We all know that we should choose beauty products that complement our skin tone, but few of us are aware that our skin type can affect how prone we are to wrinkles and visible signs of ageing, the likeliness of getting acne and even how well our scars heal. In fact, a recent survey commissioned by KELO-COTE®, found that 59% of people are not aware that different skin types (e.g. pigmentation) and particular hair colours are more likely to scar than others.
We spoke to Dr Conal Perrett, Medical Director and leading Consultant Dermatologist at The Devonshire Clinic, to find out how your skin pigmentation type impacts your risk of scarring and how you can best care for your skin:
What is the Fitzpatrick scale?
Dr Perrett explains; “The Fitzpatrick skin types are grouped according to your genetic predisposition to melanin (pigment) found in your skin cells. The scale is widely used by dermatologists and aesthetic practitioners to determine ethnic risk factors to treatments, potential hazards for sunburn, skin cancer, hyperpigmentation and scarring risks. When identifying your skin type, I would suggest looking at the shade of skin not regularly exposed to the sun, such as your stomach, to determine your true skin tone”.
What does it mean for me?
Dr Perrett says, “If you’re Fitzpatrick Type 1 or 2, make sure you stay protected from the sun, as you are much more likely to burn, which could potentially lead to further issues. If you’re Type 3 to 6, you still have the risk of burning due to sun exposure, especially if you use sunbeds, so make sure you take adequate sun protection measures such as using a minimum SPF 30.”
Dr Perrett adds, “Although anyone can develop an abnormal scar, the risk factors are known to be greater for those at either end of the Fitzpatrick scale. So, those with fair, freckled skin and red hair (Type 1 & 2) as well as those with darker skin types (Types 5 & 6) such as people of African and African-Caribbean heritage are more at risk of excessive scarring, especially keloid scars. Research1 also shows that Asian skin has triple the chance of hypertrophic scarring in comparison to Caucasian skin following surgery, because of the greater level of collagen present in the bed of the skin.
What can I do?
Dr Perrett adds; “Whilst complete scar removal isn’t possible, in the first 12-18 months, a scar is still in the maturation phase and there are steps that everyone can take to help fade and improve the appearance of a scar. If you’re at higher risk of scarring according to the Fitzpatrick scale, you should be even more cautious and aware of preventative steps to protect and manage your scar. This includes reducing the risk of the wound becoming inflamed or infected, keeping it moist and daily massage of the area to reduce pain, itching, thickness, discolouration and redness. Specific treatments such as silicone gels are also suitable and easy to use to help improve the appearance of a scar once the wound has closed – and can be applied up to two years after the injury.”
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- Kim, S. et al (2013) Update on Scar Management: Guidelines for Treating Asian Patients. Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. 132(6): 1580-1589.