The diversity of South Africa's people is easily visible in our range of skin tones. While all skins have many commonalities in function, each skin type – and by type, we are referring to shade, rather than skin condition such as oily/dry/normal - has unique features that require us to treat concerns differently to keep skin healthy and achieve effective results.
The different skin types and what you should be concerned about
According to the Fitzpatrick Scale, there are six different skin types ranging from skin type 1, which is extremely pale, to skin type 6, which is very dark.
Those of us who fall into skin types 4 to 6 - with more melanin pigment in our skin - don't have many of the concerns that bother our paler brothers and sisters (like sun damage-induced wrinkles). We do however share common concerns, like pigmentation, but our skin tone makes our treatment options differ.
Skin types 4 and 5 (Mediterranean, Indian and Coloured complexions) often struggle with melasma (hormonal pigmentation, including the 'pregnancy mask') and pigmentation from sun damage, as well as acne scarring. Skin type 6 (African complexions) generally want to address acne, acne scarring, melasma and Dermatosis Papulosa Nigra (more commonly known as 'chubabas').
Different types of pigmentation
There are different types of pigmentation - hormonal pigmentation, superficial hyperpigmentation and dermal pigmentation. It is important to note that the treatment of pigmentation and melasma is not a one size fits all solution, and with darker skins, in particular, it is essential to ensure that treatments are prescribed and administered by professionals who know what they are doing.
Ways to treat pigmentation
The treatment of pigmentation depends on the type of pigmentation and the depth of the pigment. For most people with dark skin, treating pigmentation is like taking one step forward and one step back. The challenge is to take care of dark skin, fade the pigmentation and heal it without causing further hyperpigmentation which results from irritation of the skin.
It is important to note that not all lasers are the same and they cannot all treat dark skins. Also, some machines have a medical grading, and can only be used in medical aesthetic clinics, such as Skin Renewal. These machines are more powerful and can reach much deeper levels of the skin. Results are therefore much better, but this process needs to be operated and monitored by qualified personnel to avoid burning or damaging the skin further.
Laser Genesis™ skin therapy uses the multi-award-winning Cutera Nd:YAG non-intrusive laser to treat pigmentation with no pain or downtime. It helps break up superficial (i.e. not deep) pigmentation and prevents it recurring after treatment, as well as treating hard-to-treat skin problems such as acne, acne scarring as well as enlarged pores.
Fraxel® DUAL laser treats skin types 1 to 6 more effectively than previous lasers, in fewer treatments. It improves skin tone and texture, reduces pigmentation around the eye area and erases unwanted age/brown spots, as well as improves the appearance of acne scars and surgical scars.
Dermamelan begins with a pigmentation treatment mask in the clinic, then a specific treatment programme at home for 9-12 months. Dermamelan works where other treatments have failed. It treats all forms of excess pigmentation, especially deep-seated, severe melasma or post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
Chemical peels vary greatly in strength – from superficial peels to more invasive peels. The stronger and more aggressive the peels are, the more downtime it requires, and the more expensive it generally is. With a series of peels, you can quickly achieve a substantial improvement in the uneven pigmentation, while making your skin look and feel softer, smoother, and more radiant. For more information, view our peel chart which indicates which peels can be done on your skin type.
Transdermal Mesotherapy with prescription brightening products done straight after a peel improves the final result by supressing deep dermal pigment.
Tips and Tricks
Pigmentation can be avoided and managed by using a broad-spectrum SPF daily – it's an ongoing condition that needs to be managed daily and indefinitely. One day of unintentional sunburn can set your condition back.