The Real Color Wheel


ne of the most immediate impacts of globalization is that our world is rapidly becoming one populated by multi-racial, multi-cultural citizens. Today, people travel, live and work in places their grandparents might not have even been able to point out on a map. In the United States alone, 6.8 million of us describe ourselves as bi-racial or multi-racial. And as the traditional delineations and boundaries of ethnicity, nationality, heritage and culture blur, we are faced with many new challenges and opportunities as professional skin therapists.



A n n e t

K ing

What advice does the skin therapist give to a client of say, Irish/ Cherokee background? Or Pakistani / AngloEnglish? None of the old rules apply. In fact, just saying aloud the names of the three old racial categories—Caucasian,

Negroid, Mongoloid—sends shivers down any politically correct spine. The fact is, there never was a time when these three incredibly broad labels were specific enough to sum up the diversity of human ethnic identity—and today they sound hopelessly Victorian. The noun “race” itself, in fact, is of dubious value as our world rapidly expands. In the skin care industry, the term “Caucasian” is still used as shorthand to describe Northern European, Celtic and Nordic skins, but in reality the indigenous people of India, whose complexions range from milky to mahogany, are among the original “Caucasians”. In Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, 2001 edition, one of the definitions of “Caucasian” reads, “…of, pertaining to, or characteristic of one of the traditional racial divisions of humankind, marked by fair to dark skin, straight to tightly

curled hair, light to very dark eyes, originally inhabiting Europe, parts of North Africa, western Asia and India.” People with backgrounds including Spanish, Italian, Russian, Turkish and Moroccan may all be considered “Caucasians” under this less-than-precise definition. And, more and more people who are not of 100 % Nordic or Celtic ancestry are now choosing to define their ethnicity in other ways. This means that manufacturers and service providers, including skin therapists, who continue to view their clientele as homogenously Caucasian, are missing out on opportunities which will only continue to expand. For example, according to recent research at the University of Georgia, the growth of the self-described “ethnic” market will eclipse the Caucasian market by 2009. Other sources, such as the U.S. Market for Ethnic HBC: Hair Care, Skin Care,


D E R M A S C O P E February 2005

” since there may be no visible signs of inflammation or irritation. Surnames. While touching the freshly cleansed skin of the face and neck. Asian skin in particular will often be very sensitive. including a written consultation card and close visual and tactile examination of the face.) 2. In the case of more deeply pigmented clients. ASSUME NOTHING. Communication and questioning with the client is key to developing a safe. AND EXPLORE EVERYTHING Pre-treatment consultation is the first and most crucial step toward offering clients truly informed service. once considered rude. may be uncomfortable in some contexts.9 billion by 2006. the skin analysis can be a unique vehicle for collecting information about the individual’s skin. What about sensitivity? Do your cheeks ever feel hot? Does your skin ever sting? Have you ever had a reaction to a product on your skin? (Darker skin is hard to read as “sensitive. not based upon assumption. we are asking not to discriminate. and what SPF value sunscreen do you tend to use? (This establishes the client’s tolerance to sun and where the individual falls on the Fitzpatrick Scale. and asked with tact. throat and ears based upon dividing these areas into sections. what’s in a name? Not much.Redefining “Ethnic Skin” Color Cosmetics report.) 3. and feel the skin for hot spots. while not showing visible “red flags” of distress!) The most essential part of this inquiry process begins with the dropping of assumptions. customized treatment. question precisely. For instance. once a February 2005 D E R M A S C O P E 71 . Inquiring about someone’s ethnic background. but to better serve. All of this underscores the point that sensitivity is paramount in opening up the subject of ethnicity with any client. but upon accurate information and observation. because historically such inquiry has generally had a racist underpinning. How easily do you burn. begin with these three questions: 1. For instance. forecast that ethnic skin care sales will reach $1. Face your “global-skinned” client with fresh eyes. The questions must be asked. Have you ever experienced brown marks on your skin resulting from a pimple. bite or scratch? (This establishes the client’s tendency toward hyperpigmentation. We must approach our practice as skin therapists with the understanding that this information is vital to understanding the needs of the skin and provide the client with the most professional treatment possible.

