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Skin of Color

The Physiology of Skin of Color

April 2014


People with skin of color will soon make up the majority of the United States. This will have a significant impact on the practice of professional skin care. Generally, lighter shades of skin have been the dominant skin type in the United States. This is the skin type that the majority of skin care treatments are currently based on. However, these traditional facial, body, and skin care treatments often fail to meet the needs of your clientele who has dramatically changed over the last decade. Darker skin responds differently to chemical and manual therapies than lighter skin. Aestheticians must understand these differences. Inappropriate treatments or products are a recipe for skin disaster; therefore, it is imperative for the skin care professional to understand the physiology, anatomy, and histology relating to all skins of color.


Variations in Skin Color

Look at the rainbow of skin colors that make up the millions of skin types and where they originate. There is enormous variability in skin pigmentation, especially among distinct racial and ethnic groups, making it difficult to define skin types simply by ethnicity, race or culture. Individuals with darker skin comprise a wide range of racial and ethnic groups, including Africans, African American, African Caribbean, Japanese, Chinese, Asians, Latinos, Indians, Jewish and Pakistanis, to name a few. In the last several years, demographics shifted with respect to the predominate Caucasian skin types treated and are juxtaposed with like-kinds that can appear light, only to have genetic ties to infinite blends of many racial combinations.

Many of our clients are from multicultural backgrounds, so it is important to conduct a client interview along with Fitzpatrick’s traditional classification before you begin treatment. After determining skin type, all aestheticians must understand what is appropriate and inappropriate concerning skin treatments and products for all ethnic types.

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Acne and African Skin

September 2012


What is Acne?

Acne/ak’ne/ is an inflammatory, papulopustular skin eruption occurring usually in or near the sebaceous glands on the face, neck, shoulders, and upper back. Its actual cause is still unknown but involves bacterial breakdown of sebum into fatty acids, wax esters, triglycerides, and squalene, irritating the pore surrounding the subcutaneous tissue. To put the full potential of this activity into perspective, one square inch of facial skin can contain up to as many as 5,000 sebaceous glands harboring millions of bacteria and infinite corneocyte corpses.

In addition to these substances, a more commonly known culprit, “oil”, is the igniting fuel for the acne flare-up along with these other resident perpetrator’s of bacteria and dead skin cells.

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Handling Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation,
alpha hydroxy acids, Asian, Native American, ethnic, hypopigmentation

September 28, 2012


Global skin of color is the ultimate future snapshot of your skin care clientele. Skin care professionals who ignore the phenomenon of the multitude of skin races are out of touch with the reality concerning the trends that will dictate their esthetic careers in the near future, and will miss the opportunity to learn how to work with this ever-increasing population successfully. Skin care professionals must prepare for this prospect, and learn to recognize what is appropriate and inappropriate concerning skin treatments, ingredients and products for skin of color.

There are significant differences between global skin types. Just look at the rainbow of skin colors that make up the millions of skin types and where they originate. Cosmetically speaking, black skin has a wide range of color variations from a creamy light coffee color to deep ebony black. Asian skin exhibits colors that range from a light yellow hue to a dark golden tan. Native American skin colors vary with respect to different tribes, and have coloring that ranges from light to dark red-brown. Even white skin is misinter¬preted visually and put into inaccurate categories. Caucasian skin ranges greatly from milky alabaster white to dark olive tones.

Darker global skin types are much more reactive to topical agents such as alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), trichlor¬oacetic acid (TCA) and many different ingredients, and are more sensitive to these constituents than Caucasian skin. Unfortun¬ately, many skin care professionals misunderstand the darker global skin combinations and treat skin of color as if it were Caucasian, being overzealous in their procedures and recommending improper skin care products, triggering an inflammatory response leading to unwanted problems. This can result in devastating side effects, such as hypopigm¬entation and hyperpig¬mentation. These very avoidable mistakes not only affect the client cosmetically and emotionally, but destroy the trust between client and professional.

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The New Skin of Color

February 2, 2006


The new skin of color (SOC) is the ultimate snapshot of the future of your esthetic clientele. Throughout the past decade, the traditional skin care needs of your clients have changed dramatically, due to an increasingly interracial population.

In my own family, my niece is part Chinese and half Caucasian. How should her skin be treated—as Anglo or Asian? My stepchildren are Hispanic and Caucasian. Should their skin be treated as Latino or Northern European? This is the challenge of skin care specifics—dealing with an entirely new generation of skin colors and types that now are identified as the new SOC.

This will dictate the trends for the treatments offered at your spa. Skin care specialists, estheticians, dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons must prepare for it. You need to learn to recognize what is appropriate and inappropriate concerning all skin treatments and products available for this new SOC, as well as all ethnic skin types. Incorrect treatments and products are a recipe for skin disaster, so it is imperative for skin care professionals to understand the physiology, anatomy and histology relating to this demographic.

Continue reading . . .

A Colorful Future

November 2004


Knowing how to treat a variety of skin types will expand your client base.

CONSIDER THE RAINBOW OF COLORS THAT MAKE UP THE MILLIONS of skin tones. Cosmetically speaking, African-American skin spans a wide range of color variations from a creamy light coffee color to a deep ebony black. Asian skin exhibits colors that appear very white to light yellow to dark golden tan. Even Caucasian skin can be visually misinterpreted and placed into inaccurate categories. In reality, Caucasian skin ranges greatly, from milky alabaster white to dark olive.

As demographics have shifted, the traditional skincare needs of your spa clientele have changed dramatically. A new generation of skin colors and types has evolved from a nearly infinite number of racial blends. My own stepchildren are both Hispanic and Caucasian—should their skin be treated as Latino or Northern European? My niece is part Chinese and half Caucasian. How should her skin be treated—as Anglo or Asian? The challenge of skincare today is how to treat this new classification of skin type now being identified as the “new skin of color.”


Broadening Your Horizons

Over time, the lack of information about ethnic skin has led to misconceptions, misinformation, and myths—creating a recipe for skincare disasters. A common mistake occurs when darker skin is treated the same as lighter skin, resulting in pigmentation morbidity and other unnecessary injuries. One explanation for this could be that the majority of cosmetology schools provide a skincare curriculum based on only one skin type. Change is necessary because the new skin of color is destined to dictate the future of skincare, and spa owners, cosmetic surgeons, dermatologists, estheticians, and skincare specialists should find it important to prepare for this future.

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Used with permission.

Acne and Skin of Color

May 2003


Asian, African, and Latin skins are at the highest risk for hyperpigmentation of this type.

U.S. population statistics reveal a dramatic shift in demographics for the 21st century. It is predicted that ethnic skin, or Skin Of Color (SOC), soon will make up the majority of our population and, consequently, our clientele.

Acne is the number one skin condition currently treated by aestheticians. Acne is almost as common in black skin as white, and is the second most prevalent skin problem for Asians, and the third for preadolescnet Middle Eastern Arab females. Add to this the propensity for dyspigmentation in Skin Of Color, and the need for special care in treating SOC acne becomes clear.

Understanding differences in ethnic skin types provides considerable guideance to treatment methodology. Acutal treatment for acne does not vary greatly across ethnic lines; however, preparation for treatment does, partifularly when treatment will involve the use of chemical peels.

Continue reading . . .

Used with permission.