Ethnic Cosmetics

Conventionally ‘Race’ is defined as a group of individuals or populations with the same or similar external characters which have been determined by heredity.

Racial differences in skin physiology and function have been minimally investigated. It is difficult to compare the potentially different behaviour of White, Black & Oriental skins precisely because of lack of sufficient epidemiological data. Recently a few studies have been done to observe the behaviour of different skin types and it has been concluded that whatever the differences it is due to mechanisms involving the Stratum Corneum (topmost layer), epidermal, dermal or appendageal structural or functional variations.

Dont get confused, in layman terms, it just means that there are differences in almost all layers of the skin either in their structure or the way they function. it also includes appendages i.e Hair follicles, sweat glands, sebaceous or oil producing glands etc.

– Black skins have a stronger stratum corneum and hence are less prone to develop Irritant effects of any chemicals. Where the problems arise are due to difference in colour or pigmentations. Everyone wants fair skin but believe me Black is Beautiful, not only in terms of aesthetiques but also in a pure Dermatologist ‘s way of looking at skin.

As mentioned earlier the colour of our skin is determined by genetics. We cannot change the colour we were born with. What lightens is only the colour caused by the sun. Most whitening creams contain an anti sun and something to even out the skin colour and lighten blemishes…….Lo behold, you look better and fairer ! A prime example of tampering with nature is the singing Icon Michael Jackson !

– the Melanocyte…i.e the pigment forming cell…….plays the Primary though not the only, role in distinguishing Black skins.. The primary difference in White…….., Black…….,and Oriental skins is …. the type, amount and distribution of melanophages ( kidney shaped pigment containing cells) in the epidermal cells. In White skins these melanophages are small, less melanized and distributed in complexes in the cells. In Oriental Skins they are slightly larger, distributed as a mixture of singly and aggregates in the cells The pigment forming cells are same in all types of skin but in Black skins the size of ‘melanosomes’, i.e pigment containing cells in the upper layers, are larger and are distributed singly. This allows better absorption of ultraviolet light & less damage to underlying skin structures. Functionally Black skin is believed to behave differently from white skin. This difference has been stated to result due to a difference in the permeability of the topmost layer of the skin or the stratum corneum.

What I have written so far is purely medical but to apply it in real life………

Darker skins show less contact irritation to any medications or applications but converesely in case of any irritation , acne or burns post inflammatory pigmentation is more severe. This is also a cause of concern if we are to use chemical peels or Lasers of any sorts on Darker skins. the slightest thing going wrong and we are left behind with a very bad and resistant hyper pigmentation. rarely pigmentation may be ‘HYPO’ i.e white in colour……this is a bigger stigma! Thus these procedures need to be done with utmost caution and by experienced doctors only. Never try to bleach out skin colour…….It won’t ! All you’ll succeed in doing is to burn the skin and cause marks. Bleach is meant to make facial hair less visible, lighten the tan & give your skin a faint glow. all these effects are achieved by minimum time contact with bleaches.

Certain skin conditions like lichenification( skin thickening), Keloids, skin tags are commoner in dark skinned people. Negroid skins show more occurences of Acne cheloidalis, folliculitis in beard areas. The nails and oral mucosa of dark skinned people show black streaks which are considered normal. Moles of different types are also more common.

Orientals show Sun induced skin changes between those of Whites & Blacks. Skin disorders like Psoriasis, Alopecia aerata & vitiligo are seen in higher frequencies. Acne is less common & less severe than in White skins.

The commonest skin conditions in White skins are sun induced. This also causes an accelerated ageing change if proper care of skin is disregarded. Skin cancers are commoner in white skins and in certain geographic areas. What this points out to is that if you are looking for complete skin protection then lighter skinned people need a higher SPF or Total sunblock whereas dark skinned people can get away with a lower SPF. If tanning is desired then a sunblock with a lower SPF…….from 8 to 15 is suitable.

As far as cosmetics go, then anti ageing or anti acne creams should be used carefully in light skins because any redness is very marked and so also irritation. Blotchy redness even if desired in certain treatments look ugly n lighter skins. In darker skins the redness may not show and irritation is less, but if you observe drying up of the skin give treatment a rest . Whatever your skin colour and whatever the product you use, always test it in a small area for 2 to 3 days before going all out !

Make up, foundations, colourings should be chosen with help of an beauty expert to suit your skin colour & tone.

Whatever skin we are born wih does not matter. Do not tamper with Mother nature but instead keep your skin glowing and healthy. Remember for every Cindy Crawford there is a Naomi Campbell !

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