Why pigmentation appears differently on some skin tones

Q: Why does pigmentation appear differently on some skin tones?

Treating all skin tones with a one-size-fits-all approach belies their physiological variations and the aesthetic needs of the individual client. The fact remains, different skin tones age, pigment, blemish and scar differently.

Melanin, a naturally occurring sun block that protects skin cells from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, is produced from the amino acid tyrosine by cells called melanocytes. The production of melanin is controlled by an enzyme called tyrosinase and is stimulated by exposure to sunlight.

People whose melanocytes don’t produce much tyrosinase will most likely have fair skin that doesn’t tan easily.

It’s important to note that within each skin colour group there is a wide range of tones, and some of these overlap from group to group. For example, white skin can range from alabaster white to deep olive; black from light tan to almost ebony.

These differences are caused by the concentration of melanin and proportional contribution of the other pigments in the skin. People of different races have the same number of melanocytes but they are more active in dark-skinned clients – with oil glands and follicles more numerous and large and skin tending to be oilier, although less acne-prone.

The darker the skin, the more protection melanin provides from ultraviolet rays and premature ageing. Contrary to popular belief, dark skin can get sunburnt too, making it even darker.

We all have advantages and disadvantages specific to our skin type, depending on our genetic predisposition. Knowing your clients’ skin strengths and weaknesses means you can tailor your skincare approach in treatment to meet their skin characteristics.

Antonia BurrellAntonia Burrell is a celebrity facialist, aesthetician, lecturer and founder of the eponymous skincare line. She is also a member of Babtac and the Society of Cosmetic Scientists.

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