Everyone’s skin tone is unique, from light to dark and everywhere in between, we are a blend of our biological parents. Of course, these differences affect our choice of makeup, but should they influence our choice of skin care?
In 1975 Dr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, a dermatologist at Harvard Medical School, developed a scale to classify a person’s complexion based on tolerance to sunlight. Dr. Fitzpatrick studied skin pigmentation and did pioneering work in treatments of many skin ailments. Today, we use the Fitzpatrick Scale to determine whether or not a patient is suited for various professional treatments.
The Fitzpatrick Scale uses the skin’s reaction to 10 to 45 minutes of sun exposure to classify skin type.
- Type 1 burns easily and never tans
- Type 2 burns easily and tans minimally
- Type 3 burns moderately and tans gradually
- Type 4 burns minimally and tans easily
- Type 5 rarely burns and tans easily
- Type 6 deeply pigmented skin that never burns
The Fitzpatrick scale is a widely used system of classification and is crucial when performing treatments like chemical peels and microdermabrasion. Darker skin is more likely to experience post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation if treated too aggressively without proper preparation.
Once we classify the skin type on the Fitzpatrick scale, we look at other factors like skin density (thickness), oil production and laxity.
As a general rule, Melanin increases skin density and thicker skin tends to be more prone to oiliness yet I have found many of my darkest skinned clients sensitive to aggressive exfoliation.
I recommend a gentle cleanser without sulfates for my Asian and African American clients. The goal is to clean the skin without stripping healthy oils. Gentle exfoliation is also important, weekly use of a white clay mask will help remove dead skin cells while calming reactive skin.
A broad spectrum SPF is very important, even for the darkest of skin tones. UVA rays are present from sunup to sundown, 365 days a year, all around the globe; these rays are the primary cause of premature aging.
Many of my darker skinned clients are concerned with dark patches, increased melanin makes the skin prone to dark spot or hyper-pigmentation. These dark spots are a direct result of inflammation caused by acne or sun exposure and commonly occur during pregnancy or in women that use hormonal birth control.
Prevention is key. Daily use of a broad spectrum sunscreen will help prevent new spots from forming and existing spots from getting darker. Add a Vitamin C Serum under your SPF to boost it’s effectiveness as well as provide a gentle brightening action.
Nightly use of a Retinol or prescription Retin A will remove mild pigmentation. The combination of Vitamin C Serum during the day and Retinol Serum at night is effective for most mild cases of pigmentation.
If your pigment spots are more severe, you can employ a regimen of professional chemical peels and hydroquinone based products to even your skin tone. Consult with a professional before your start a more aggressive regimen, some lighteners can actually have the opposite effect when not used properly on darker skin tones.