You already know that through my professional experience and specialty that I believe that the most sensitive skin genetically is found in Asian descendants. Many of the concerns that my clients and patients have shared with me thru the years are due to using products that will work simply in other skin colors and types, but have unwanted effects in their sensitive Asian skin. The number 1 concern is…
#1 Concern: Hyperpigmentation
What is it? HP is an over production of the melanin cells (cells that give the skin its genetic coloring).
Why is it happening? It can be triggered by hormone imbalances (pregnancy, peri-menopause, andro-pause, etc), medications (antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, anti-virals, heart medications, to name a few), the SUN, allergic reactions and too aggressive skin care treatments and home care regimens (post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation).
How can I correct? In a skin that is born with a more sensitive nature, you need to be selective in ingredients and gentle with your touch. LESS IS MORE!
1. Look for non foaming cleansers: oil based/creme cleansers are ideal as they reduce the loss of water in the layers of the skin. When the skin is not balanced-oil:water ratios are off kilter, it leads to inflammation (irritation deep in layers of skin that can trigger different reactions both inside and on the surface of your skin). Inflammation is a MAIN TRIGGER OF HYPER-PIGMENTATION. *if you are acne prone, you must treat the acne prior to addressing skin color*
2. Anti-Oxidants: Vitamin C and Vitamin E in a moisture attracting serum on clean skin, are ideal as they will prevent new discolorations, enhance SPF protection and are both anti-inflammatory (reduces source of irritation in the layers of the skin).
3. HYDRATE! ALL SKINS NEED HYDRATION! Sorry to yell, but IT IS SO IMPORTANT! Make sure that the product has anti-inflammatory ingredients as well as moisture binders. Licorice, green tea, white tea, cellular protection proteins, beta glucan are all great anti-inflammatory ingredients. Hyaluronic acid, glycerin, aloe, sphingolipids, ceramides are some to look for.
4. SUN PROTECTION IS NOT OPTIONAL- YOU MUST WEAR IT EVERY DAY AND REAPPLY IF YOU ARE IN THE SUN FOR MORE THAN 30 MINUTES. My rule is if the sun comes up YOU PUT ON SPF, if it does not come up- I guess there is a BIGGER issue at hand…
Certain sunscreen ingredients are not suitable for a sensitive skin due to the way they work to provide protection, which for some, can cause inflammation. I, am one who cannot use avobenzone, octinnamate, and a few other SPF ingredients.
These ingredients must be applied at least 30 minutes prior to sun exposure, why you may wonder? They need that amount of time to have a chemical reaction with the lipids (oils) in your skin. They then work by absorbing UV rays and dispersing them throughout the surrounding area as heat and energy. In a sensitive skin, we already are functioning in a higher reactive state, so anything that can increase this response is not our friend.
Titanium Dioxide and Zinc Oxide are also broad spectrum SPF ingredients and are made from crushing these minerals into a fine powder and are available in powder, makeup, and suspended in a cream, gel or lotion.
I am a HUGE fan of Colorscience Sunforgettable products as they can be used by both sexes and YOU CAN REAPPLY THROUGHOUT THE DAY!!!! They are powders that are loaded into a brush applicator that you can pop into a gym bag, purse. (NEVER LEAVE SPF IN YOUR CAR, the heat in your car will break down your product).
PLEASE also use a separate SPF and moisturizer as you can have a false sense of protection. SPF is ALWAYS APPLIED LAST, prior to makeup application if you are a makeup user.
1. Cleanse all makeup, dirt and pollution gently from the skin. Never go to bed with your entire day on your face. THIS IS CRUCIAL AS YOUR SKIN REPAIRS AT NIGHT!!!! Same recommendation as for AM, gentle oil/creme based cleanser. You will show advanced aging if you are in the habit of not washing your face every evening.
2. EXFOLIATE: based on your skin type and condition you should exfoliate a minimum of once a week – up to 3 times a week. I prefer chemical exfoliants (acids, enzymes) to mechanical (scrubs, beads, crushed pits). There are some newer formulas that combine cleansing and gentle exfoliation. (see FIX Malibu’s Wish Wash, Dermalogica’s Daily Microfoliant)
3. Skin Lighteners: The gold standard in the medical skin arena is Hydroquinone…BUT, for most ethnic skins, it can be very irritating even in low dosage. There are other options that studies have shown are comparable to hydroquinone. These include mequinol, azelaic acid, kojic acid, arbutin, Vitamin C, soy, licorice extract and niacinamide. Mequinol is an ester of HQ and has recently been approved for use in the US. I am a HUGE fan of Kojic Acid, due to its anti -bacterial advantages, which is a great benefit if you are also suffering from acne (*please see prior note on acne). Azelaic acid is another FANTASTIC ingredient for lightening dark areas on the skin.
4. HYDRATE!!! Asian skins (as well as AA/ME/Mixed ethnicities) DO NOT hold onto the water portion in the skin well. Genetically there is a barrier function challenge, so YOU MUST HYDRATE. Again look for anti -inflammatory ingredients and hydration.
Keep it simple and as you correct and achieve the skin YOU desire you can address lesser concerns.
Please do not hesitate to ask any questions or share your concerns.