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Understanding Darker Skin Tones

Posted: May 21, 2010

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Melasma is another type of skin darkening that happens in individuals of African, Latin, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean descent. Patients with melasma notice brown or gray-brown patches on the cheeks, bridge of nose, forehead, chin or upper lip. Although the exact cause is unknown, it is thought that pregnancy, birth control pills (or other hormone therapies), and some medications, together with sun exposure, may trigger this disease. Again, judicious application of SPF 30, or higher, and fading creams which include hydroquinone, are best forms of treatment.

There are some natural alternatives that treat both PIH and melasma as well, including soy, coffee berry extract, and licorice root.

3. Does a darker skin tone mean skin is slower to age? What should every dark-skinned person include in their daily skin care regimen?

People of color have more melanin, which provides built-in protection against the damaging effects of the sun. Because of the high level of melanin, darker skin tones show fewer signs of aging. In fact, a medium brown African-American person has a natural SPF of 13.4, versus a fair-skinned Caucasian who has a natural SPF of 3.4 plus. Since melanin is a natural antioxidant, it protects against free radicals—-the damaging particles that attack collagen and elastin and cause wrinkles-- people of color have a tendency to have smoother, firmer skin longer. To boost the protective effects of melanin, you should advise clients to apply an SPF of at least 30 and a serum or cream rich with antioxidants such as vitamin C and E, coffee berry, kojic acid, and/or retinols.

Daily SPF of 30 or higher is a must for everyone because darker skin can develop skin cancer. Because some physicians and patients erroneously think that brown skin is exempt from this disease, this misconception lends to a delay in diagnosis and treatment. There is no question that people of color are less likely to become afflicted with skin cancer. Sadly, however, they are much more likely to die from the disease. Because skin malignancy is curable if caught early, there is no reason for an increase in mortality to exist.