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Skin Health Q4 2021

Taking care of skin of colour

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Dr Bhavjit Kaur

Aesthetic Physician and Trustee of the British College of Aesthetic Medicine

Dr Uliana Gout

President, British College of Aesthetic Medicine

Skin structure is influenced by a person’s ethnicity and as a result skin of colour requires specialised care, especially when it comes to conditions such as hyperpigmentation.

Looking after your skin is as important as taking care of your teeth and physical health. But have you ever considered whether your ethnicity and the colour of your skin play a part in the way it should be treated?

The fact is not all skin is the same. There are big differences in skin structure and function between ethnicities. There are also lots of myths that influence how people care for their skin. For example, it is false that those with Black skin do not need to wear sunscreen. While it doesn’t burn in the traditional sense, Black skin is still prone to skin cancers.

Causes of hyperpigmentation

Hyperpigmentation is one of the biggest issues for people with skin of colour, in many cultures it is socially unacceptable and can leave sufferers feeling ostracised. It occurs when excess melanin is produced, making the skin darker and resulting in uneven skin tone and can be the result of sun exposure. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation occurs as a result of conditions such as acne, leaving dark marks on the skin.

Protecting the skin from an early age is important as sun damage in childhood can lead to hyperpigmentation much later in life.

Melasma is another commonly acquired condition of symmetric hyperpigmentation, found mostly on the face, mostly in females and in darker skin types. There can be multiple reasons for melasma including hormone imbalance, light exposure and family history. 

Hyperpigmentation can also be caused by skincare treatments if the skin isn’t properly prepared. Peels, microdermabrasion, laser treatment and microneedling all require the skin to be prepared with pigment-controlling actives in the weeks beforehand and after to prevent hyperpigmentation.

Danger of home treatments

Hyperpigmentation is not restricted to the face, it can occur all over the body and especially on knuckles, knees and elbows. Often people are tempted to try home skin bleaching to lessen the dark colour, and some products sold by unreputable sources can have dangerous effects.

Protection from sun damage

Protecting the skin from an early age is important as sun damage in childhood can lead to hyperpigmentation much later in life. Sunscreens have now been developed specifically for skin of colour that don’t leave the wearer with a grey-blue hue. Some are also available that can be applied over the top of make-up as application is recommended every two hours between 11am and 3pm.

Sunscreen should be worn all year round and indoors too. For more information, consult a medical practitioner who can provide skin-specific advice.

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