What Skin-Care Products Are Appropriate for African-American Skin?

While many women of color feel their skin care needs differ from those of Caucasian women, nothing could be further from the truth. Regardless of color or ethnic background, all skin is subject to a range of virtually identical problems with similar considerations. Whether it is dry or oily skin, blemishes, scarring, wrinkles, skin discolorations, rashes, rosacea, sensitivity, or sun damage, the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment is the same for all men and women. There are certainly some distinctions between varying ethnic groups when it comes to skin problems and skin-care options, but overall these differences are minor in comparison to the number of similarities. Think of it this way: regardless of skin color, dietary needs remain the same. A high-calorie diet results in weight gain, an unhealthy diet can cause health risks, and if you don't eat you die, regardless of your skin color. As far as skin care goes, skin is an organ (the largest in the human body) and needs the same ingredients and formulations to be healthy or to deal with various skin concerns.

Research on this topic supports the points above while also noting the distinctive traits between ethnic skin tones, though these traits don't mean different products are needed for treatment. According to an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (February 2002, pages 41–62) "There is not a wealth of data on racial and ethnic differences in skin and hair structure, physiology, and function. What studies do exist involve small patient populations and often have methodological flaws. Consequently, few definitive conclusions can be made. The literature does support a racial differential in epidermal melanin [pigment] content and melanosome dispersion in people of color compared with fair-skinned persons…. These differences could at least in part account for the lower incidence of skin cancer in certain people of color compared with fair-skinned persons; a lower incidence and different presentation of photo aging; pigmentation disorders in people with skin of color; and a higher incidence of certain types of alopecia [loss of hair] in Africans and African Americans compared with those of other ancestry." While skin cancer may not be as much of a threat or concern, skin discolorations resulting from unprotected sun exposure or hormonal concerns are the same as that for women with lighter skin.

If there is any difference noted in the research it is the imperative need to treat darker skin tones gently. When irritated, darker skin tones can stimulate hyperpigmentation causing patches of dark or grayish skin discolorations. Though this is easily treated, the main focus should be prevention. Given my fervent belief over the years that all skin types need to be treated gently, it's encouraging there is research pointing that way for women of color as well. When skin is irritated it cannot protect itself from the environment, it causes collagen and elastin to break down, it hurts the skin's immune response, and can cause skin to become dry and flaky.

Regardless of skin color or ethnicity, all skin needs a gentle cleanser, effective exfoliant, state-of-the-art moisturizer (over dry areas), a sunscreen rated SPF 15 or greater containing UVA-protecting ingredients of avobenzone, titanium dioxide, or zinc oxide, and appropriate treatments for skin discolorations (hydroquinone-based products), blemishes, and wrinkles.

Source: Paula Begoun