While we know that biological, environmental and lifestyle factors affect the overall physical and mental processes of ageing, one other factor plays a vital role in the ageing process. This key factor is all in your skin!

In terms of skin, where ageing first shows up is all in the melanin, the chemical in your skin that determines how light or dark your complexion is.

The truth is, the more melanin you have in your skin, the better you will age. Melanin is what gives skin its colour. Therefore, people with darker skin tend to show signs of ageing much later in life than people with fairer complexions.

In order to understand how you will age, let us take a more in-depth look at the differences in skin as they age.

Danger Ahead & Other Signs Your Skin is Ageing

It’s often said that people are more alike than different. The point is beautifully illustrated when it comes to people of every age and ethnic background trying to avoid:

  • Visible signs of facial ageing
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Saggy, drooping skin
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Reduction in collagen production

Just as the ozone layer defends Earth against the damaging rays of the sun, melanin protects you from sunburn and skin cancer. Melanin is a sticky pigment produced naturally by your body to protect your skin from UV rays and the damage they cause. “Having more pigment can help delay, but not fully stop, the tell-tale signs of ageing skin,” reports the BBC in its story Does Darker Skin Wrinkle Less Than Lighter Skin?  (Anything that helps delay visible signs of ageing is a-okay with Costhetics.)

What does all this have to do with ethnicity? Thanks for asking.

Meet Thomas B. Fitzpatrick: He Knows Your Type

In 1975, Thomas B. Fitzpatrick developed a numerical classification schema for human skin colour. The Fitzpatrick Scale measures the amount of pigment in the skin and its tolerance to UV light. Participants answering a series of questions and their responses were assigned numerical values. For example:

What is your eye colour?

  • Light blue, grey, green – 0
  • Blue, grey, green – 1
  • Blue – 2
  • Dark Brown – 3
  • Brownish Black – 4

The points were then added up and types were designated:

  • 0-7 = Type I
  • 8-16 = Type II
  • 17-25 = Type III
  • 25-30 = Type IV
  • Over 30 = Type V-VI

The Fitzpatrick Scale is the most widely accepted skin typing method in medicine. Beauty professionals rely on the scale to accurately develop products appropriate to all skin types. (Fun fact: The Fitzpatrick Scale of the basis of skin colours in emojis, says Wikipedia)

If a person understands which skin type they have according to the Fitzpatrick Scale, they can make an informed choice about how to protect their skin. Can you spot your skin type in the list below?

Fitzpatrick Skin Scale 1, 2 & 3 (out of 6)

Examples include but not limited to “white”, “caucasian” or “anglo Australian”

Skin Characteristics

Examples of Fitzpatrick skin type 1, 2 or 3 include people with ancestors from countries like Ireland, Russia, and some parts of Europe. You have a fair to medium complexion and a tendency to burn before you tan. When you do tan, most of the time you achieve a nice golden tan, but if you spend more than an hour in the sun without protection, you burn. You are more likely than other ethnicities to develop melanoma skin cancer.

You are the first of all ethnicities to show signs of premature ageing. You will first notice signs of ageing around your eyes. You are prone to developing sunspots and sun damage. Caucasians are also more likely to have grey hair earlier than most other ethnicities.

Possible non-invasive cosmetic treatments for you:
  • Anti-wrinkle injection treatments to correct crow’s feet and marionette lines.
  • Dermal fillers to add volume to the skin.
  • PRP treatments or Platelet Rich Plasma treatments to give the skin a more youthful appearance.
  • Fractional laser resurfacing to treat severely sun damaged skin and dark sunspots.
  • Microdermabrasion treatments to fade slight sun damage and light to medium sunspots.

Fitzpatrick Skin Scale IV

Examples include but not limited to people of Asian, Hispanic or Latino descent

If you are of Asian descent, your ancestors originated from places like China, Japan, and Korea. Did you know that Asians get the colour of their skin from the same substance that is responsible for the yellowish colour of various fruits and veggies? This substance, known as carotene, is what gives Asians, the yellowish undertone to their skin.

Asians, unlike Anglos, see the signs of ageing later in life, and fine lines and wrinkles are less likely to take form. One of the upsides of being Asian is that skin cancer is rare, and you are less likely to have early grey hair.

On the downside, Asian skin is prone to changes in pigmentation and pigmentation scarring. Asians are also more likely to developing hypertrophy scarring, unsightly scars and keloids. Asian eyelids are slightly different from most other ethnicities. As Asians age they sometimes have vision problems, because the skin above the eyelids tends to lose elasticity, causing it to sag.

