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Q.  What does the term, “ethnic skin” mean?

A.  Ethnic skin encompasses a wide variety of skin types, including, but not limited to:
African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, Mediterranean and people of mixed ethnicities.
Q.  How is ethnic skin different from Caucasian skin?
A.  Ethnic skin, or skin of color, has more melanin than Caucasian skin, in varying degrees, depending upon the skin type and the individual. There are both benefits and risks associated with darker pigmented skin. Due to the higher amount of melanin, the skin may appear up to ten years younger than that of a Caucasian the same age. The extra melanin also provides some added, although not fully adequate, protection for ultraviolet (UV) damage to the skin.

There are special risk factors unique to ethnic skin, which have to do with the extra melanin, which can create various pigmentation disorders, such as hyperpigmentation, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), acne scarring, keloids, melasma and vitiligo.

Q.  Is it true that darker skin types need sun protection if they have the extra melanin as a built-in SPF?
A.  Yes, it is essential for all skin types, including people with skin of color, to protect their skin from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Even though darker skin types may have a “built-in” SPF of between 8-13, depending upon the amount of pigment in the skin, that is still not enough to properly guard against the sun’s harmful rays.
Q.  What is the proper way to for people with ethnic skin to use sunscreen?
A.  It is recommended to use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Broad -spectrum means protection from the UVA rays (which are associated with aging) and UVB rays (which are associated with burns). Sunscreen needs to be applied properly and regularly. In addition, people should wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses and avoid the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. - 4 p.m.)

Q.  How can I find a dermatologist experienced in treating ethnic skin?
A.  To find a dermatologist, you may visit:
http://www.aad.org/findaderm/ (and type in your zip code)
http://www.womensderm.org/find/ (and type in your zip code)

To find out if a doctor is board-certified, you may visit:

It is advisable to get personal referrals and check to be sure that the dermatologist is well-experienced in treating darker skin types.

"America's Ethnic Skin: an Al Roker Health Special" was sponsored by
AMBI ® Skincare through a grant from Johnson& Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc.

Women's Dermatologic Society
Toll-Free: 1-877-WDS-ROSE (937-7673)
eMail: wds@womensderm.org | www.playsafeinthesun.org

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