A 100% Northern you to unfounded conclusions about European skin. and the most prone to breakincluding a response to unprotected sun age. Latino and Middle Eastern descent experience ally speaking the most fragile hair on hyperpigmentation in many forms. based upon their appearance or surname—we must also rid ourselves of antiquated notions of ����������������� what ethnicity itself truly means. Germany. ���������� �� For example. This is not to be confused. although perhaps showing lentigines or freckles as the result of photo damage. Non-Nordic enter the dermis. ��� ���������������������������� tougher and more resilient than their fair-skinned counterparts �� ������������������������� in the British Isles. One of these notions can most ��������� ��������������� easily be called primitivism. By contrast. African and African American hair. however. Although evolution and heredity give dark skin a genetic advantage. This is ������������������ � a falsehood based upon deeply racist notions. lead cutaneous damage. is much skin. such as the classic Australian Aboriginal complexion which is the most richly pigmented on earth. and ceremonial scarring is a tradition in We now know that UV rays actually Africa. so don’t let with wounding. deeply pigmented skin including African-derived skin is selves and our clients! This is the danthe most prone to hyperpigmentation gerous assumption that anyone with as the result of cutaneous injury. with dark skin being “tougher” or “thicker”. or lack thereof. more likely than an ethnic skin to heal Not only can we never make safe from a wound with little or minimal assumptions about anyone’s true ethnic scarring. Dark skin does possess higher melanin content. a challenge to damage. Many dark skins also contain a high concentration of sudoriferous glands which produce a protective mantle of dense lipids and fats which further protect the epidermis from free radical activity— perhaps even more so than dark skin’s specific formations of the pigmentation molecules themselves. Likewise. is genercomplected individuals of Asian. For example.the therapist when dealing with ethnic telling indicator of ethnicity. however. blemish and burn will Celtic skins most immediately. heartier. and not in Norway. With the emerging new world of multiracialism. It is the belief that ����������������������� � non-Northern Europeans — �� people who are visibly “ethnic” ���������������������������� — are somehow hardier. as little as 5% of the UV rays ever enter the dermis. Celtic and Nordic skins woman’s name may of course be her are actually more resilient when faced husband’s familial name. Every bend in the S-shaped or Zexposure—which leads us to ANOTHER shaped wave pattern is a point of vulassumption of which we must rid ournerability. This fact makes treatto show the short-term effects of sun ing acne. Dark skin does indeed resist visible signs of aging better than Northern European skin. By contrast. even very lightidentity. in the sense believed. for instance. ethnic or more deeply pigmented skin will often remain unlined for decades. mean less clientele. and is visibly ethnic skin does not need sun especially prone to pronounced keloidprotection! ing. instead of the fine lines and “crow’s feet” which may define the eye area of very fair Northern European skin by the age of 30. and is able to absorb up to 70 % of UV radiation. one with no non-Celtic the nature and tendencies of a person’s or non-Nordic genetic content. keeping cellular damage to a minimum. Here are the facts: in very dark skin. and less in our “multi-culti” world. A By contrast. deliberately sunning is equivalent to gambling with the health of the skin. since this type of skin reflects (rather than absorbs) approximately 60% of available light. A fair leave its mark upon the skin for months. While undeniably more sun-tolerant. with its pronounced wave pattern. Northern European skin will be quick or possibly longer. earth. Austria and Scandinavia. or exoticism. It is no coincidence that decorative THE SUN IS THE ENEMY OF ALL SKINS. most of us and our clients are going to fall somewhere 72 D E R M A S C O P E February 2005 . and this affects Nordic and that every scratch. ethnic skin has nothing to gain by testing this tolerance with unprotected sun exposure. a dark skin may shield itself 30 times more natural protection from UV damage by virtue of its structure. piercing and other an “ethnic” name. far deeper than once skin is actually more fragile.

