Mirror Mirror, on the wall, tell me who’s the safest of them all!
Dr. Ninada KC
Medical Officer, District Health and Family Welfare Office, Dakshina Karnataka.
I am sure you have read this plenty of times in this edition already, so I’ll go ahead and say it again.
For long, skin colour has been associated with standards of beauty and social stereotypes. But there is way more to skin than just the colour. We have historically as well as socially, often considered certain skin types/ tones superior to some others, but medically are there any superiors in this race (Pun intended)?
Starting with the common skin types in India-
Oily Skin: Owing to the climatic and genetic conditions in India, most of us can be found complaining of our greasy skin which is closely associated with acne and scarring. Oily skin produces excess sebum, which is a utopic arena for the Propionibacterium to thrive. Excessively oily skin is also closely associated with increased incidences of blackheads and whiteheads.
As annoying as the oily skin and acne are, the generous sebum acts as a natural moisturizer for the skin, acts as a barrier from UV radiation, and slows down aging!
Dry Skin: Remember having to scratch an itch only to find white lines of nail-inflicted assault over your skin? Being a tropical country, dry skin is nearly as commonplace as oily skin. Especially in the colder regions and during the winters! The lack of moisture makes the skin feel rough and flaky, dry skin is also more prone to irritation, eczema, and fine lines.
However, dry skin is more built to brave the differing weather conditions with the obvious lowered woes and worries of acne. In addition, dry skin tends to heal slowly- though this is seemingly a disadvantage, slow-healing wounds seldom leave scars behind.
Combination Skin: A blend of different skin types, it entails both the best and worst of the skin types. Most often, it is a combination of oily and dry skin. For example, the T-zone (forehead, nose, and chin) might be oily, while the cheeks are dry.
A combination skin type is often more balanced out and adaptable to external factors.
Sensitive Skin: It is a skin type more likely to be triggered by the likes of temperatures, chemicals, and stress as compared to normal skin. Individuals with sensitive skin are more prone to allergies, and red itchy, or irritated skin. It may be a result of genetic build-up as well as nutrition and overuse or the prolonged use of certain products.
If one can see the glass half full, then sensitive skin is an early warning system to any harmful skin products you may be using!
Mature Skin: Unless you are Hema Malini, this is a skin type lurking in the back of all our minds, waiting for that one wrinkle below the eyes to pop onto the surface. With age, the skin becomes thinner, drier, and loses elasticity, leading to wrinkles, sagging, and age spots.
Though not related, most skin cancers appear at a mature age simply due to prolonged exposure to various trigger factors like sunlight, chemicals, radiation, etc.
The skin tone influenced largely by geography and genetic makeup also plays a major role in determining skin conditions:
Darker Skin Tones: Higher melanin levels are believed to provide natural protection against UV radiation. However, they are more prone to hyperpigmentation and keloids. Skin cancers, though comparatively rare, are much more difficult to pick during the early stages due to the darker skin tone.
Caucasian Skin Tones: Ranging on the scale of “fair” skin tones, Caucasian skin tone implies less melanin. As a result, these skins are prone to more damage from UV radiation, resulting in something as minor as sunburns right to skin cancers on prolonged exposure. However, skin cancers may be picked and treated earlier, resulting in lower complications and fatalities. Certain conditions like melanoma are rare in these skin tones
All said we circle back to all skin tones and types that are perfect, but with their flaws and shortcomings. We can safely conclude that no skin type or tone is free from qualms, but they do come with their benefits. However, a healthy lifestyle with non-toxic skincare can work wonders for any skin type!
- Roberts, W.E. Skin Type Classification Systems Old and New. Vol. 27, Dermatologic Clinics. Dermatol Clin; 2009 Oct. p. 529–33.