The sun damages everyone’s skin – but how exactly it shows depends on your skin type

As we age, our skins age, too. Too much sunshine is bad for us all, but the type of damage depends on whether your skin type is light or dark.

 A review paper in Clinics in Dermatology discusses how ageing presents in patients and the differences that are attributed to skin type, exposures and genetic factors.

The data revealed that all skin types will show signs of damage from exposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun, which include skin discolouration, loss of collagen and/or skin cancer. Researchers also found that the type of damage depends on whether your skin type is light or dark.

More age spots for the dark-skinned

Melanin is a key difference in those of light and dark skin types so that patients of colour are more likely to experience changes in skin pigmentation.

On the other hand, cells that promote wound healing and collagen production account for increased skin thickness of African-American patients, resulting in wrinkles that appear several years later than their fair-skinned peers.

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Patients of East Asian descent have a higher likelihood of experiencing hyperpigmentation, but wrinkles don’t form as early in the ageing process. The latter also applies to those of Hispanic descent.

More wrinkles for the fair-skinned

Patients of Caucasian descent more commonly have thinner skin and experience wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, and reduced lip volume.

“Aging is inevitable, and each person will have a unique experience with how their skin changes as it ages,” said Neelam Vashi, the author of the paper and director of the Center for Ethnic Skin at Boston Medical Center.

Always protect your skin from the sun

As a dermatologist, Vashi treats a large number of patients for a variety of skin conditions related to ageing. The one treatment she always recommends is UV protection, which helps shield all skin types from the sun’s harmful rays.

“Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US, and using sunscreen is an extremely important practice to protect your skin,” added Vashi.

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Globally, according to WHO, one in every three cancers diagnosed is skin cancer and 2-3 million non-melanoma skin cancers and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur in the world every year.

For the review, the researchers examined 41 peer-reviewed published articles between 1970 and 2018 that focused on ageing in ethnic skin through PubMed.

This article is based on materials provided by Boston Medical Center. Content may have been edited for style and length. If you want to find out more, please contact the cited source.

Original journal article: Venkatesh, S., Maymone, M. B. C., & Vashi, N. A. (2019b). Aging in skin of color. Clinics in Dermatology37(4), 351–357.