And this means that sun protection must be a part of everyone’s skin care consciousness. This information is good cause to treat any skin trauma without delay. result from the activity of estrogen and progesterone. However. and her complexion appears more “cream” than “coffee” to the eye! Likewise. if a client has West African. even a lightcomplected Latina will probably have more pigmentation issues than her Swedish or Irish counterparts. hyperpigmentation does indeed have other causes. West African in the case of clients from Puerto Rico. Once again. especially on the NOT ONLY CAN WE NEVER MAKE SAFE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT ANYONE’S TRUE ETHNIC IDENTITY. along with other steroids and hormones. This cascade of stress-chemicals may produce discoloration (as well as acne-like disturbances). Like all non-Nordic skin. So what exactly is “Latin” skin? Queen Isabel of Spain was a fair-skinned. The fastest-growing ethnic population in the United States is Latino. not merely in the more superficial epidermal layers of the skin as originally thought. kicking all of the body’s interrelated systems into overdrive. combined with thorough UV protection. For example. hyperpigmentation is the most pressing concern. This applies even if the West African heritage is remote or combined with Northern European heritage. sharply defined patches on the forehead. For this reason. heat-oriented or invasive medical skin treatments such as lasers and deep chemical peels may be contraindicated for most non-Northern European skins. evidences both her own Lebanese and Mexican background in her dark hair. including skin tones. Because most Latin skin is not purely Northern European. the legendary Cuban singer who brought Caribbean music into the mainstream worldwide in the 1940s. When the pituitary gland is stimulated by stress. throughout the Americas. identified by brown. blueeyed redhead according to the history books.” including the skin of many Latinas. All of this is relevant in light of the fact that for Latin. There are infinite variations and nuances. they are most commonly triggered by hormone fluctuations and sun damage. Here’s the challenge: “Latina” heritage often embraces African (Arabic. age spots or what have you. dark scarring may result. is subjected to trauma. Anti-inflammatory and brightening products. in order to optimize potential reversal of the discoloration. should . from an anthropological point of view. especially along the jaw line and neck. she may be prone to keloidscarring. However. for example) heritage as well as European “Hispanic. including Afro-Caribbean 74 D E R M A S C O P E February 2005 heritage. Likewise. hormonally induced hyperpigmentation will diminish or disappear when hormonal levels are normalized once again. as well as the “Linea Negra” which runs vertically down the abdomen during pregnancy. BASED UPON THEIR APPEARANCE OR SURNAME—WE MUST ALSO RID OURSELVES OF ANTIQUATED NOTIONS OF WHAT ETHNICITY ITSELF TRULY MEANS. DAMNED SPOT! Different types of hyperpigmentation may be triggered by specific conditions. who evidenced her Afro-Caribbean heritage in her rich caramel complexion.” meaning Iberian. forming a “mask-like” appearance. this is an essential understanding when examining a client’s skin and prescribing treatment. but also may result from use of the birth control pill. there is no single Asian monoculture. “Latin” heritage generally includes Native American ancestry. Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Some ovarian disorders also may trigger these pigmentation formations. temples and cheeks. Asian skin often will show irregular patches of hyperpigmentation — call them freckles. when any skin “of color. Asian and African-descended skin. Often. Semitic and North African in the case of individuals from Spain. In general. and by a combination of these conditions: HORMONES – Melasma or chloasma. OUT. which. diligent application of sunscreen is the best prevention. Actress Salma Hayek. STRESS – Stress acts like a caralarm upon the brain and body. is considered Asiatic in origin. to the effects of laser and chemical treatments— can all leave permanent marks upon ethnic skins. it in turn kick-starts the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline. forehead. dark eyes and medium-olive skin. OUT. ranging from a surgeon’s incision to an accidental cut. TRAUMA/INJURY-Cutaneous trauma. Recent studies now show that some types of wounds and inflammations actually result in hyperpigmentation deep in the dermis. Clients of Asian descent may have many of the same issues. 50s and 60s. Contrast this with Celia Cruz. who immortalized the artist Frida Kahlo (who was Hungarian and Mexican) in a recent the middle—somewhere between pure vanilla and bittersweet espresso. This condition is often called the “mask of pregnancy” (Melasma Gravidarum). Other common hormonally caused types of hyperpigmentation are darkening of the nipples. tradition dictates that Asian women work to preserve as fair a complexion as possible.

