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The Anatomy of Global Skin Tones

By: Pamela Springer
Posted: June 14, 2012, from the August 2012 issue of GCI Magazine.
professional skin care client with skin of color

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The dermis in global skin is filled with dense, fibroelastic connective tissue, composed of collagen fibers, elastic fibers and glycosaminoglycans, which are key elements for retaining moisture in the skin. The dermal structure also contains an increased number of fibroblasts that are larger and more active. The increased activity of the fibroblast, the major cell type of the dermis, influences a thicker and more compact dermis. With an increase of fibroblasts, collageneous fibers are more abundant, contributing to a lower incidence of facial wrinkles, especially in Asians and African-Americans. The downside of excessive collagen is the vulnerability to keloids and hypertrophic scarring.

Darker skin tones have minimal elastin fibers throughout the dermis, resulting in a decrease in elastosis. In the retricular layer of the dermis, there are many more epocrine-aprocrine sweat glands, with a significant increase of aprocrine glands in the axilla, scalp and facial regions. This increase lends to the belief that global skin has more of a tolerance to humid climates. Lastly, the structure comparison reveals numerous nerve endings and lymphatic channels.

A Bounty of Opportunity

The ethnic skin care market may have been neglected in previous years; however, with the forecasted explosion of many different ethnic populations, beauty industry professionals have a bounty of opportunity ahead. Now, there is a greater potential for creating a niche market for those who want to specialize in global skin. To capture this market, it is important to be aware that the blending of races brings with it the combined genetics of each ancestry. What is observed visually may not tell the entire story. A thorough education in skin histology, skin conditions and genetic evolution will support the outcome of a successful treatment intervention.

General References

  • E Berardesca, J Lévêque and H Maibach, Ethnic Skin and Hair, Informa Healthcare, London (2006)
  • W Montagna, G Porta and J Kenney, Black Skin Structure and Function, Academic Press (1993)
  • Dermatology and Dermatological Therapy of Pigmented Skin, Informa Healthcare, London (2005)
  • M Alam, A Bhatia, R Kundu, S Youu and H Chan, Cosmetic Dermatology for Skin of Color, McGraw-Hill Professional (2008)
  • W Montagna and K Carlisle, The Architecture of Black And White Facial Skin, J Am Acad Dermatol 929–937 (Jun 1991)

Pamela Springer is a licensed esthetician, as well as the founder of The Skin & Makeup Institute of Arizona and the Academy of Advanced Aesthetics & Permanent Cosmetics. She conducts advanced global skin care training for licensed professionals. In 2009, she launched a corrective product line, Global Skin Solutions, to address the specialized needs of global skin.