One of the most important jobs our skin has is to protect us from our environment – pollutants, UV exposure, bacteria – among others. Our genetics determine many things about the structure of our skin, such as the thickness of our stratum corneum and adipose layer, the structure of our pores, and the activity of our sebaceous glands and melanocytes. All of these factors are especially important when deciding what daily care and professional treatments will be best for our patients.
If we look at people who have polar-region ancestry, the first thing we notice is the light color of their skin, hair and eyes. This all relates to pigment production based on environment. Polar region areas are cold, dry and have very little UV exposure. As a result, people with polar-region ancestry have lighter skin, hair and eyes, a tighter pore structure and thicker adipose layer (the latter two help the skin to insulate and protect from the cold weather). Because of the lack of UV exposure, these people are genetically programmed with melanocytes that are not active in melanin production. When treating these skin types, they are less prone to hyperpigmentation, and treatments that are more active tend to cause less sensitivity (due to the tighter pore structure and thicker adipose layer). However, because of their lighter skin color, you may see more erythema. Also, due to this lack of pigment production, these people are more prone to skin cancer.
Conversely, people with equatorial-region ancestry have darker skin, hair and eyes. Again, this has to do with the environment – hot, humid and a lot of UV exposure – requiring the skin to readily produce darker and more dense pigment; hence, more active melanocytes. You may also notice that these skin types experience more sensitivity when an active treatment is used on their skin and, more importantly, they are much more prone to hyperpigmentation.
Of course many people have a mixed heredity background, which adds more of a challenge for the clinician, especially if it is not obvious initially. Sometimes if a patient appears to be fair-skinned, there may be an ancestor who has passed on this person’s ability to produce more pigment. For example, if someone has a hereditary background that consists of German, Scottish, Irish and Hispanic, they may have fair skin with active melanocytes. Be sure to treat these patients as if they will pigment easily until you are able to see how their skin responds.
Having your patients fill out complete patient profile forms, including their hereditary background, will further assist you in choosing the correct products and treatments to ensure positive treatment outcomes regardless of skin type or condition.
PCA SKIN provides all of the necessary forms to make this process easy. Please contact our team at 877-722-7546 with any questions!