Does Race Affect Skin Care?


Are you using the wrong products on your Skin?

Photo by John Tekeridis from Pexels
Photo by John Tekeridis from Pexels

By Fredrick Little

Ethnicity and race in America have always been controversial. Racial discrimination and prejudice are apart of the country's history, that cannot be ignored. It is no secret that racism has to lead to misconceptions regarding the biology of people. While we have addressed and adjusted most of the concerns regarding race, there a few questions that most people don't know the answer to. One of these questions is how race factors in regard to skin health.

History of Skin Care

Makeup and skin treatments have existed for thousands of years. In most cultures, the skin has been associated with status. This demand from the wealthy field innovation, and since the 1800s on, America has made significant contributions to the field of cosmetics. Before it was industrialized, most women would construct their own recipes and pass them down.

Later in the 19th century, when industrialization began common practice, products began to present common side effects. Pale skin tones were associated with wealth, and products were released with the promise of bleaching the skin.

Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels
Photo by Suzy Hazelwood from Pexels

The practice was not new. In years leading up to the nineteenth-century products used carbonate, hydroxide, and lead oxide as there primary ingredients. Unfortunately, over time these chemicals were responsible for numerous physical problems, and sometimes they resulted in muscle paralysis or death. By the nineteenth century, the ingredients were replaced with zinc oxide which was used as a facial powder. These practices were looked down upon; however, the envy most women felt overcame their fear of being judged.

This is where the difference in the skin begins to play a role. African American consumers were not targeted in these campaigns, according to Cosmetics and Personal Care Products in the Medicine and Science Collections, "most common skin care products were not manufactured in colors to suit darker skin. For example, talcum powder, used to protect and soothe skin while also absorbing the shine of perspiration, in its natural state provided a white tint to the skin. It was also available in pinkish or "flesh" (Caucasian skin-toned) tints."

What causes skin color

Melanin is the pigment in the skin that protects the human body from Ultra Violet (UV) rays; it also helps us absorb calcium from vitamin D in these rays. Experts believe that the first humans in Africa developed melanin as a countermeasure for the sun. When humans began to migrate away from harsher environments there skin colors began to lighten due to lack of exposure to UV rays.

Melanin may be able to protect the body from ultraviolet rays; However, in modern society, studies have shown that individuals with higher amounts of melanin may be at risk from vitamin D deficiency. "Larger amounts of the pigment melanin in the epidermal layer result in darker skin and reduce the skin's ability to produce vitamin D from sunlight." pigmentation and its variability is usually the root of most skin disease.

Differences Caused By Pigmentation

According to Skin Care in Ethnic Populations, "many basic dermatologic principles differ between individuals with Caucasian skin and ethnic skin."

Using Sunscreen has been linked to decreased rates of skin cancer and photoaging in lighter pigmented skin; However, studies suggest it may be just as important for darker skin tones. sunscreens play an important role in the prevention and treatment of pigmentary disorders and can aid in Vitamin D absorbing.

Darker skin tones need more hydration and as a result, are more susceptible to acne. Oil-free, hydrating products can play a part in reducing skin irritation caused by dryness, but it is important to select products that gently hydrate these skin types,

A lot of over-the-counter astringents(acne treatments) contain alcohol and strip essential oils from the skin. Cocoa butter is not the end-all solution for ethnic skincare. It is important to carefully diagnose and accurately address problems with effective solutions.