How to Choose Beauty Products According to Ethnicity and Skin Type

BY Jen Jones Donatelli · January 12, 2017


In recent years, the mainstream beauty industry has finally gotten the memo that skin comes in all shades—introducing a welcome slew of new multicultural offerings. In fact, in 2014, the multicultural beauty sector’s growth outpaced that of the overall market for cosmetics and toiletries.

It’s certainly a much-needed development, but even with a broader array of hues hitting the market, finding the right regimen is about more than just fitting into a certain category. Along with ethnicity, board-certified dermatologist Kally Papantoniou suggests taking your skin type into account when buying beauty products. While dermatologists use various means to determine your skin type—the Baumann skin type solution, for example—Papantoniou uses the Fitzpatrick scale, which goes from one through six—from lightest to darkest—and is determined by how much one’s skin burns or tans.

“When it comes to skin, I don’t look at geography as much as I do at skin type,” says Papantoniou. “The two go hand in hand—it’s all about how much pigment there is in your skin.” Get Papantoniou’s tips on choosing the right products for your unique skin type below:

Types 5 and 6

Mostly: African-American
Common Beauty Concern: Uneven Skin Tone

Skin Care Tip:
Discoloration or hyperpigmentation is one of the biggest challenges facing dark skin, according to Papantoniou. “Dark-skinned individuals have the most unforgiving skin,” she says. “The smallest pimple or scratch can leave a very dark mark and take a long time to fade away; conditions like psoriasis and eczema can leave even darker discoloration that is challenging to get under control.”

The secret to preventing discoloration? “Avoid anything abrasive,” cautions Papantoniou. This includes scrubs, cleansers with beads and dry brushes, all of which can worsen discoloration.”

Try: Neostrata Resurface Lotion Plus

Hair Care Tip: Additionally, those who use oil-based hair products can be more at risk for acne, especially along the hairline, so choose wisely: “Pre-made hair product is often loaded with synthetic oils, so the best oils to put on your scalp are naturally occurring oils, which are less comedogenic.” Papantoniou’s primary pick is coconut oil, followed by argan or jojoba oils.

Try: Briogeo Rosarco Oil

Types 3 and 4

Mostly: Southeast Asian, Middle Eastern or South Asian (types 3 or 4); East Asian (often type 3)
Common Beauty Concerns:  Acne Breakouts, Pigmentation and Rashes

Skin Care Tip: Because these types are on the darker side of the spectrum, they share many of the same skin concerns as Types 5 and 6. “Types 3 and 4 also have more melanin, so there is less leeway with acne breakouts, pigmentation and rashes,” says Papantoniou. To combat these concerns, Papantoniou says hydration is absolutely essential. “Moisturizers will create a healthy skin barrier to aid in healing and prevention,” she says. For daytime, use a sunscreen with antioxidants (like vitamin C or green tea polyphenols) in order to prevent hyperpigmentation; for evening, use a moisturizer with retinol. She recommends a minimum of SPF 30 and as high as SPF 50 for anyone “looking to correct brown spots or melasma.”

Try: Replenix All-trans-Retinol Plus Smoothing Serum 5X



Type 2

Mostly: Latina, Mediterranean
Common Beauty Concerns: Sun Damage, Fine Lines and Wrinkles

Skin Care Tip: According to Papantoniou, olive-skinned types can be a bit more liberal with their skin care approach. Since there’s less risk of discoloration, peels and scrubs are fair game for exfoliation. However, “what comes into play with less melanin is the increased risk of photo-aging and skin cancer,” cautions Papantoniou. “More fine lines and wrinkles can happen at a younger age than with those who have darker skin.”

For anti-aging impact (and skin safety), it’s important to be diligent about applying sunscreen daily. Papantoniou also recommends incorporating retinol night creams and/or antioxidant serums containing phloretin or vitamin C to help boost collagen growth.

Try: SkinCeuticals Phloretin CF


Type 1

Mostly: Caucasian
Common Beauty Concerns: Rosacea/Redness and Sun Damage

Skin Care Tip: Papantoniou says daily use of sunscreen is of utmost importance for light-skinned types, who “have very little natural protection from [UV] rays.” Those with Type 1 skin are more prone to rosacea and/or redness, so green-tinted beauty products can help offset red tones. For those with rosacea, Papantoniou recommends sulfur-based creams and cleansers for their anti-inflammatory properties. Sunscreen also plays a key role here, as it can help prevent broken blood vessels and keep rosacea from worsening. The good news? Since the risk of discoloration is low, people with Type 1 skin can “be more aggressive with exfoliation and scrubs, even using chemical exfoliants like glycolic acid.”

Try: Avene Antirougeurs Day Redness Relief Soothing Cream SPF 25

Jen Jones Donatelli

Jen Jones Donatelli is a Los Angeles-based journalist who specializes in all things lifestyle and wellness. To date, her work has appeared in outlets including REDBOOK, Natural Health, Livestrong, Pilates Style, Whole Life Times and many more. When n... Read More >

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