Possible non-invasive cosmetic treatments for you:

  • Microdermabrasion treatments to fade slight pigmentation scarring and other types of scars.
  • Laser therapy to help fade keloid scars.

If you are of Hispanic or Latino heritage, your ancestors were from Mexico, South America, Puerto Rico or Cuba. Hispanic and Latino skin tones run the gamut from light to extremely dark and everything in between. What these skin tones have in common is that they all share some shade of brown.

Because the skin of most Hispanics and Latinos has a fair amount of melanin, they are not as vulnerable to the sun as, say, people of Anglo extraction. That doesn’t mean they’re free to go out in the sun without protection, but it does mean they are less likely than their Anglo counterparts to show signs of premature ageing.

On the other hand, having darker skin means they are prone to develop an uneven skin tone because of skin discolouration. They’re also more likely to develop dark spots and acne scars from acne breakouts. Latinos and Hispanics, like their Asian and African American counterparts, are more likely to develop keloids.

Possible non-invasive cosmetic treatments for you:

  • Microdermabrasion to get rid of less severe dark spots, acne scars, skin discolouration and hyperpigmentation.
  • Non-Ablative Fractional Resurfacing or NFR for sun damage and brown spots.
  • Laser Hair Removal to get rid of unwanted hair on the face and the body.
  • Laser therapy to help get rid of keloids.

Fitzpatrick Skin Scale V

Examples include but not limited to people of Middle Eastern descent

If you are of Middle Eastern descent, your ancestors are from places like North Africa, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates among many others. Just like other dark-skinned ethnicities, Middle Eastern people tend to have more melanin in their skin, so they also have added protection from the sun. They should, however, still use sun protection.

People with a Middle Eastern heritage don’t have to worry so much about premature ageing. Not only does their skin have a lot of melanin, it also tends to be thicker than that of other ethnicities. What does this mean? It means they are less likely to develop premature fine lines and wrinkles.

However, Middle Eastern skin also has more concentrated hair follicles, meaning more hair growth, and also enlarged pores, which produce more oil and can lead to breakouts. Just like Latinos and African Americans, those of Middle Eastern descent have skin issues like melasma and hyperpigmentation.

Possible non-invasive cosmetic treatments for you:

  • Laser hair removal treatments to get rid of unwanted hair on the face and other areas of the body.
  • IPL or intense pulse light for dark circles underneath the eyes.
  • Microdermabrasion treatments to reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and help deep cleanse the pores to remove dull lifeless skin and excess oils.
  • Laser treatments to reduce the appearance of melasma.

Fitzpatrick Skin Scale VI

Examples include but not limited to people of African descent

If you are of black or African American descent, your ancestors are from Africa but they could also be from the Carribean Islands and some South American countries. Since you have the most melanin in your skin, it tends to be darker than most other ethnicities. People of African descent can have skin tones that vary from very dark ebony to a very light caramel.

Like other skin types with lots of melanin, this gives additional protection from the sun which means it is less prone to sun damage, risk of skin cancer and also shows the signs of ageing slower than other skin types. However, this skin type still requires care and sun protection. It is a myth that people with very dark skin do not need to use sunscreen or protective clothing. If you have this skin type you can be happy that photoageing is delayed and you may not have to worry about wrinkles until your 50s or 60s.

Black or African American skin tends to be hypersensitive because of the extra melanin in the skin. As we discussed earlier, melanin is responsible for the colour of the skin, and more melanin means darker skin. Because of their disposition towards hypersensitivity, African Americans have to be extra careful of the skin products they use. Their sensitive skin may react negatively the ingredients in many products.

Just like other ethnicities with darker skin tones, African Americans are more prone to develop both temporary and permanent skin discoloration. They are also more likely to suffer from hyperpigmentation, keloids, melasma and ashy skin.

Possible non-invasive cosmetic treatments for you:

  • Microdermabrasion to treat ashy skin, hyperpigmentation and melasma. These treatments get rid of dead, lifeless skin, producing a more even complexion by giving the skin a radiant glow.
  • Non-ablative laser treatments to help fade the appearance of keloid scars.
  • Laser light treatments to make lighter skin caused by vitiligo darker so that it closely matches the person’s overall skin tone.

Regardless of your ethnicity and no matter what shape your skin is in, you’ll keep looking young longer if you take action as soon as you start to see visible signs of ageing. We invite you to use one of the variety of non-invasive cosmetic treatments we’ve outlined to keep looking your best, no matter what your age. Better yet, talk to your skin care professional for their recommendations. “Always ask an expert,” is what we say at Costhetics.

Stay beautiful!

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