The lowdown on Asian skincare needs
For a long time, I thought that skincare was prescribed to skin types: combination, normal, dry etc. Armed with a few more years of knowledge and testing out everything from techy treatments to traditional facials, I’ve realised the most effective way to care for your complexion is targeting skin needs. But it doesn’t end there. Earlier this year, at Dr Rozina Ali’s clinic on Sloane Street, she pointed out that my Chinese heritage means I have strong collagen production that contributes to our typically ‘soft’ features. Then my facialist for the past year, Renee who is also one of the top people to see in London, mentioned that some of her South East Asian clients had even more confidence after witnessing my skin results on social media. Little did I or many around me know that your heritage is a ‘skin type’ to consider when undergoing aesthetic procedures and it’s one that you could be overlooking in your routine. Here’s everything you need to know about Asian skincare needs from a skin guru…
Q: What are the typical traits of Asian skin and what are the causes?
Renee: The climate that your ancestors experienced affect the development of your skin type and determines the reaction to skin treatments used to tackle your concerns. These are the main traits:
- Oilier: The warm climates in most Asian countries are the cause of a oilier skin, compared to Caucasians. The sebacious glands responsible for this will be different. This also means Asians are more likely to suffer from acne and with that comes hyperpigmentation and scarring.
- Sensitized: Asian skin commonly has issues sensitised rather than sensitive skin. When you’re exposed to bad water or high pollution, people of this heritage will be more reactive, which leads onto…
- Susceptible to hyper-pigmentation and hypo-pigmentation (lack of colour): For Asian skin, you can damage this quite easily with too much heat or acid (depending on the treatment). This is because of the melanin content in the basal layer of the epidermis, which contributes to skin density.
Q: What’s the truth behind people with lots of melanin and laser treatments?
Renee: It depends on the type of laser, for example, Fraxel is an erbium beam which is attracted to water molecules (as opposed to pigment) so it’s suitable for Asian skin. You still have to be careful with the settings because lasers create heat that causes inflammation, which then can cause excessive pigment issues in the long run. With Asians, less is more and these clients will need more treatments.
Q: Have I and others like me been missing something by not classifying our skin type as Asian over anything else?
Renee: You’re not missing something but if you were to get advice from someone who couldn’t see that you were Asian, it’s definitely something you’d have to tell them. The products we would choose to treat your enlarged pores or congestions would be different for you than a Caucasian person.
Q: Does this mean that products from Asia such as K-beauty brands would be best for South East Asian skin?
Renee: There’s nothing you can’t find in Korean skincare that doesn’t exist in other ranges, it’s just that they spend more time researching the ingredients (mostly anti-inflammatory) and everything is very gentle. This is in line with my own ethos where it’s about supporting the skin and helping it to adapt to your environment to return to a natural, healthy state. Bad skin is a reaction to your hormones, surroundings or what you’re eating. No one is stuck with ‘bad skin’. In other parts of the world they tend to take a ‘bigger is better’ approach.
Q: What are the ingredients that Asians should look out for when shopping for skincare?
Renee: There are certain ingredients you can consume to help with Asian skin and then there’s those you apply topically.
- Korean ginseng tea is something I recommend for those that suffer with pigmentation.
- Probiotics are found in a lot of K beauty products, which calms down inflammation and supports it as it heals. Exuviance has just launched a Probiotic Lysate Anti-Pollution Essence.
- Sheet masks that are made of hydrogel or micro fibre. (Renee has used the MZ Skin Hydra Lift Golden Facial Treatment mask on me).
Stay away from glycolic acid because it’s the smallest molecule and will penetrate your epidermis, potentially causing inflammation. I don’t use harsh retinol [on Chinese skin], I’d suggest low levels of retinol every now and then. Otherwise high concentrations of this will strip away layers and it’s unnecessary – unless it’s a case of severe scarring like ice picks.
To sum it up, Asian skin is very reactive, so those like me are prone to inflammation from external factors especially city living. Leave this untreated or keep antagonising your skin and Renee warns me of more serious consequences like dermatitis or rosacea. It’s always a good idea to ask your facialist if they have had clients of your ethnicity because inexperienced therapists can cause a lot of damage. You can always DM Renee at @reneelapino for more advice!
Take a look at the products I’ve used for my skin and some of those Renee has recommended: