What is “Ethnic Skin?”

Ethnic skin includes Asian, Middle Eastern, African, South European, South American, and Native American skin.

What Are the Biggest Misconceptions About Ethnic Skin?

One of the biggest misconceptions we hear from our patients is the notion that dark skin doesn’t need protection from the sun and that ethnic skin is not at risk of skin cancer. This is absolutely not true, skin cancer can happen to anyone, no matter what your skin color. Dr. Kwan and his team of medically trained skin experts, who specialize in the treatment of ethnic skin, always recommend that everyone apply a broad spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen – even on overcast days. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect your skin against UVA rays (the kind that ages your skin) and UVB rays (the kind that burns your skin – which can lead to skin cancer).

Where to Begin:

The most important factor in caring for ethnic skin is understanding how it uniquely functions and ensuring skin conditions are correctly diagnosed. Skin disorders look different on darker skin types, so it’s critical that you consult with a board-certified dermatologist who is experienced in correctly identifying and treating ethnic skin conditions. We have seen melasma misdiagnosed as sun damage, rosacea diagnosed as acne, and white spots incorrectly diagnosed as vitiligo – the list goes on.

While Kwan Dermatology specializes in the treatment of Asian skin, we are frequently consulted by African Americans who also experience misdiagnosis of their skin conditions, followed by not receiving the right skincare and treatment(s). For instance, redness does not look red on black skin. African Americans also have specific hair disorders that are often misdiagnosed, such as acne keloidalis nuchae and central centrifugal alopecia.

Oprah often tells the story of asking a hairdresser if they knew how to work with black hair, to which the hairstylist responded, “Black hair, brown hair, blonde hair, we do it all!” This resulted in Oprah losing all her hair and swearing she would never get her hair done again by someone who does not specialize in her hair type. We believe the same advice should apply to ethnic skincare.

Our founder, Dr. William Kwan is the country’s leading ethnic skin expert. Dr. Kwan points out that, “Certain skin conditions affect ethnic skin more than other types of skin, such as acne, skin discolorations, or keloids. There are also other conditions that can cause brown to black skin discoloration, such as actinic ketosis, scarring, and skin cancer.” Once again, these conditions must be properly diagnosed to be effectively treated.

The other thing to look for when researching a qualified dermatologist for your particular kind of ethnic skincare is finding one that you believe understands the unique aesthetic desires of your culture. For instance, while Caucasians like to appear slightly sun-kissed, the Asian culture prefers to be very pale and strives to have flawless skin that is entirely free of irregularities – including moles.

Simply put, if you have ethnic skin, the place to begin with your skincare is to consult with, and be treated by, a qualified medical professional who specializes in ethnic skincare.

What is the Number One Skin Care Issue People with Ethnic Skin Experience?

The number one reason our ethnic skin tone patients come to us is for the treatment of hyperpigmentation (brown skin spots) and melasma (brown to grey skin patches).

What Causes Hyperpigmentation and How Should it Be Treated?

Hyperpigmentation appears as various-sized light brown to black patches on the skin, caused when there is an overproduction of the skin’s melanin. This is usually a result of sun exposure, but can also be caused by a skin injury, such as picking at one’s skin or acne. Hyperpigmentation can also occur when cosmetic treatments such as chemical peels, laser treatments, and dermabrasion are poorly administered by an unqualified professional. Sadly, this can sometimes cause permanent discoloration.

Kwan Dermatology founder Dr. William Kwan is sought out by media and other dermatologists for his expertise. When treating hyperpigmentation, Dr. Kwan begins the process by correctly diagnosing the condition and then creating a customized treatment plan for the patient. Hyperpigmentation is often treated with a combination of lasers, peels, and skincare products.

While other practices might offer the same types of laser treatments as Kwan Dermatology, Dr. Kwan has personally worked with the laser companies to specially calibrate Kwan Dermatology lasers to provide the optimal amount of energy required for ethnic skin to respond well to treatments. The wrong laser wavelength can not only cause scarring in ethnic skin patients but can also cause permanent hyperpigmentation.

What Causes Melasma and How Should it Be Treated?

Melasma is brown to dark grey patches of skin that usually appear on the face and are often a result of hormonal changes, like those experienced during pregnancy. Melasma can also be caused by excessive, unprotected sun exposure.

Melasma is treated in a similar manner to the treatment of hyperpigmentation. Once again, each patient is accurately diagnosed and a unique treatment plan is developed to provide optimal results.

What is the Biggest Error People with Ethnic Skin Make in Caring for Their Skin?

The number one error we see our ethnic skin tone patients make is using too many products. We often see patients who are using an exfoliant, along with two or three lightening agents, plus retinol, scrubs, masks, etc. This plethora of products often causes skin irritations. In general, we recommend using a gentle cleanser, a broad-spectrum sunscreen, and one single product with active ingredients, such as a brightening cream. We also recommend avoiding exfoliants.

What Should a Person with Ethnic Skin Avoid?

In addition to protecting your skin from sun damage by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30+ daily, people with ethnic skin should be certain that the skincare products they are using are safe for their skin type. If you are getting advice from a skincare expert on what products to use, make sure they what products are safe for ethnic skin.

Finally, avoid using products and having treatments you are not certain are safe and effective for your particular skin tone.

About Kwan Dermatology

Our founder, William Kwan MD, is a renowned dermatologist and the world’s leading expert in the care and treatment of ethnic skin. He is often called upon to lead and instruct other practitioners in his field and to contribute his ethnic skin expertise to top media outlets.

At Kwan Dermatology, our skincare team members have been hand-selected and are committed to helping patients with ethnic skin get the highest quality of treatments and care tailored to their skin’s needs and aesthetic goals. Kwan Dermatology takes pride in helping our patients improve the quality of their skin through the highly-skilled use of our state-of-the-art technology and medical-grade treatments and products.