Everything You Need to Know How Culture and Ethnicity Affects Skin

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Human skin color is quite variable around the world. The variation in skin tones is a result of human migration and adaptation to tropical and non-tropical environments. People don’t have pure black, white, red or yellow skin.

The skin color may vary from a very dark brown to some Africans, Australian Aborigines, and Melanesians. Some Northern Europeans have a nearly pinkish complexion. The most significant difference between people of color and Caucasians is the amount of melanin in the skin.

How Pigmentation And Skin Color Differ By Ethnic Group

Skin color is primarily due to a pigment called melanin. The density and distribution of melanin determine the color of your skin. Both the light and dark people have melanin. There are two kinds of melanin:

  • Pheomelaninis red to yellow
  • Eumelanin which is dark brown to black.

If you have a light complexion, you tend to produce pheomelanin. Same way if you have dark skin you produce eumelanin. The melanin pigment is produced by specialized cells in the basal layer of your epidermis called as the melanocytes.

People differ in the size and number of the melanin particles. These are essential in determining the skin color. Melanocytes have photosensitive receptors that detect ultraviolet radiation from the sun and other sources. In response to this, they produce melanin after a few hours of sun exposure.

Nature has selected people with darker skin living in tropical regions with Eumelanin. The UV rays from the sun are intense in these areas. Melanin acts as a shield against ultraviolet radiation. By doing this, it prevents sunburn damage that may result in DNA damage which could lead to several types of malignant skin cancers.

People living in far Northern latitudes where the UV rays are relatively weak most of the year has a benefit if their skin has less of this shielding pigment. Nature favors for less melanin when ultraviolet light is mild or lower.

 Attempting To Change The Shade Of Your Skin Can Be Dangerous

The US Department of health and the WHO has declared that the UV rays from the sun and from artificial sources like sunlamps and tanning beds to be a known carcinogen. The UV light produced from the tanning beds and the sun can cause melanoma and increase the risk of benign mole progressing to melanoma.

Using indoor tanning beds before the age of 35 can raise your risk of melanoma considered the deadliest form of skin cancer by fifty-nine percent. Women younger than 30 are six times more likely to develop melanoma if they tan indoors. Even one indoor tanning session can raise your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by 67% and basal cell carcinoma by twenty-nine percent.

Some women with dark skin want to achieve the culturally prized lighter skin tones which lead them to use inappropriate skin damaging products. Whiter skin color is considered desirable in some cultures. So, more and more women are seeking skin whitening treatments to cure skin problems related to hyperpigmentation.

Many skin lighters contain chemicals that pose serious hazards if you use them for longer periods of time. Skin bleaching agent act to reduce the action of the enzyme tyrosinase which controls the rate of melanin production in your skin.

Chemicals traditionally used in skin whitening products may include hydroquinone, mercury, and steroids.

Hydroquinone: it is a toxic chemical that has its uses in black and white film processing, rubber manufacturing and hair dyes. Since it is an effective bleaching agent hydroquinone is used in creams and lotions. This chemical is considered cytotoxic (toxic to cells), mutagenic and carcinogenic. Hydroquinone is thought to increase the complication of thyroid disorder, adrenal dysfunction, and liver disease.

Mercury: It’s a toxic chemical that gets quickly absorbed into your body. When you use mercury for skin lightening, it initially causes skin rashes, skin discoloration, and scarring. Long term usage can damage your kidneys and nervous system.

Steroid: Steroids slow down the process of cell regeneration; this results in the production of fewer melanocytes. These chemicals lead to thinning of the outer layer of skin which makes your skin more prone to injury. Steroids affect your hormones and can cause Cushing’s syndrome.

Impact Of Ethnicity On Skin

Dermatologists use Fitzpatrick Skin Typing Test to divide skin tone into four categories

Type 1-Pale or milky white complexion. If you are Type 1, you may have freckles, light eyes such as hazel, blue or green. You’ll have red or blonde hair. Your genetic descent is from Ireland, England or Scandinavia.