Botanicals including Kiwi. 76 D E R M A S C O P E February 2005 . Prior to joining IDI she was Director of Training for a skin care distribution company in Singapore. especially to Latina skin. Ms. many of these “curandera” practices are potentially irritating to the skin. heredity or geography. Professional exfoliation holds great potential for addressing hyperpigmentation without heat. In addition Ms. BECAUSE HISTORICALLY SUCH can trigger hyperINQUIRY HAS GENERALLY HAD A RACIST UNDERPINNING. many people may develop allergenic responses to hydroquinone. and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). We experience our world through it. ONCE CONSIDERED RUDE. pigmentation if used be employed immediately following any cutaneous trauma. POR FAVOR Ethnicity and culture do play a role in the care and health of the skin.” With prolonged use. Rice and Bearberry extracts also can reverse hyperpigmentation. Even a perfume or cologne may interact with UV rays. with a dense concentration in the desert regions of the Americas and the tropical heat of Florida and the Caribbean islands. that generates heat. as well as contact dermatitis. is…you guessed it…MICRODERMABRASION. as well as developing their global curriculum. Spanish-speaking population lives in areas of intense solar exposure. and deserve respect as cultural traditions. antibiotics. King is a licensed skin care therapist. To generalize. MAY BE UNCOMFORTABLE IN SOME CONTEXTS. not to mention the possibility of skin cancer. Finally. Through education as well as understanding the subtle and particular needs of various skins. like any resurfacing treatment. acknowledges and honors the growing diversity of this family—and keeps us all feeling and looking our best. incorrectly. Education about sun protection has not historically been a health concern in many Latin communities. hydroquinone is never a recommended option. especially a service PASS THE SUNSCREEN. but look for the new concentrates which allow you to use this ingredient in varying strengths during professional treatment. and is now classified as an over-the-counter drug by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Home-remedies aside. many anti-inflammatories. ity.” and using it offers the best way to customize exfoliation treatments for your clients. certified by both CIDESCO and CIBTAC. supervised the regional training for several major skin care lines. Her responsibilities include overseeing the IDI teaching staff around the globe. which may be difficult to reverse. which may result in hyperpigmentation. Another cultural area to address with clients is the long history of homeremedies and home-treatments (called “conchas” in Spanish) which are part of many traditional Latin upbringings (other ethnicities have their own spectrum of such home-cures as well!). is essential in preventing hyperpigmentation. which actually is a helpful strain of bacteria! Sounds strange. Some of these practices may still offer value. and numerous others. and served as Vice Principal to two CIDESCO certified schools. They take longer to work. However. certainly in terms of affirming and celebrating ethnic identity. The newest ingredient to hunt down is an enzyme called Bacillus ferment. In the United States. but this new generation of brightening products based upon these ingredients poses far fewer risks to your clients. diabetes medications. including extreme sensitization to other products. Her expertise in skin and spa operations combined with her dynamic personality has put her in high demand as a guest speaker representing the International Dermal Institute at educational events around the world. and through these experiences we define ourselves as the human family. and should be discussed and closely evaluated. skin is skin. regardless of one’s habits. including commonly prescribed anti-depressants. the substance is described as “mutagenic. although historically fairness has often been an aesthetic value and social preference—equally true in many traditional Asian cultures. an instructor and industry author. which is generally off-limits to ethnic skin. much of the world’s Latin. King has consulted and assisted in the development of skin care centers and spas throughout Southeast Asia. it must be said that hydroquinone is banned in many countries. In any case. However. causing discoloration of the skin. Sun protection. with cancer-causing potential. it is essential that UV-protection become acculturated early on to prevent or at least minimize hyperpigmentation issues in the future. But this. Many people of color have relied upon hydroquinone as the active ingredient for “fade” creams for decades. many prescription drugs cause photosensitiv- BEYOND THE REACH OF BLEACH… Because ethnic skin is often highly reactive.INQUIRING ABOUT SOMEONE’S ETHNIC BACKGROUND. These herbal folkways are a deeply integral part of a rich heritage. This range of intensity is now called the “bioactivity scale. Annet King is the Director of Training and Development for the International Dermal Institute (IDI). MORE OPTIONS Another popular practice.

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