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Microscopic structures in the skin are basically the same in all races. Differences are found in histology and physiology of the skin resulting in different skin types, needs and prevailing skin diseases. Skin pigmentation (with the photo-protective properties), and the barrier function of the stratum corneum are the main differences between African and Caucasian skin.
The geographic distribution of UV radiation (UVR) has a positive correlation with geographical location. The darker-skinned populations are closer to the equator where there are high amounts of UVR especially in the tropical regions of the world. African skin has the greatest variability in skin color. Africa has both white and dark skinned individuals with the darker-skinned populations being mostly around the equator.
Leslie Baumann introduced four parameters that more accurately characterized skin types than previous classification of dry, oily, normal and combination skin. These are dry or oily – D/O; sensitive or resistant – S/R; pigmented or non-pigmented – P/N, and wrinkled or unwrinkled skin – W/T. Combinations of these further produced sixteen skin phenotypes. Dark skinned individuals often have the PT types while the light skinned mostly have the NW types.
Skin needs basically depends on the type. Identifying the skin type is fundamental to providing the right skin care. According to Baumann, the fundamental elements of skin care are mild cleansing, hydrating (moisturization with humectants and emollients), replenishing (with lipids, ceramides and fatty acids) and skin protection (UV protection and increased humidity).
Skin diseases are associated with skin type. Eczema is more typical in people with DS combinations while acne is associated with OS skin type (especially OSNT and OSPT). Prevalence of skin diseases varies within African communities from 35% to 87% with skin infections affecting 22-46% and eczemas 13-21% of patients in various studies.
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