Skin comes in so many types, from oily and acne-prone to dry and ultra-sensitive. It's common knowledge that skincare products are tailor-made to match these different skin types, but ethnicity is another factor that doesn't seem to get a lot of coverage. I'm mixed with Arab and Italian, so my skin is known to change with the seasons. I'll be super pale in the winter (I sometimes refer to myself as transparent), and in the summer I tan very easily.
Do products and services affect different colors of skin the same way? The truth is that in the world of skin care, ethnicity matters only some of the time. I did a little Q&A with Dr. Eliot Battle and the Cultura team to learn about some of the products and clinical procedures in which ethnicity makes a difference to help you pick just the right options for you and your complexion.
Dr. Batle, can you give me a little background on skin types?
Before we discuss cosmetic procedures, it's important to understand what gives different people different skin tones. In our skin, cells called melanocytes make melanin, or the brown pigment that gives skin its color. With the exception of a small subgroup of people who don't produce any melanin due to a genetic defect, the pigment is present in everyone, regardless of ethnicity. The difference is how the melanin is distributed.
People with light complexions tend to have small "packets" of melanin, called melanosomes, distributed in small aggregate groups throughout skin. Those with dark skin have larger melanosomes that are distributed more consistently.
Aside from giving us our looks, melanin plays an important role in keeping skin healthy. Darker tones are better protected against photoaging and other damage caused by the sun because melanin absorbs and scatters UV rays. People of African descent and others with dark skin often age "better," with fewer wrinkles. On the other hand, these people are at a higher risk of pigment irregularities, which can cause a blotchy or inconsistent appearance. This is why treatments that rely on pigment in the skin — typically laser and light treatments — need to be carefully considered for dark-skinned patients.
I am a HUGE fan of Laser Hair Removal - is it right for everyone?
Laser hair removal has been a game-changer for so many men and women around the world. The procedure, which usually yields a permanent reduction in unwanted hair, uses concentrated laser energy. This energy is absorbed by the pigment in the hair, which is why it's more effective on dark hair than light hair.
When it comes to laser hair removal, the best option for black patients and other people with dark skin is an Nd:YAG laser. This laser's wavelength permits it to bypass the melanin in the skin to reach the pigment in the hair. Because laser hair removal almost always requires several treatments spaced a few weeks apart, it's best to choose a practice that offers a variety of lasers. For instance, Cultura, which specializes in cosmetic dermatology in Washington, D.C., carries multiple laser devices to suit the changing needs of each patient as his or her hair gradually becomes thinner and thinner before disappearing completely.
Laser Skin Resurfacing is a big trend right now, do you recommend it for all patients?
Because it also involves a laser, laser skin resurfacing (and its gentler cousin, intense pulsed light) should also be used with caution by dark-skinned patients. These devices use laser energy to tighten skin and improve its texture, as well as reduce the look of pigmented lesions.
It's vitally important to choose a practice that frequently serves ethnically diverse patients. A laser treatment is far from being a "one size fits all" experience. An experienced aesthetician can walk you through your options to help you determine whether a particular laser is a good fit for you and your skin.
Are there any Skincare Products you suggest we look out for?
The topical products we put on our skin can also have unintended effects on color. Generally, harsh ingredients known for causing dryness or irritation can strip color away from dark skin. Ingredients to use with caution include:
Alpha-hydroxy acids (including glycolic acid and lactic acid)
These effects can be amplified if you already have dry skin.
Do you have any final tips or advice if someone is trying a new product or service?
If you're thinking of starting a new skincare regimen, always start with a patch test — a preliminary application of the product on a discreet area of your body.
thanks to Dr. Eliot Batle and the Cultura team for taking the time to share with me and sponsor this post
Hi! my name is Andrea and I'm a not-so-average Northern Virginia blogger, mom, and transplant from the Midwest. I host Girls Night Out events, meet ups, and write about events and my adventures in the DC area. I love to travel, brunch, and drink wine with my neighbors! I'm known to live on the wild side and order Venti iced double shots at 5pm.
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