum SPF sun protection. What is broad spectrum sun protection? Sunscreens or solar shields that physically block the UV rays (UVA - causes aging; UVB - causes burn) from the sun and contain Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide. Apply 30 minutes prior to sun exposure. Reapply every 2 hours in normal conditions, every 90 minute in more intense sun. Reapply throughout the day. Everyone should where sun protection daily. It not only protects you from free radical cellular damage, but can it help slow signs visible of aging on your skin.
The choices are endless when it comes to skincare. So this is a brief piece on product. For ethnic skin a progressive approach is safer then an aggressive approach that may cause post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation. So let's narrow it down to Skincare Goals. What we want to achieve through our skincare program will determine which product will be best. Now that we understand a slower, progressive route is better, let's review a few product ingredients that will get us to our skincare goals.
Hyper-pigmentation or Discoloration? Select products that contain vitamin C and licorice extract to brighten the skin, treatments with antioxidants and natural enzymes (pumpkin), and of course use a broad spectrum SPF to protect your investment.
Fine lines and wrinkles? Vitamin A (retinoids) to normalize damaged cells, effective in treating sun-induced wrinkles, pigmentation associated with aging skin, and stimulate collagen. Powerful peptides can mimic Botox, boost elastin and collagen production, firm skin, reduce puffiness around eyes and improve overall complexion.
Acne? Dull Skin? Enzymes and Acids exfoliate dead cells. Enzymes like Pumpkin or Papaya (Papain) soften and smooth skin. AHA's, Lactic Acid, to name one, is hydrating to the skin and improves skin tone and texture. Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA), know as Salicylic Acid (an aspirin derivative), is good for skins with acne.
Normalize skin with Vitamin A. It will help to balance out excessively dry skin. Remember to start low, and gradually introduce products with vitamin A. Also rich humectants like Shea butter hydrate skin. Oils are excellent for skin such as Borage oil that calming, olive oil soothes skin, and jojoba oil minimizes excess sebum production.
These are just a few of the ingredients to look for. Consult with your Aesthetician / Skin Professional for a list that may work for your skincare program. Regular skincare treatments, and the appropriate at home program incorporating the correct above ingredients will aid in your skincare success .
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