Ethnic Skin: Many Colors, Similar Care
By Eric Ebert
The palette of human skin tones includes a rich and diverse tapestry of colors and shades, but does each of these shades have their own specific and different set of needs. Surprisingly, the answer is no. It is important to realize that ethnic skin shares the same challenges and issues as Caucasian skin. "Skin is skin!," says Joyce Cayli, co-owner and esthetician of Reflections of You Salon and Spa in Fairfax , Virginia . "You must begin your approach looking at each individual skin type and the issues the client is facing."
Ethnic skin can have more challenges than Caucasian skin because of the way in which melanin, the chemical responsible for skin pigmentation, is organized. In Caucasian skin melanin is tightly organized and grouped together; however, melanin in darker ethnic skin is loosely organized and is grouped individually, which allows the cell to produce larger amounts of the chemical. Melanin is a highly reactive substance and the slightest stimulus can cause it to discolor. Chemistry aside, ethnic skin's physical makeup makes it more susceptible to certain skin issues such as oily or combination skin, hyper pigmentation, and ingrown hairs. "Take these issues into consideration, and realize that ethnic skin is delicate, and that you may not be able to use the same treatments on ethnic skin that you would on a client with Caucasian skin," advises Cayli.
Cayli recommends that her ethnic clientele avoid deep exfoliating treatments, especially in the summer when the season brings an increased risk of sun damage and acne problems. Care is essential as pigmentation in darker ethnic skin is easily damaged, and any damage can result in hyper pigmentation, a condition where the skin becomes discolored. This condition has become very prevalent in ethnic skin types as sun damage occurs from lack of sunscreen use. Many people of color feel that their skin is already protected from sun damage and do not regularly use sunblock, which is an assumption that Cayli and her team at Reflections of You are trying to change.
"All skin is susceptible to the damaging and dangerous effects of the sun, and everyone needs to wear a good, full spectrum of sunblock," says Cayli. "While Caucasian skin types need to be concerned with sun damage causing wrinkles and premature aging, ethnic skin types need to be concerned that the sun's damaging effects will cause hyper pigmentation," Cayli adds.
It is essential to the care of ethnic skin that you are aware of the fragility and the damage that can easily be caused by the harsh products. Select professional skincare products for your ethnic clients that are made for sensitive skin and that are also hypo-allergenic and fragrance-free. Cayli says, "Again, skin is skin and it is important to use professional salon quality products that are made with good ingredients by reliable manufacturers." Ethnic skin has a diverse number of concerns and clients should choose products that will correct their specific skin issues.
There are many skincare products on the market that will help correct problems facing ethnic skin. Clients who are dealing with hyper pigmentation problems may consider lightening products that contain hydroquinone or alpha hydroxy acids. These products brighten and even-out the skin tone, but clients using them must take precaution to always use sunblock, because these products can actually make hyper pigmentation worse when exposed to sunlight. Also, consider that certain medications and use of products such as exfoliants and peroxides contradict their use.
Even though good skin care is universal, it is still important for estheticians to be aware that there are specific concerns that are highly prevalent among ethnic skin types, and to know how to treat those conditions. "People generally know their own skin. They know what challenges and problems they have, yet what they may not know is how to treat their individual concerns. As salon and spa professionals, we must advise them on an individual basis and you will help them achieve a healthy and beautiful result," advises Cayli.
Marketing to ethnic clients is easy according to Cayli, who believes that knowing the issues facing their skin and helping them achieve a beautiful look will grow your ethnic clientele base. "Word-of-mouth is a powerful form of advertising. When you show your clients that you understand all the issues facing their ethnic skin type they will undoubtedly tell their friends and family," says Cayli. Remember to also include strong visual photographs of ethnic skin models in your advertising and marketing materials as well as in all of your point-of-purchase displays within your salon.
Ultimately, education is the greatest tool you can have when assisting and retaining ethnic clientele. You must educate your clientele. New technological advancements are being made every day in professional makeup and skincare. It is important that as cosmetologist and estheticians, we continually educate ourselves on these advancements and share them with their clients during our consultations. We must also educate each client on the benefits of each prescribed product as well as on how to facilitate personalized skincare regimens in between salon visits. Through education and experience we can help all of our clients have beautiful and healthy skin for their entire lives.