Ethnicity and Skin Care: A Guide – Asian Skin Care Edition!

This blog article is a generalization!  Every person’s skin is different!

First – Asian skin tends to have a thinner Stratum Corneum & a thicker, more Compact Dermis(the Dermis is similar to The African Skin Type)

Skin Layers

layers of the skin

Layers of skin, chemical peel

Epidermis (Epidermal layers)
Stratum corneum (top layer of skin)
Stratum lucidum
Stratum granulosum
Stratum spinosum
Stratum mucosum
Stratum germinativum
Dermis ( Dermal layers)
Papillary dermis
Immediate reticular dermis
upper reticular dermis
mid dermis
lower reticular dermis
Hypodermis/Subcutaneous Tissue
Adipose Tissue ( fatty tissue)

Epidermis
The epidermis is completely cellular, meaning it is in a constant cycle of producing new cells while older dead skin cells are pushed to the surface to exfoliate or slough off. The epidermis is made up of keratinocytes, lymphocytes, melanocytes, Langerhans cells and Merkel cells. Approximately 80% -90% of the cells in the epidermis are keratinocytes, with all others interspersed among them.

A thinner Stratum Corneum means that the skins tends to be more prone to irritation making it sensitive to fragrance, environmental factors, chemicals, and abrasive exfoliation (which can disrupt the skin’s PH).  A thinner Stratum Corneum also means that the skin tends to scar more easily than other ethnic skin types.  Asian skin has an increased amount of melanin (the pigment in skin), and the cells that make melanin tend to be more sensitive to any type of inflammation or injury.  The melanin also means that the skin tends to tan more easily than burn, however thae sun exposure can cause sun damage (pigmentation).

Other issues that Asian skin tends to face is inflammatory acne and pigmentation (hyper or hypo).

Because Asian skin becomes more inflamed with deeper acne pustules and papules, patients are often left with post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), which refers to increased pigmentation or dark spots at the sites of inflammation.  Drinking green tea, an anti-inflammatory, can help with inflammation.  Regular sun protection is to prevent the signs of aging skin, including preserving skin tone and helping minimize pigmentation problems.  Another common skin condition in Asians that can impact the appearance of the skin is melasma. Melasma is characterized by brown patches commonly on the cheeks, upper lip, nose and forehead. While the exact cause of melasma is unknown, it is thought to result from a combination of genetic and hormonal factors, as well as UV exposure. Melasma is more common in women and in Hispanics and Asians.  Treatments for melasma include bleaching agents (can b irritating to skin start off using every other day once a day and work your way up to twice everyday) , hydroquinone, liquorice, topical retinoids and chemical peels. In addition, certain laser and light therapies have been shown to be safe and effective.  Such as, fractionated lasers and intense-pulsed light (IPL) therapies, but  that these procedures need to be administered carefully by dermatologists. *In some cases, laser and light procedures can worsen melasma if they destroy pigment cells – which leave white spots in the treated areas (talk to your Dermatologist!)

Cultural Practices to use with caution:

Cupping and moxibustion are two ancient healing techniques that complement acupuncture therapy by the use of heat to stimulate circulation. However, people who regularly practice cupping and moxibustion can get bruising or scarring that sometimes require dermatologic care to minimize PIH. Similarly, the practice of coin rubbing – which involves using oils on the skin and repetitive rubbing of coins firmly over the area to promote healing – can create deep abrasions and bruising that may need medical attention.  The application of black henna tattoos (could contain high concentrations of a chemical known as para-phenylenediamine, or PPD, used to create longer-lasting black henna tattoos).  PPD is an allergen that could cause allergic contact dermatitis, with symptoms ranging from mild eczema to blistering and scarring.

Dermis
The dermis is a layer of connective tissue, composed mainly of collagen fibers as well as about 5% elastin. The Dermis is subdivided into the superficial papillary dermis and the reticular dermis. The papillary dermis is a thin layer of connective tissue fibers, the reticular dermis is thicker and contains collagen and elastin fibers.

Collagen constitutes 75% of dry skin weight, giving the skin volume. Fibroblast cells lie among collagen fibers and are known to synthesize (produce) collagen. Fully mature collagen fibers have a low turnover rate. Elastin fibers maintain tension in the skin and provide elasticity ( snap back after being stretched). Metabolic turnover for elastin fibers are very slow and only make up about 2% – 4% of dermal volume. Damage or alterations to the elastin fibers network cause skin to become loose, saggy and wrinkled. Fibroblasts are responsible for producing collagen, elastic fibers, and the ground substance of the dermis. Fibroblasts also control the turnover of connective tissue, unfortunately with age they become smaller and less active.

The more compact, thicker dermis means that the skin tends to wrinkle less than other ethnicities due to more collagen.  However, facial fat (adipose tissue) distends more rapidly causing premature skin sagging.  When used early on, treatments like lasers, fillers and creams can help combat sagging skin.

Source: Vitagen.com.sg

The skin also tends to have more sebaceous glands and making the skin oilier (produce more sebum).

A great article on Asian Skin Care by the American Academy of Dermatology, click here.

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