Light and dark complexion hands and legs

Why Skin of Colour?

Since launching, we have often been asked, “Why do you focus on skin of colour? What’s the significance?” 

In the skincare and cosmeceutical industry, skin of colour has been woefully underrepresented for far too long. The reality is that very little research has gone into understanding skin of colour on a biological and physiological level, even in the medical field. Furthermore, the majority of skincare products on the shelf have been formulated based on the research conducted on lighter skin complexions. 

Once we realised this, we started searching for products that took our skin’s biology and the needs of our skin into account. We quickly discovered that this was quite rare and difficult to find, especially on a local scale.  Herein lies the largest motivation to create DERMA et al. 

How does your skin complexion impact your skincare?

Let’s firstly dive into how the term “skin of colour” is classified. To do this, we’ll make use of the Fitzpatrick scale – a system that classifies skin into six different phototypes (see Figure 1). 

While the Fitzpatrick skin types are useful in some cases, it is also limited in their ability to include the ranges of skin complexions that exist. It is, thus, only considered a broad guide.  Skin of colour is classified as Types IV-VI and faces unique challenges. It is clear that a large majority of the global population would be considered to have skin of colour. This made the need for products designed to care for and treat skin of colour increasingly apparent. 

The Fitzpatrick Skin Types

Figure 1: The Fitzpatrick Skin Types I - VI depicted and defined based on the propensity of the skin to burn versus tan upon exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Is skincare different for various skin complexions?

The key difference between darker and lighter skin complexions is the production of melanin. Melanin is the natural skin pigment that is responsible for skin colour and is produced by the cells in our epidermis (the top layer of the skin). Melanocytes are the cells responsible for the pigment in the skin. Darker skin tones tend to have larger and more sensitive (easily triggered) melanocytes.

Skin of colour produces more eumelanin (brown to black pigment) as opposed to pheomelanin (yellow to red pigment). This means that when the melanocytes are stimulated or triggered and initiate the melanin synthesis pathway, it leads to the overproduction and deposit of eumelanin, the darker pigment. The biggest cause of the overproduction of melanin and consequent hyperpigmentation is inflammation. There are various causes of inflammation, external and internal, and it is crucial for people of colour to avoid and minimise exposure to these.

Treating the source of the inflammation is important, but a lot easier said than done. The best-proven way to correct and prevent hyperpigmentation is to stop the melanin synthesis pathway, thereby reducing the amount of melanin produced. Tyrosinase inhibitors have been clinically proven to treat hyperpigmentation by preventing the first step in the pathway from occurring (see Figure 2).

The simplified melanin synthesis pathway. Function of tyrosinase inhibitors in treating hyperpimentation.

Figure 2: The simplified melanin synthesis pathway. Melanin is produced in the melanocytes. The precursor, tyrosine, is converted into eumelanin and pheomelanin via two separate pathways. Tyrosinase inhibitors prevent this pathway from taking place when melanocytes are triggered, thereby preventing the overproduction of melanin - the cause of hyperpigmentation.

What makes DERMA et al. different from other products on the market? 

When we formulated our products, it was very important that they be safe and gentle enough for skin of colour and sensitive skin, while still being effective. Our formulations had to be gentle to avoid inducing sensitivity, irritation and inflammation. We found that the best way to ensure this was to use multi-active formulations that contain antioxidants and anti-inflammatories in addition to soothing and restorative ingredients. 

Instead of highlighting one or two key ingredients in our products, as is currently the standard in the skincare industry, we focussed on getting all of these ingredients to work together synergistically and therefore providing a more potent, combined effect. We were meticulous in selecting the ingredients to meet this standard and the combinations of ingredients we included in each product were chosen carefully to help with the performance of one another. Thus, each product enhances the efficacy of the next. 

We continue to research the best ways to care for and treat skin of colour and we want to be a platform that shares this information with people of colour. We strongly believe in the empowerment of people through education and we are determined to achieve this through DERMA et al. 

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