In this industry, it is imperative that professionals learn how to treat all skin types, especially skin of color, with confidence. Historically, it is unfortunate that there has been such a gap in education for so long on how to treat skin of color and this is why an open conversation is necessary.
While every type of ethnic skin has its own unique characteristics, they all share a greater risk of acne, sensitive skin, and hyperpigmentation disorders.
All ethnic groups have a similar number of melanocytes, cells that produce pigment granules in the basal layer of skin. The pigment carrying granules called melanosomes produce a complex protein called melanin which determines skin, eye, and hair color. What differs between ethnicities is the level of melanocyte activity combined with how the cells are made up and grouped together. It is these differences that result in different shades of skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, “People of color have a lower risk than (Caucasians) of getting skin cancer.” While the greater amount of melanin provides darker skin some protection from many of the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, it also makes darker skin more vulnerable to dyspigmentation. Inconsistent pigmentation, including both hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation, is a sign of photoaging in people with skin of color; acne lesions can also occur. Therefore, it is crucial that the professional can discuss the importance of sun protection to all clients. There is a misconception among people of color that they do not need sunscreen because they have extra melanin, and so they opt out of wearing sunscreen. It is important that, during skin consultations, the professional stresses the importance of wearing sunscreen to clients. To reduce risk of skin cancer, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends “wearing SPF 30 or higher, broad-spectrum protection, and zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. If your client has oily skin, recommend a non-comedogenic sunscreen.” Remind clients of color that wearing sunscreen will also help prevent their hyperpigmentation from getting worse. When recommending sunscreen to a client of color, keep in mind that some sunscreens have minerals that will appear chalky on the skin. Instead, find a sunscreen that blends seamlessly into darker complexions.
When treating skin of color, think progressively not aggressively. It requires a balance between treating the condition and preventing dyspigmentation. First and foremost, conduct a thorough consultation. Get to know the client’s lifestyle, diet, hygiene, and medical history, even getting down to the nitty gritty of their bowel movements. Then, send them home with a good homecare regimen. Properly condition their skin before treating; this will strengthen their barrier and minimize skin complications, giving them long-term results. This methodology should not be just for clients of color. It should be the professional’s mindset while treating all of their clients.
According to the United States Census Bureau, people of color will comprise an estimated 50% of the United States population by the year 2050. This ever-increasing diversity underscores the need for healthcare providers to be educated about differences in clinical presentation and outcomes of conditions in people of color compared with Caucasian clients. Therefore, it is important now, more than ever, for currently practicing aestheticians and future aestheticians to learn how to provide proper skin treatments and understand the difference between Caucasian skin and skin of color.
The industry needs to start embracing the fact that this country is a melting pot of diverse skin.
American Academy of Dermatology Association. https://www.aad.org.
Gerson, Joel, Janet D’Angelo, Sallie Deitz, and Shelley Lotz. Milady’s Standard Fundamentals Esthetics. Edition 11. Clifton Park: Milady, 2013.
Muizzuddin, Neelam, Lieveke Hellemans, Luc Van Overloop, Hugo Corstjens, Lieve Declercq, and Daniel Maes. “Structural and functional differences in barrier properties of African American, Caucasian and East Asian skin.” Journal of Dermatological Science 59, no. 2 (2010): 123-128. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0923181110001957.
Pierce, Aliesh. Milady’s Aesthetician Series: Treating Diverse Pigmentation. Edition 1. Milady, 2012.
Rodriguez, Tori. “Common Skin Conditions in People of Color: Identification and Treatment.” Dermatology Advisor. https://www.dermatologyadvisor.com/home/topics/general-dermatology/common-skin-conditions-in-people-of-color-identification-and-treatment. “Top Skin Conditions Facing People of Color.” American Health & Beauty. https://americanhealthandbeauty.com/articles/1614/top-skin-conditions-facing-people-of-color.
Vashi, Neelam A., Mayra Buainain de Castro Maymone, and Roopal V. Kundu. “Aging Differences in Ethnic Skin.” Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology (2016). http://jcadonline.com/aging-differences-in-ethnic-skin.