Thanks to Hollywood stereotypes, one might think all Latinas have the same physical features (curly, dark hair, curvy body, and brown skin). But, obviously, like all women, Hispanic women come in all shapes and colors. It would be a mistake to classify Latinas as one category or another — and, likewise, a mistake to assume that there is one skincare solution for every woman who identifies as Latina.
In that spirit, we talked to different dermatologists to look at some common skin myths about Latinas and skin care. Read on to find out why some of these beliefs are misplaced — and why knowing the truth can lead to healthier, more gorgeous skin.
Myth: Latinas tend to have slightly darker skin, so sunscreen is optional.
Latinas may have fair skin, dark skin, or a skin color that falls in between. But, no matter how much melanin one has, nobody is immune to the sun’s rays. Dr. Maritza Perez, the Director of Cosmetic Dermatology at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Medical Center in New York and a dermatologist who works with Olay, explains it.
“Women with darker skin may not burn as easily as someone with very fair skin, but the extra melanin doesn’t protect you against harmful UV damage that may not be visible right away,” she says. “It can lead to aging and discolorations, or worse, cancer.” Other damages include loss of elasticity and firmness that will definitely cause a tremendous impact over the years, and once the negative effects are in, there’s little to nothing you can do. “Prevention is key,” says Dr. Leyda Bowes, a Miami-based dermatologist who also works with Neutrogena. So, wear SPF 30 every day, even if you don’t burn. Dr. Perez sums it up: “Unprotected sun exposure is not recommended for anyone, including people of color.”
Myth: Latinas don’t need to worry about developing skin cancer.
Absolutely false! Melanoma cases among Latinos and Latinas have increased by 2.9% every single year for the last 15 years. That’s not not nearly as bad when compared to statistics on Caucasians, but still, it’s serious. The most common types of cancer in Latinas are often presented in the head, scalp, neck, or lips; and sadly, these are likely to be diagnosed at a later stage, says Dr. Bowes. What’s even worse, many people tend to ignore any irregular moles and delay skin check-ups. To prevent skin cancer, doctors recommend wearing sunscreen and protecting sensitive areas such as the scalp and décolletage. These little tricks can literally save your life.
Myth: Latinas often deal with hyperpigmentation.
Well, actually…this one’s true, at least for some women. All of the experts we spoke with agreed that hyperpigmentation is the number-one concern among their Latina patients who have darker skin. Dr. Debra Jaliman, a Manhattan dermatologist who works with Obagi, explains that anybody with darker features — that includes hair and eye color, by the way — is more prone to pigmentation (or as some say, las manchas). This is particularly apparent in people who have faced teenage acne, but a host of culprits — hormonal changes, pimples, rashes, cuts, scars, or anything else that causes inflammation — and sun exposure can lead to uneven skin tone. Dr. Marta Rendon points out that hyperpigmentation on armpits, elbows, and knees are very common — and, unfortunately, are hard to get rid of.
Myth: If I have olive or darker skin, I won’t get wrinkles.
This is semi-true…with a caveat. According to Dr. Rendon, people with darker skin have less photodamage, which means their skin is thicker and is less prone to lines and wrinkles. But, don’t think that gives you a pass to party like a rock star and soak up sun all day long. As Miami-based dermatologist Dr. Flor Mayoral points out, behavior trumps heredity. If you don’t take care of your skin, anyone can get wrinkles and sun damage.
Myth: Most Latinas are in the danger zone when it comes to lasers.
If your skin tone is darker, only certain types of lasers will work for you, but newer technology means that you can indeed be treated with lasers. For example, as Dr. Francisco Flores explains, “The neodymium-YAG doesn’t burn the epidermis and reduces the risk of hyperpigmentation.” (Ask your doctor about lasers such as Candela’s GentleYag.) To avoid side effects, dermatologists would have to lower the energy of lasers in olive, dark, or tanned skin, which means you’d need a higher number of sessions (and more paychecks to kiss goodbye) to obtain results. Whatever treatment you choose, don’t forget that more pigmented skin requires additional safety features, plus access to technicians who have experience with a wide range of skin tones. Whether you’re Latina or not, do your research — your skin will thank you.