There is a great deal of diversity between us - differences that are to be celebrated. And yet, when it comes to skincare, our desire for clear, even skin tone, free from the signs of ageing remains almost universal.
One of the differences between skin types lies in its response to ultraviolet (UV) light. The international Fitzpatrick skin classification describes skin types as ranging from Type 1: pale white skin which always burns and never tans; to Type 6: deep brown to black skin that never burns.
There are however, a fundamental range of products that can maintain healthy skin in all Fitzpatrick types, some of which are mentioned below:
Cleansing the skin is the most important step in removing dirt, sweat and oils from the skin. A good cleanser is key to maintaining skin health, providing optimal skin cleansing while minimising damage to the skin barrier.
Cleansers contain at least one surfactant, which remove both water and oil-based impurities. Cleansers free from scrubbing agents, with either a neutral pH (7.0) or slightly acidic, are often the most compatible.
Moisturisers are key to maintaining skin hydration by preventing water loss. Moisturisers can be categorised into their different types.
Humectant moisturisers draw water molecules into the skin itself. Often thin in texture, they absorb relatively quickly and are light. These are often better for oil-prone skins but they work well for most skin types. Emollient moisturisers are richer creams, which improve skin barrier function by providing lipid replenishment. Occlusive moisturisers are the most deeply hydrating moisturisers, providing a physical barrier to the skin. These are thick in texture and used for very dry or even inflamed skin.
Moisturisers should be used with consideration as their overuse can contribute to the dull appearance of skin, as well as acne and rosacea. Avoid those with heavy fragrances, and instead opt for non-comedogenic types that are gentle enough for daily use.
The most important advice is to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen, working against both UVA and UVB rays. This is strongly recommended in the daily routine of all skin types. There is a misunderstanding that darker skin tones (types 5-6) do not need sunscreen as they infrequently burn. However, sun protection is essential to prevent UV-induced DNA damage causing hyperpigmentation, photo-aging and skin cancers.
Sunscreens can be divided into two types: physical and chemical. Physical or inorganic sunscreens contain minerals that reflect UV light from the sun; the most commonly used being zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These are often best for allergy-prone skin, but can cause excessive shine and a whitish-tinge to the skin. However, newer micro-ionised physical sunscreens have a minimal tinge and are more suitable for skin of colour.
Chemical or organic sunscreens absorb the UV light and change its molecular structure. The active ingredients can vary between sunscreens, and these are less likely to leave a colour residue. However, they can be much less well-tolerated in sensitive skin and can degrade after absorbing too much sunlight.
In reality, most sunscreens have combined physical and chemical properties. For maximum protection, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or above, reapplying every two hours.
Retinoids are vitamin A derivatives with skincare benefits strongly supported by research. Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin and plays a key role in cell growth and development, making it a key product for anti-aging, acne and hyperpigmentation.
In their active form, retinoids work on the skin to shed mottled and pigmented cells and reveal clearer, fresher skin underneath. These are best introduced to a skincare regime slowly, as initial irritation and dryness are common side effects. Retinoids are an evening-only product and must be supported with sunscreen cover during the day.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic Acid, is the most abundant antioxidant in the skin. It has anti-inflammatory properties, supports other antioxidants and helps stimulate collagen production.
Using Vitamin C in your skincare regime helps minimise the appearance of photo-damaged skin, reducing hyperpigmentation and the signs of ageing.
The key is the form of Vitamin C applied, its stabilisation and storage. You may see it stored in a dark package, as it oxidises when exposed to light or air, deactivating its skincare properties.
Ask a Medical Professional
Everyone’s skin is unique and we all have specific skin care needs. Medical professionals can provide you with tailor-made treatments, backed by evidence-based research to help you make informed decisions about your skin.
Skin conditions can affect anyone and some are more common, or appear differently in skin of colour. Your medical professional should be experienced in identification, treatment and be able to refer you for specialist treatment where necessary.
Your medical professional may have access to medical-grade skincare products, many of which have skincare research rooted in treatments for all skin types. More and more professionals are offering online skin consultations, making them even more accessible and easy to fit into your day.
This guest blog was written by Dr Harmony Ubhi, owner of Dr Harmony Aesthetics in Amersham.