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Ethnic Skin Care: An Opportunity for Personal Connection

By: Elle Morris
Posted: December 6, 2010, from the December 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

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Among those differences are the melanocytes, or pigment cells, which are more sensitive to irritation and tend to react more aggressively to injury. The oil-producing glands in pigmented skin are also different, creating heightened levels of oiliness and dryness in pigmented skin. Common problems involve hyperpigmentation—in which patches of skin become darker after a cut, burn, or even insect bite or minor scrape. Acne, eczema, in-grown hairs and flesh moles also are common complaints associated with darker pigmented skin. Does this mean there is a direct correlation between the issues ethnic skin experienc

es and Caucasians typically featured in antiaging skin care ads? Absolutely. People of color benefit from high melanin counts, which provide natural protection from ultraviolet radiation and wrinkles associated with aging. Skin of women of color tends not to age the way Caucasian skin does—however, the propensity for irritation is magnified and requires greater sensitivity in product choice and treatment options.

Fundamental differences between dark and light skin have led to a void within the skin care market, and many brand owners either ignore or misunderstand the needs of ethnic skin. While Caucasian women seek products with antiaging, moisturizing and skin protection benefits, darker-skinned women seek products that address hyperpigmentation and facial oil while also preventing blemishes and severe dryness.

Products that address hyperpigmentation are plentiful in both mass and prestige—often with additional claims toward radiance, clarity and evenness of skin tone, creating a unified color of the skin and eliminating dark spots. In some cultures, this also is code for lightening.

Products such as Palmer’s Skin Success have targeted hyperpigmentation issues while also addressing dryness, allowing Palmer’s to dominate the market share at mass within the ethnic skin care category. Both Palmer’s and Johnson & Johnson’s AMBI have launched skin care products that contain hydroquinone, an ingredient found to be effective in lightening dark scars and spots on the skin. Although hydroquinone has been found to have mild to severe side effects and is highly regulated in countries outside the U.S., this ingredient continues to be found in products at mass. AMBI’s Fade Creams have experienced significant success in this category, positioning hydroquinone as a dermatologist-recommended ingredient that, when combined with vitamin E as a moisturizer, creates smooth, evenly toned skin.

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