Type 11– you may have light brown skin with some freckles, your hair may be light brown or dark blonde, You may be a Caucasian of Eastern European descent.

Type 111-you may have light brown or olive skin. Your eyes and hair are usually any shade of brown. You may be an Asian, Latin, Mediterranean or Middle Eastern.

Type 1V– you may have brown or dark brown skin. With the same color of hair and eyes to match. You may be from Africa, Asia, Middle East, Caribbean or Latin countries.

UV Exposure

Sunlight especially UVA and UVB rays can lead to sunburn, premature aging, weekend immune system, eye damage, photoallergic and phototoxic reactions even skin cancer.

White skin- your skin is significantly affected by UV exposure. It tans poorly, but burns quickly so are at higher risk of skin cancer.

Dark skin: if you have dark skin you enjoy natural protection from UV rays. You have an average UVB protective factor of approximately 13 versus that of 3 in white skin.

Age spots are more visible if you’re a Caucasian or Asian than darker skin tones. Research studies show us that skin cancer is discovered at a later and in more advanced stage in dark-skinned people, though it is less prevalent in them.

Protecting yourself from sun exposure can minimize all the problems connected with it. Use sunscreens as part of daily skincare routine. Wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB filters. Cover exposed skin with clothes and head and face with a wide-brimmed hat. Pay attention to potential side effects of any prescribed medicines.

Age Spots

The small areas of discoloration or hyperpigmentation that affects your skin, frequently exposed to the sun are called age spots. Overexposure to UV light, age, genetic predisposition, inflammation and hormonal influences are the many reasons for hyperpigmentation. Pigment activity is the result of increased activity of melanocytes.

When the skin ages, the number of melanocytes gets reduced, so the remaining cells grow bigger and more focused on their distribution. The sun-induced age spots are more visible on Asian and Caucasian skin tones than on darker skin.

You can try skin lightening creams, but they are not without their side effects. Avoid sun exposure and use a cream based or water based concealer. Apply lemon juice to your age spots for 6-12 weeks to get stunning results.

Pigmentation Disorders

Sun exposure causes pigment spots. They are small darkened patches of skin that occurs on the face, hands, and arms. While people of all skin colors are affected by this disorder, they are more noticeable in people of Asian, Hispanic or African origin. Atopic dermatitis and acne can cause pigmentation changes in the darker skin. Atopic dermatitis is a non-contagious chronic disease in which your skin is constantly dry, itchy and irritable.

Post-inflammatory Hyperpigmentation

It occurs when internal or external factors cause an increase in melanin production which leads to discoloration mostly on the exposed surfaces of the skin. Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation appears as flat spots of discoloration. These macules range from pink to red-brown or black depending on the skin tone and depth of discoloration. All the skin types can get post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, but this condition is more prevalent in darker tones of skin.

Acne

Acne vulgaris is a most common form of skin disease in industrial countries. The four key factors that contribute to acne are an overproduction of sebum, thickening of your outer layer of skin, microbial colonization, and inflammation. While all acne sufferers get spots, research studies have shown that people with dark skin get more inflammation and post inflammatory inflammation than Caucasians. If you’re from Asia, then your skin is most prone to inflammation and scarring.

Melasma

It is a form of hyperpigmentation that appears on your face, especially on your cheeks, bridge of nose, forehead and upper lip and sometimes on the forearms. The three types of melasma include epidermal, dermal and mixed. You should be me more concerned about melasma if you are Hispanic or Asian. Mexican Hispanic women have a higher incidence of melasma as much as 80 percent.

Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema)

It is an inflammatory illness that is becoming more common especially in the Western world. Babies and small children are most affected. People living in cities and more dry climates may get this disease.  Your genes, climate, pollution, gender, mother’s age at the time of your birth may all be the potential triggers for atopic dermatitis. You may get dry and itchy skin, redness, swelling, cracking, weeping (clear fluid), crusting, thick skin and scaling.

Asian and dark-skinned children are more likely to develop atopic dermatitis in the first six months of their life. In about one-third of the children the disease dies in infancy, but for others, it continues to adulthood.

