Why Different Skin Tones May Actually Need Different Skin Care

by Miki Hayes

It's no secret that different skin types tend to need different skin care. What works for someone with oily skin may not be the best for someone with dry skin. But is skin type the only factor, or do different skin tones need different skin care as well? You may have thought that the color of your skin shouldn't matter when it comes to what products work. But after emailing with Dr. Heather Woolery-Lloyd, M.D., dermatologist and founder of Specific Beauty, I learned that some skin concerns are more effectively treated by products that target not only skin type but also skin tone.

She explains, "Those with lighter complexions are more susceptible to wrinkles and fine lines, leading this group to focus more on products that address those anti-aging concerns." On the other hand, "Those with darker skin tones are more likely to experience discoloration and hyperpigmentation due to higher levels of melanin," she says. Dr. Woolery-Lloyd explains that higher levels of melanin provide greater protection against aging and sun exposure. However, these higher levels also make it more likely for melanin to become concentrated in certain areas, which causes hyperpigmentation and dark spots. And, she says, it's "much harder to treat dark spots in darker skin."

Try: Specific Beauty

So even though there are a number of tone-evening products on the market, not all may be strong enough to effectively treat darker skin tones. What's a woman with more melanin to do? Well, knowing what ingredients to look for helps. According to Dr. Woolery-Lloyd, a mix of botanical brighteners, exfoliators, and calming agents are what helps create an even complexion and protect from future discoloration.

Some brightening ingredients she says to look for include licorice extract, kojic acid, bearberry extract, and Niacinamide. And if these ingredients are paired with hydroquinone (a clinically-proven, skin-lightening agent), it can help treat concerns like melasma, uneven skin tone, and dark spots left from acne on multi-ethnic skin, says Dr. Woolery-Lloyd.

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Try: Murad Rapid Age Spot and Pigment Lightening Serum, $65, Murad

Of course, the types of products you use matter. To reap the most benefit from skin-evening and brightening ingredients, Dr. Woolery-Lloyd says to use them in a serum or treatment, as this delivery form is more potent than something like a cleanser that doesn't stay on your skin very long. However, she adds that the best results tend to come from developing a regimen and using a combination of products meant to target your concerns. If you need help determining the best products to use for your skin type and tone, be sure to talk to your dermatologist.

One thing that everybody can benefit from though? Dr. Woolery-Lloyd says to use broad-spectrum sun protection every day regardless of your skin type or tone. After all, that extra UV protection could even help prevent these skin-tone-related concerns.