Mirror/Mirror Episodes

Anti-Aging for Every Skin Tone

How does your skin color affect your anti-aging skin routine?

Skin color plays a major role in how your skin will age and how it responds to products and procedures says dermatologist Dr. Melissa Bogle.

She says every one's skin needs the same basic regimen: gentle cleansing, sun protection, and additional products geared toward their particular skin type. However, within each skin type, you'll find a wide range of skin tones. The basic difference between someone with light skin and someone with dark skin is the amount of melanin in their skin. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin is and the more "built in" sun protection you have. This occurs because melanin absorbs some of the UV light so that it causes less damage to the skin cells.

Here are Dr. Bogle's anti-aging skin plans:

Fair Skin (Caucasian):

Fair skin definitely drew the short straw when it comes to premature aging and skin cancer. The lighter your skin is, the earlier you will show signs of aging. For fair skin types, skincare should focus on sun protection in the morning and repair at night. In the morning that means a good quality antioxidant (Skinceuticals Phloretin or CE Ferulic) and a broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30. It also helps to layer your sunscreens with a high SPF foundation and powder on top of your normal sun screen. My favorite corrective products are SkinMedica's TNS Essential Serum and Retin-A, retinol or alpha-hydroxy acids such as lactic or glycolic acid creams.

Fair skin can also be prone to facial redness and rosacea which can cause redness and broken capillaries. This group should opt for gentle skin care ingredients, such as peptides or growth factors.

For more intensive treatment, lighter skin types normally do well with chemical peels or targeted laser procedures to eliminate brown spots, reduce broken blood vessels, and improve skin firmness and texture.

Olive Skin (Asian):

Olive skin tends to be the most sensitive skin type, making it susceptible to sun damage, acne, and inflammation. These patients should always use sun protection, even during incidental sun exposure. Aim for products that are gentle. Ingredients such as kojic acid (Skinceuticals Phyto+), arbutin (Skinceuticals Phyto+), and vitamin C (Skinceuticals Phloretin) can help to even out the skin tone and give an overall brightening effect without causing too much irritation.

One of my favorite new skincare products is BB Cream. These creams are the ultimate multi-taskers with sun protection, coverage, soothing and lightening agents all in one cream.

Lighter Olive Skin (Hispanic/Latina):

Lighter olive skin types can be prone to sagging, fine lines, and pigmentation problems. Like with all skin types, sun protection is a must. At night I like products with ingredients such as Retinol or Retin-A because they help to build collagen and firm the skin. These products can also help even out pigmentation. Because they can be irritating, I recommend patients start with a twice a week application, slowly increasing as tolerated.

Uneven skin pigmentation may require regular treatments with microdermabrasion and light chemical peels. Patients can also use at home chemical peel pads such as SkinLuma's Gloss or Brightening Exfoliator Pads to increase exfoliation, improve fine lines, and even out the skin tone.

Darker Skin (South Asian/Middle Eastern):

Because of its high melanin content, deep olive skin tends to wrinkle less, but can be prone to issues with pigmentation, particularly dark patches on the upper lip and cheeks and dark circles in the under eye area.

Irritation and sun exposure can both stimulate melanin, so this skin type still needs to wear sunscreen on a daily basis. To lighten dark patches, I recommend a skin bleaching agent such as hydroquinone (Ambi Fade Cream) in conjunction with an exfoliating agent such as Retinol (Skinceuticals Retinol or SkinMedical TriRetinol Complex). Despite the name, skin bleaching agents don't actually bleach the skin. They just suppress the activity of melanocytes. So to effectively lighten dark spots, they are best used in conjunction with an agent that increases skin turnover and exfoliates off the brown. Azelaic acid (Finacea) is one of my favorite products for dark skin because it has skin lightening properties but also helps to build collagen and increase skin turnover.

Loss of volume in the upper cheek can contribute to a hollow under eye appearance and dark circles. Optimal improvement may require an injectable filler such as Restylane or Juvederm into the upper cheek to lift the contour and correct any shadowing.

Very Dark Skin (African-American):

Darker skin types are blessed with the holy grail of being the most resistant to photoaging, but they can prone to skin issues like raised scarring, pronounced hyperpigmentation, and ingrown hairs.

In terms of skin care, moisturizers are really important. Patients with darker skin types can develop a gray or "ashy" look to the skin when it gets dry. I recommend moisturizers with ingredients such as ceramides, which are natural lipids in the skin. One of my favorite moisturizers is a prescription product called EpiCeram. I add a small amount to products the patient is already using to help increase the lipid content. One common mistake I see is the application of oil to the skin as a moisturizer. Oils in general do not add moisture, but instead help trap moisture within the skin. The best way to use them is on top of a moisturizer or applied in the shower when the skin is still wet.

Despite a high melanin content, it is still important for dark skinned individuals to wear sunscreen to protect themselves from skin cancer. Very dark skin has a natural SPF of about 13, which is about double that of white skin. So while the difference is significant, it's not as much as you might think. I like tinted or clear gel sunscreens for patients with ethnic skin because white sunscreens can give the skin a gray cast.

Another common problem in dark skinned individuals is ingrown hairs. For this I recommend a product called Tend Skin used as an aftershave in both men and women. Tend Skin contains acetylsalicylic acid, which acts like a crushed up aspirin to reduce inflammation and help exfoliate the skin. Laser hair removal is probably the best option to reduce hair growth altogether. A prescription called Vaniqa can slow down the rate of hair growth between treatments.

More information:
Melissa Bogle, MD
The Laser and Cosmetic Surgery Center of Houston

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