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Sun Protection Tips for Asian Women

How to Prevent Age Spots, HP and Melasma Skin Discolorations

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Sun Protection Tips for Asian Women

Japanese woman applying face cream.

Photo: Shuji Kobayashi/Getty Images

The Key to Healthy Skin

What’s one of the most important ways to keep Asian skin healthy and beautiful? It’s quite simple: use sun protection products.

It’s true that Asian skin has a natural sun protection factor of four. It also burns less easily and is less prone to sun damage, premature aging and wrinkling than Caucasian skin. Still, Asian skin can be sensitive and easily damaged. It tans easily and is prone to pigmentation problems that can be caused by UV exposure.

Aging In Asian Skin

As an Asian woman you are blessed with skin that is slower to show signs of aging in terms of wrinkles and sagging skin, but sun damaged skin will show up in pigmentation, dark spots and uneven skin tone. Asian skin is more likely to suffer from pigmentation problems and it is also more noticeable in your skin. This is the reason why you often see older Asian women carrying parasols or wearing wide-brimmed hats to protect their skin while in intense sunlight. But vigilance needs to be followed earlier in life to guard against future skin damage and skin cancer.

Hyperpigmentation and Melasma

In response to exposure to UV rays, Asian skin will produce extra melanin to protect the deeper layers. Over time this excess melanin (skin pigment) forms dark deposits on the skin called age spots. Another skin condition that Asians frequently suffer from is melasma, dark skin discolorations that can gradually appear on sun-exposed areas on the face and other parts of the body, and are more often caused by hormone changes, such as pregnancy. They can be dark, irregular hyperpigmented spots (similar to age spots) or brown patches and are usually found on the cheeks, nose, upper lip, chin and forehead.

Dermatologists believe Asian skin is easily damaged and prone to hyperpigmentation because melanocytes (pigment-producing cells) in Asian skin tend to be easily stimulated and can have unpredictable reactions to the sun and other factors that cause discoloration—such as harsh ingredients, laser treatments and harsh dermatological treatments. Asian women should be careful when choosing in-office treatments for pigmentation (make sure the skin care practitioner is knowledgeable about Asian skin) and when using at-home treatments such as lightening products with harsh bleaching agents, which are not advisable since they can cause dry skin, irritation and at times even more severe side effects.

Add Sunscreen to Your Daily Skin Care Routine

To protect the skin, wear sunscreen daily and year round. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays, and with at least SPF 30 when you will be in sunlight for long periods of time. Be sure to reapply sunscreen every one to two hours. Many Asian Americans tend to have oily skin and problems with acne, resulting in post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) from acne scars. If you have oily skin, pick a non-oily formulation to prevent breakouts.

Guard Against Pigmentation Problems

Limiting exposure to UV rays and using sunscreen when you are going to be in the sun can help prevent melasma from developing as well as uneven skin tone and age spots. If dark spots and discolorations are already present, sunscreen can assist treatments by keeping the skin protected from further damage and giving skin problems enough time to clear up. Without the use of sun protection products, dark spots can worsen from the sun activating pigment cells. In addition, many of the products used for the treatment of pigmentation problems can make the skin sensitive to the sun and therefore more susceptible to damage.

Choose the Right Sunscreen

When choosing sunscreen you want to avoid using products that are formulated for the body, which can irritate the face and eyes, especially if you have sensitive skin. Instead use a facial sunscreen or facial moisturizers that contain sunscreen, which are less likely to clog the pores and cause breakouts. In addition to sunscreen, wear protective clothing, hats and sunglasses. Read Sun Safety for Multicultural Women for more information on protective clothing and other tips to help you to protect your skin while in the sun.

How much do you know about sun safety? Take this Sun Safety Quiz to find out.
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