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The Treatment of Skin of Color

Jennifer Linder, MD October 2013 issue of Skin Inc. magazine
The Treatment of Skin of Color

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Skin care professionals are increasingly tasked to treat clients from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, comprising a menagerie of skin tones and textures. Also, whereas it may previously have been possible to classify a client and adopt a treatment protocol based on their dominant ethnic background, this is no longer the case. With the removal of societal barriers, there are many more mixed-heritage individuals now than at any time in history. However, with this advancement comes a plethora of variables that must be considered when treating skin of color (SOC). Once it has been identified that a client does fall under the umbrella of SOC—either by appearance or heredity—it is of the utmost importance to apply caution in developing and administering a treatment protocol. There are specific issues that are more prevalent in SOC which, if not properly considered, can lead to adverse outcomes. Following are common issues you may encounter when treating skin of color.

Avoiding assumptions

One misconception that must be laid aside is that ethnic skin is easily identifiable by visual examination alone. Quite often, a client may appear to have skin that falls on the lower end of the Fitzpatrick scale, but she may, in fact, have a parent or grandparent who is of African-American descent or another ethnicity known for its increased skin pigmentation. Even if the light skin is the part of their heritage that is apparent, the potential for the reactivity that would be expected in higher Fitzpatrick types with darker skin remains. This is why it is imperative to conduct a thorough consultation with each client before designing and administering a course of treatment. The client should be questioned regarding both their maternal and paternal backgrounds in order to attain an accurate picture. Additionally, the client should be asked about how their skin has reacted in the past to any type of treatment, as well as to the daily care regimen they use at home. If you are unable to identify a client’s hereditary background due to adoption or other circumstances, always tread lightly when beginning a treatment pathway until you have first-hand knowledge of how that client’s skin reacts.

Common conditions for skin of color

There are predispositions to certain conditions to which SOC is more prone. Following are several of these conditions and their presentation, as well as effective ways in which to address them.

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Treatment How-to: Universal Treatment for Skin of Color (SOC

This treatment employs a papaya puree fruit enzyme mask to gently exfoliate the stratum corneum, while advanced corrective products address the overall health of the skin. A cream-based vitamin A professional treatment product encourages a smooth, even complexion. This treatment is indicated for all Fitzpatrick skin types.

Cost: $65–100

Duration: 30–45 minutes

Contraindications: Refrain from performing this treatment on pregnant or lactating women, and
those with a known allergy to the ingredients within the treatment.

Supplies needed:

  • Cotton pads
  • Fan brush
  • Water

Products needed:

  • Cleanser: lactic acid, gluconolactone and aloe vera-based
  • Alcohol-free toner: lactic and citric acids, and aloe vera
  • Mask: Papaya puree fruit enzyme mask
  • Serum: epidermal growth factor serum containing vitamin E, EGCG, bisabolol and grape fruit cell extract
  • Cream: phenylethyl resorcinol, alpha-arbutin, undecylenoyl phenylalanine and white birch bark extract
  • Corrective product: 0.5% pure retinol, phytic acid, phenylethyl resorcinol and gluconolactone
  • Moisturizing eye product: dipeptide-2, palmitoyl tetrapeptide-7 and palmitoyl pentapeptide-4
  • Creamy retinoid professional treatment product: lactic acid, glutathione, kojic acid, arbutin, hyaluronic acid and honey
  • Light, hydrating and soothing moisturizer
  • Broad-spectrum sunscreen

Step 1: After completing a thorough skin analysis and consultation, cleanse the area of treatment thoroughly using cleanser. Rinse and pat dry.

Step 2: Prep (degrease) the skin with the toner using a cotton pad. Allow the skin to dry. Assess sensitivity by asking the client, “On a scale of 1–10, 10 being extremely active, how do you rate this sensation (or feeling)?”

Step 3: Using a fan brush, apply a thin, even layer of the mask. Allow the mask to remain on the skin for up to five minutes, or as the manufacturer suggests. Remove completely using cotton pads moistened with water.

Step 4: Apply the serum to the entire treatment area.

Step 5: Apply a pea-sized amount of the cream to the entire treatment area.

Step 6: Apply a thin, even layer of the corrective product.

Step 7: Gently apply the moisturizing eye product around the delicate eye area.

Step 8: To encourage a smooth, even complexion, apply the creamy retinoid professional treatment product to the entire treatment area. This should remain on the skin unless otherwise directed by the manufacturer.

Step 9: Apply a combination of a light, hydrating and soothing moisturizer with a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect the skin from harmful UV rays.

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