Things you may not know about Olive, Brown and Black Skin!

January 19, 2011

Your skin care regimen should depend mostly on the type of skin you’ve got: oily, dry, combination, or normal. But skin tone plays a supporting role, and that’s why it’s important for people with olive and light brown and dark skin to be familiar with the conditions they potentially face, such as postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, vitiligo, melasma, keloids, and dark marks or patches.

First last talk about what Causes Certain Skin Tones to Appear Olive or Light Brown?
Regardless of race or ethnicity, everyone’s got the same number of melanocyte skin cells, and those contain structures called melanosomes. It’s these melanosomes, and the melanin they produce (melanin is the pigment that colors the skin) that determine our skin tone. People with dark skin have melanocytes that contain larger melanosomes — and more of them — than people with olive or light brown skin, so their melanosomes make more melanin. People with fair skin have melanocytes that contain fewer and smaller melanosomes than people with medium skin tones, and their melanosomes produce less melanin.

So while lighter-skinned Africans and African Americans, as well as Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, and people from the Middle East, India, and the Mediterranean have the same amount of melanocyte skin cells as both darker and fairer people, the size and number of their melanosomes fall somewhere in the middle, resulting in olive or light brown skin.

Although all people have the same number of melanocyte cells, people of color have melanocytes that are capable of making large amounts of melanin. This increased melanin is what gives skin of color its warm shade.

But there is no one type of skin of color. Among individual women of color, the amount of melanin varies dramatically, so that a woman with an abundance of melanin will have deep chocolate-brown skin tone, while a woman with less melanin will have vanilla skin tone. There are numerous shades — an estimated thirty-five shades among women of African descent.

Melanin is not a static substance. That is why our skin changes color in response to various stimuli. Our melanocyte cells can produce more melanin if stimulated by the sun, medications, or certain diseases. The most obvious example of this is tanning, which occurs when our skin produces more melanin after sun exposure. Our skin may also darken in response to certain drugs such as minocycline, which is commonly used to treat acne, or in response to certain medical conditions such as Addison’s disease (see “Melanin and Medicine,” page 14, and “Melanin and Your Health,” page 15, Our skin can also produce less pigmentation, or lightened areas, after a burn or other injury.

The melanin in Brown or dark skin offers us certain other characteristics that are superior in many respects to white skin.
Have you noticed that you look ten years younger than many of your White friends of the same age? This is because of your skin’s greater melanin content. The melanin has many significant health as well as beauty benefits. The most terrific advantage to having large amounts of melanin in the skin is that it protects skin from the damaging impact of the sun. It guards the skin from short-term effects such as severe sunburn (although our skin can burn under certain circumstances). The melanin Brown skin also guards our skin from long-term damage associated with aging — the development of deep wrinkles, rough surface texture, and age spots (sometimes called liver spots).

Another advantage to having more melanin is that people of color are less susceptible to developing skin cancer, particularly the more common types known as basal and squamous cell skin cancers. The rate of skin cancer among African Americans, though significant, is many times lower than the rate for Whites. Women of color, also have the advantage of possessing the naturally warm, glowing skin sought after by White women without having to go to the beach or a tanning salon.

However, we must accept the down sides as well. A disadvantage to having more melanin is that it makes our skin more “reactive.” That means almost any stimulus — a rash, scratch, pimple, or inflammation — may trigger the production of excess melanin, resulting in dark marks or patches on the skin. These dark areas are the result of what is called postinflammatory hyperpigmentation. Less commonly, some women of color will develop a decrease in melanin or postinflammatory hypopigmentation in response to skin trauma (burns, etc.). In either case, the dark or light areas may be disfiguring and devastating for women who experience them, especially because the discolorations may take months or years to fade.
That’s why handling your skin gently, wearing sunscreen, and preventing pigmentation problems are keys to our skin care.



  1. Thank you so much for yor comment its appriciated. And we will be doing a skin protection blog in the near future.
    admin xxx

  2. Amazing post… I’m glad that you are highlighting the differences in people at the same time as letting us know that underneath it all, we are all the same (have the same number of melanocyte cells).

    Not enough people are talking about being proud about your complexion, whatever the shade.

    Another positive is highlighting the damage we can do to our skin by not protecting it. So a big shout out to you guys.x

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