SENSITIVE: The basic science group identified that even very dark skin can be sensitive to UV light, in particular the UVA range in the UV light.
Scientist and researchers with personal care and cosmetics giant L’Oréal said sensitive skin issues in Africa are largely underestimated.

At a recent dermatological conference in Durban they also highlighted how taking little steps - like ensuring a sunscreen more suitable for darker skin - can go a long way in protecting African skin against symptoms like dry skin, hyper reactivity to products and pigmentation issues.

Dr Michele Verschoore, medical director at L’Oréal Research and Innovation, highlighted their scientific programmes related to African hair and skin at the second African Society of Dermatology and Venereology (ASDV) congress, held recently at the Durban ICC and attended by over 400 dermatologists from across sub-Saharan Africa and abroad.

In an interview she expounded on how their research indicated that sensitive skin in Africa was largely underestimated.

“We identified two things which are underestimated. First is the sensitivity of African skin. It is sensitive to any external factor, like UV light, solar light, high temperatures and changes in temperature. African skin is quite sensitive to excessive sweating, and it is also sensitive to natural cycles of women. And this is underestimated because the African customer has a high tolerance of acceptance of symptoms of sensitive skin,” said Verschoore.

These symptoms were often linked to undiagnosed inflammation of skin: “Symptoms like very subtle redness, dry skin, hyper reactivity to products - like when you apply a cream or use a shower gel,” she said.

Verschoore said their scientists had also identified how sunscreen can help relieve pigmentation disorder.

“Our basic science group identified that even very dark skin can be sensitive to UV light and in particular the UVA range in the UV light. When you buy sunscreen for example, the number for the SPF is UVB, but this is more suitable for light-skinned people. There is no need for a dark-skinned person to apply a high dose of UVB. We’ve found that the correct UVA application can last up to six months. UVA light is responsible for longstanding dark spots induced by inflammation,” said Verschoore.

The info is also helpful in addressing ageing African skin: “The main characteristics we've observed with ageing (in African skin), is that there is longer life expectancy. In darker skin, uneven pigmentation and dark spots is a major indication of aging - not wrinkles as in lighter skin. A good UVA sunscreen is a good way to avoid symptoms of ageing.”

Verschoore - also a practising dermatologist - warned against “fake products”.

“We see a lot of patients having symptoms related to using fake products on the market. Stay far away from illegal products.

"Use good quality products with a good distribution channel.

"Illegal products have no quality dossier and education for consumers is essential to help them chose what is good for each one," said Verschoore.