Cultural diversity in skincare : from an Asian, European and African perspective

The diversity of our world brings with it a variety of skin types, each with their own unique characteristics and needs. However, it is important to note that current knowledge of skin physiology and conditions is primarily based on studies conducted on fair skin. Because of this, there may be differences in skin function and response based on ethnicity. Fortunately, more and more skin care brands are aware of this diversity and offer special product lines curated to meet the specific needs of different ethnic groups.

In this blog, we will delve into the differences in skincare products and routines for Asian, European, and African skin types. We will discuss how these skin types differ from each other and what specific care and products they need to keep their skin healthy and radiant. From Asian skincare routines with their emphasis on hydration and sun protection, to European skincare products that focus on anti-aging and environmental protection, and the unique challenges African skin types face and how best to deal with them.

Diversity Asian Blacks White Skin

Ethnic skin diversity

Asian skin

It seems that Asian skin is less resistant to mechanical stress, making it more sensitive to environmental aggressions and irritants, such as pollution. This is because the stratum corneum of Asian skin is thinner and less resilient than that of white and black skin types, consisting of fewer and less cohesive corneocytes. Although Asian skin has high levels of ceramides, these are not enough to compensate for the smaller number of corneocytes.

In addition, Asian skin is more sensitive to exogenous chemicals, possibly due to a higher density of eccrine glands compared to other skin types. Regarding water content in the stratum corneum, Asian people have been reported to have lower levels of Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) than Caucasians and African Americans, resulting in decreased hydration. More about sensitive skin

Skin pigmentation also plays a role in the changes in the skin associated with aging. While one would expect Asian skin to show marked changes after exposure to UV radiation due to its lighter color and lesser protection from melanin, Asian skin appears to be less prone to photoaging wrinkling than Caucasian skin. to the changes in the skin associated with aging. This suggests that Asian individuals, especially East Asians, have mechanisms to reduce the negative effects of UV radiation on the skin, in addition to the photoprotection provided by melanin.

Avoiding the sun, diet high in antioxidants, green tea and another possible explanation is that the dermis of Asian skin contains more collagen than white skin.

More about Asian skin

White Skin

Northern European white skin types often face challenges with wrinkles and pigmentation problems due to prolonged sun exposure and the aging process.

White skin, which is generally lighter in color, contains less melanin, the pigment responsible for protecting against the harmful effects of the sun. This makes the skin more sensitive to the sun’s rays and the harmful UV radiation that can break down the collagen and elastin fibers in the skin. Prolonged exposure to the sun can lead to premature aging of the skin and the appearance of wrinkles.

In addition, sun exposure can lead to irregular production of melanin, resulting in pigment problems such as hyperpigmentation (dark spots or discolorations) and uneven skin tone. White skin tends to react more quickly to the sun, making these pigment problems more common.

In addition to the sun, the natural aging process also plays a role in the development of wrinkles and pigment problems in Northern European white skin types. As we age, the production of collagen and elastin in the skin decreases, making it less firm and elastic. This leads to the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and a less even skin texture.

African Skin

Dark skin types also face pigment problems. The hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone problems are greater with dark skin compared to white skin. Given that dark skin has the same amount of melanocytes as light skin, but a much higher basal tyrosinase activity, people with dark skin could therefore benefit from cosmetic products that reduce tyrosinase activity to prevent this hyperpigmentation phenomenon . More about pigment cells (melanocytes)

In general, dark skin shows more transepidermal water loss (TEWL) compared to fair skin. The skin contains the lowest lipid levels. There would be 50% less Ceramide in dark skin compared to white and Hispanic skins.

One study showed that the spontaneous desquamation (skin flake) rate was approximately 2.5 times greater in dark subjects compared to the other two groups. However, further tape-stripping reveals that the darker skin has a stronger barrier, presumably due to the increased cell cohesion.

Other important characteristics of the dark skin are the larger pore size, the increased number of apocrine and eccrine glands and the higher sebum secretion compared to other ethnic groups. This probably explains the developed microflora present on the dark skin. Therefore, this skin type would likely benefit greatly from skincare products that reduce pore size and sebum secretion, as well as provide control over bacterial proliferation.

More on People with dark skin: Dermatological features, skin conditions and care tips

Skin Care Approach in Different Cultures:

The needs of the skin are influenced by various factors such as climate (dry, humid, hot, cold), genetics, trends and cultural traditions.

Asian Skin Care: Asia is known for its K-beauty and J-beauty routines. These approaches emphasize a comprehensive, step-by-step approach and layering of products using natural ingredients and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles.

European Skincare: In Europe there is a strong focus on retailtainment, with the store/product experience at its core. European brands offer a wide range of products with different textures and formulas to meet the needs of different skin types.

African Skin Care: African skin care often uses natural and organic ingredients, derived from local plants and herbs. These traditional methods have been used for centuries to nourish and protect the skin

Popular Skin Care Products and Ingredients:

Asian Skin Care: Popular ingredients in Asian skin care products include hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, kojic acid, green tea extract, rice extract, and ginseng. These ingredients are known for their moisturizing, soothing and pigment-reducing properties. Asian skincare routines often involve multiple steps, such as cleansing, toning, exfoliating, moisturizing and protecting from the sun.

Diversity Asian Skin Iconic Elements

European Skincare: European skincare often focuses on anti-aging and reducing pigmentation problems. Popular ingredients include retinol, vitamin C, glycolic acid, and antioxidants such as vitamin E and coenzyme Q10. European brands also offer a wide range of high quality sunscreens to protect the skin from harmful UV rays.

Diversity Ethnic Skins White Skin Iconic Elements

African Skin Care: Natural ingredients such as shea butter, aloe vera, black soap, baobab oil and marula oil are widely used in African skin care. These ingredients have moisturizing, softening and nourishing properties that keep the skin healthy and radiant. In addition, many African countries use local plants and herbs with medicinal properties, such as rooibos and moringa.

Diversity Dark Skin Iconic Elements

A Balanced Skin Care Routine

From a dermatological point of view, it is important to follow a balanced skin care routine, regardless of cultural diversity. Although the K-beauty trend is known for its extensive steps, it is not always necessary to use so many different products. It’s important to understand your own skin’s needs and choose products to suit them.

In a Swedish study, they wanted to show the clinical benefits of using a comprehensive skin care routine compared to a simple one. The results showed that the advanced routine outperformed the simple routine in terms of superficial hydration, deep hydration, skin roughness, medium pore area, melanin heterogeneity, and the depth of crow’s feet wrinkles. Only when using the advanced routine was a significant increase in skin clarity over the simple routine observed.

Finally, it is essential to strive for a healthy and mindful approach to skincare. An excessive amount of ingredients on the skin can disrupt the skin barrier and cause irritation. Therefore choose quality products with proven ingredientsten.

In other words

The world of skin care is diverse and every culture has its own approach and products. Asian, European and African skin care routines differ based on skin characteristics, traditional methods and popular ingredients. It is important to follow a balanced skin care routine that suits your skin type and needs. Carefully choose products and ingredients that promote the health and radiance of your skin.


Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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