Suffers may be deficient in essential lipids and natural moisturizing factors. So, the skin’s barrier function gets weakened leading to moisture loss. An irregular immune system may also increase the risk of your disease. Experts say Caucasian children get most trouble on their elbows, behind the knees, wrists, and front of the ankles.

Rosacea

If you have rosacea, you are in the right company of some famous people like Bill Clinton and Diana Princess of Wales. The symptoms include flushing and redness in the center of your face, spider veins, swollen skin, dry skin, roughness or scaling. Rosacea can also lead to acne-like breakouts and thickening of the skin which is more common among fair-skinned women of Northern European and Celtic ancestry.

Impact Of Culture And Ethnicity On Skin Aging

Aging is an inevitable and complicated process. Clinically it includes features such as wrinkles, uneven skin color, sagging skin and sunspots. Aging leads to volumetric loss of fat, redistribution of soft tissue and bone resorption. There is a loss of lip volume and shading under the eyes. Atrophy develops on the cheeks, temples and lateral chin. The fat pads below the eye socket protrude which gives an aged appearance to face.

Signs of aging appear as wrinkles and fine lines on lighter skins. If you have dark skin, then aging seems as deep folds primarily like the nasolabial folds.

If you have dark skin, then aging starts at a little later stage and seems less severe. The reason is that dark skin contains more melanin and gets better protection from the UV rays. Hyperkeratosis (thickening of the outermost layer of skin) is a sign of aging which is more common among East Asians.

Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra is a condition where small benign lesions appearing on the face is unique to dark skinned people.

Differences In Culture

Regardless of their skin type people complain about uneven skin color and dark spots, but in different ways according to their ethnic origins. All skin types undergo the same kinds of changes as they age with volume loss being the global sign of aging. The important thing is your perception depends on your cultural practices. Asian women are more concerned with pigmentation issues, while North European women associate wrinkles with aging.

How to take care of fair skin (example Taylor Swift)

Fair skin is incredibly beautiful if properly cared. Wash your face with a gentle cleanser, use a lightweight moisturizer with an SPF of at least 30, and use a thick moisturizing cream at night. Choose products made for sensitive skin, use gentle exfoliates and sunscreen of SPF 50 while spending long hours in the sun.

Your body needs sunlight so don’t shun it altogether. Avoid tanning and use self-tanners instead. Choose a makeup that enhances your pale skin. Accept your freckles and stop smoking. Your skin’s best friend is a wide-brimmed hat, quality sunscreen, and wraparound sunglasses.

How to take care of medium skin (example Carrie Underwood)

The medium skin has more yellow undertones because it is richer in melanin. Use an antioxidant-rich serum that can hydrate and protect your skin. Use sunblock when venturing out. Stay away from thick waxy cream that will weigh your skin down, clog pores and will result in a breakout. Keep your skin hydrated always.

How to take care of olive skin (example Arianna Grande)

The warm tones of olive skin are due to increased levels of melanin. Handle it with care because it is predisposed to produce even more melanin even at the slightest provocation. Use a gentle exfoliant to exfoliate your skin on a regular basis as not to cause hairline lacerations that will darken over time. Stay away from scrubs that contain nut shells and ground fruit pits.  Steer clear of harsh chemicals such as glycolic acid and sodium lauryl sulfate that can irritate or even burn your skin.

How to take care of black skin (Example Beyoncé)

Moisturize your skin daily. Black skin often dries out and becomes ashy if overly dry. Use a facial moisturizer that contains humectants because they attract water and keeps it soft and supple. If you have oily skin, choose an oil-free cleanser. Wash your skin daily with moisturizing body wash containing glycerin or hyaluronic acid. Black skin is more prone to roughness and bumps so exfoliate your skin on a regular basis. Protect your skin from the sun with an SPF of 15 or higher.

Conclusion

Whatever may be your culture or ethnic origin, be sure to eat healthily, drink eight glasses of water every day and practice stress reduction techniques. A nutritious diet rich in fruits, vegetables, proteins and whole grains will keep your skin glowing from inside out.

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