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The Student Voice Of Contra Costa College, San Pablo, Calif.

The Advocate

Column: The care and keeping of ethnic skin

Tips from a licensed esthetician to avoid unsightly side effects of improper care.

Ethnic skin is subject to hereditary factors, which makes it require special care most of the time. The most common concern with ethnic skin is hyperpigmentation, a condition that causes patches of skin to appear darker than the rest. Hyperpigmentation has to do with our body’s production of melanin.

What is melanin? Melanin is a substance in our bodies that is responsible for our hair, skin, and eye color. The amount of melanin present determines the color of your skin. 

Before becoming an esthetician, I worked as an assistant at a beauty parlor. The owner shared that everyone has the same amount of melanin, and I believed it. Eventually, I learned that we all have the same amount of melanocytes, the cell in our skin that produces melanin. The amount of melanin produced, meanwhile, depends on a few factors – primarily genetics and amount of sun exposure your ancestors had. In a nutshell: Melanin protects our skin from damage, especially sun damage. Ethnic people often make skincare mistakes that will trigger unnecessary melanin production, causing scarring or hyperpigmentation if you will. 

What is hyperpigmentation? This is simply an overproduction of melanin. It’s usually triggered by wounds, harsh products, sun damage or acne. Uneven skin tone is normal. We’re talking about significantly darker areas of the skin. Sometimes, hyperpigmentation is hereditary, just as pore size can be. Darkened eye areas are a common place for hereditary hyperpigmentation. 

Wear eyeshades whenever possible to reduce further orbital hyperpigmentation. Wearing sunscreen daily will lessen the risk of hyperpigmentation worsening overall.

Common ethnic skin care mistakes include:

  • Using ingredients that contain hydroquinone
  • Picking at skin
  • Not using sunscreen
  • Not ensuring that your laser pro is versed in skin of color.
  • Using vitamin C products during the day
  • Bleaching
  • Mixing incompatible ingredients
  • Over exfoliating
  • Home dermaplaning
  • Home chemical peels
  • Not treating ingrown hairs

If you are a person of color, it’s important to know your skin type this will ensure that you’re using the appropriate products. Products that will support your natural beauty without triggering unnecessary and sometimes unsightly changes. If using retinoids, use them as directed and don’t mix them with other active ingredients. Use your active ingredients at night, as most of them will cause photosensitivity, increasing your risk for sun damage. If a condition is present, get a proper diagnosis. Many conditions can only be treated by a dermatologist. Get an analysis from an esthetician who specializes in skin, or ask your primary care provider for a dermatology referral. This is for skin all over the body.


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Kyonda Trass, Advocate Staff

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