Dryness can strike anyone, but while some skin tones turn dull and ashy when moisture starved, others get exquisitely sensitive. Here, remedies for skin of every color.
Black, Hispanic, South Asian, and Middle Eastern Skin
THE PROBLEM: Ashiness and/or Dark Marks.
Black skin has lower levels of ceramides than white skin, and the dead cells in its uppermost layer don’t slough off as quickly, according to Susan Taylor, a Philadelphia dermatologist. On top of that, “white scales create a gray, ashy appearance on a dark complexion,” says Vivian Bucay, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. Dryness-related irritation and scratching can also stir up pigment, leaving dark marks on dark skin. This goes for Hispanic, South Asian, and Middle Eastern women, too.
THE FIX: Lotions with urea or lactic acid hydrate and exfoliate at once to eliminate ashiness. The ingredients “break down some of the protein in skin, allowing water to bind with the cells,” says Zoe Draelos, a consulting professor of dermatology at Duke University. Lactic acid has also been found to increase ceramides in the skin.
THE PROBLEM: Sensitivity.
Asian skin has the weakest barrier, meaning ingredients can penetrate more deeply, causing stinging and irritation, says Jessica Wu, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine. (Fragrance, alcohol, and acids are especially irksome.) Asian skin also has lower levels of humectants than white and black skin.
THE FIX: Mild cleansers and creams that are rich in ceramides can strengthen skin’s flimsy barrier. Avoid overusing anything with glycolic or salicylic acids, which can burn, and toners with alcohol, which strip away protective oils and lipids.
THE PROBLEM: Redness.
When fair skin gets raw and chapped, it turns red from inflammation.
THE FIX: Apply a soothing moisturizer containing ceramides or the antioxidants feverfew or licorice extract. Then smooth a pea-size drop of 1 percent hydrocortisone cream over irritated areas twice a day for up to two weeks. The hydrocortisone “chases away inflammatory cells and constricts blood vessels to get the red out,” says David Bank, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Columbia University/Presbyterian Hospital. (Using it longer than two weeks can ratchet up redness by creating more blood vessels.) You’ll also want to rethink your anti-aging routine if it involves retinoids: Stop using the cream until your skin heals completely to avoid even worse irritation, then ease back in, using the product only every second or third night to start and putting it on over a thin layer of moisturizer.
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