With the national dialogue focused on race these days, it seems only fitting that skin color is also a burgeoning area in anti-aging research. And pigment isn’t the only factor dermatologists consider. Each ethnic group “has its own propensity to develop specific signs of aging,” says Susan C. Taylor, assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. So while the usual advice still applies to everyone — wear sunscreen; use retinol — each group can round out their routine by adding the following products and tricks.
The issues: Rough skin; uneven tone, including raised, pigmented growths called dermatosis papulosa nigra.
What to avoid: Mechanical exfoliants, irritating skin-care ingredients (such as alcohol, propylene glycol, and lanolin), Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) treatments, and ablative lasers — all of which can cause light and dark spots.
What to do: To smooth the skin, wash twice a day with a product containing 5 percent glycolic acid, such as Glycolix 5% Gentle Face Cleanser, says Heather Woolery-Lloyd, director of ethnic skin care at the University of Miami Cosmetic Medicine and Research Institute. And once a week, try a glycolic acid peel, such as Peter Thomas Roth Un-Wrinkle Peel Pads, for deeper exfoliation. For dark growths, see a dermatologist to have them removed using an electric current.
Latina, Middle Eastern, and South Asian skin
The issue: Blotches called melasma.
What to avoid: Above all, sun exposure. Those with dark skin should skip grainy exfoliants, which can create dark spots. And steer clear of IPL and most laser treatments, “which frequently make melasma worse,” warns Woolery-Lloyd.
What to do: Prevent melasma by wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every single day. To fade existing discoloration, wash once day with a glycolic cleanser, such as Rx for Brown Skin Bright and Even Exfoliating Cleanser, and apply a 2 percent hydroquinone cream at night — Woolery-Lloyd likes Ambi Fade Cream — or a lotion with soy, such as Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30. For faster results, a dermatologist can perform peels or prescribe Tri-Luma.)
East Asian skin
The issues: Sun spots, which can begin appearing when a woman is in her 20s; raised brown patches with a bumpy texture, called seborrehic keratosis.
What to avoid: East Asian skin tends to be sensitive, so be sure to test products containing glycolic or lactic acid on a small area under your chin, says Andrew F. Alexis, director of the Skin of Color Center at St. Luke’s–Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. These can cause redness and can even increase melanin production, leading to dark patches.
What to do: Dermatologists recommend using a retinol cream (try Neutrogena Healthy Skin Anti-Wrinkle Cream) every other day until you know your skin can tolerate it. For dark spots, the sunscreen and hydroquinone/soy regimen recommended for Latina skin works. Scaly patches must be removed by a doctor.