Ethnic Skincare – It’s Not So Black and White
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Ethnic Skincare – It’s Not So Black and White

Years ago, when I pioneered the men’s grooming services market and launched my first store in downtown Washington D.C, one of the first things I set out to do was to break the formality of white men going to one barber shop and black men going to another. I believe that we are all the same, no matter what color our skin, so why shouldn’t we get our haircuts, manicures and facials under one roof?

I began penning my book “It’s Not Easy Being a Man” and conducted in-depth research on different ethnicities and their grooming needs. As Americans, we are from the world’s melting pot and our genetic makeup and coloring will continue to blend and change in the years to come—our children, their grandchildren, and so on, will all be even more ethnically diverse than we are. The beauty of this phenomenon is that the mixing of races brings together the best of the world’s heritages and genetics. It’s science—we are truly becoming more alike.

Under the exterior, ethic skin and white skin are actually very comparable. Just as white skin can be categorized as oily, dry or combination, ethnic skin can also be all of the above (though oil on darker skin can typically be more noticeable.)

While we all have similar skin issues, the challenges can manifest differently on white skin as they would on ethnic skin; thus, they must be treated differently.

A challenge that people with ethnic skin tend to confront more often is the tendency for it to develop and stem hyperpigmentation, a darker discoloration of the skin, or in some cases, hypopigmentation, a lighter discoloration of the skin. This can occur when when certain skincare treatments and practices are either overdone or overlooked. That’s when a skincare routine revamp is in order.

I know, I know—suddenly reading about men’s grooming and skincare feels like reading an instructional manual for flying a space shuttle. Let’s break it down:


Hyperpigmentation in ethnic skin can occur when one uses skincare products containing ingredients that cause irritation or dehydration; this can alter the pigment of the skin.


Hypopigmentation may transpire for the same reasons, but it’s less common. Before prescribing any products to someone with this issue, I would highly suggest seeing a dermatologist. Ethnic men who are at risk of hypopigmentation usually had dry and sensitive skin to begin with.


Humans—black or white—in most cases don’t really start taking care of their skin until a problem arises; at that point, it’s gone on for so long, that the wrong products can make your issues of sensitivity, dehydration and discoloration even worse. When it comes to topical treatments and ingredients that affect changes in the pigment of skin, especially ethnic, here’s what to be careful with:


  • benzoyl peroxide
  • salicylic acid
  • retinoids
  • glycolic acid


Stop the use of these products immediately and see a dermatologist if you are experiencing dryness, irritation or redness, followed by post-inflamed hyperpigmentation. However, I would like to note that in most cases, when these treatments are used appropriately, pigment variations are uncommon.

Something I’ve noticed in my years of consulting men from very diverse backgrounds is that skin’s sensitivity appears to be the same across the spectrum. The main difference with darker-skinned men is that their skin is more prone to irritation. Building a proper skincare regimen for ethnic skin isn’t as hard as it sounds—most quality skincare products on the market are suitable for darker skin men. The most important thing is to keep your ethnic skin’s inimitable characteristics in mind when choosing your products and caring for your face. A few pointers:

  • Never be forceful or rough when applying products to ethnic skin
  • Use a good quality moisturizer daily
  • If you experience ashy skin (usually gray in appearance), this is due to extreme dryness—invest in a more intense moisturizer that contains salicylic or lactic acid
  • Products that tend to leave greasy residue will be much more apparent on darker skin tones
  • Just because you have dark skin, doesn’t mean you should forego sunscreen. Yes, darker skin tones have a natural “biological” protection against UV rays of about SPF 7. However, this will by no means going to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. Slather up with at least SPF 30
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