Stephanie and I are talking about how she did just fine with Monday’s alpha hydroxy acid peel, while I cried like a little tiny girl. For starters, she’s had more experience with peels because one of her best friends is an esthetician who hooks her up at cost, while I was a peel virgin. “I think you do kind of work up to being able to tolerate them,” she says.
“Also, keep in mind that Stephanie’s skin is much thicker than yours,” says Miss Jenny. What she means is, Stephanie is black. According to Milady’s, page 212:
Black skin is prone to hyperkeratosis [My note: This is esthetics speak for “an excessive build-up of dead skin cells.”] thus needing more exfoliation and deep pore cleansing. Black skin does not age as quickly because of the differences in physiology and the additional sun protection. However hyperpigmentation [Me again: “brown discoloration from melanin production due to sun or irritation”] is a greater problem for darker skin types.
Milady’s follows up that explanation with a photo of a black woman and the helpful caption, “ethnic skin is more fragile than it looks.”It goes on to note that “Asian skin is considered to be one of the more sensitive skin types,” while “Hispanic skin is usually oilier and needs more deep cleansing treatments.” And, “if you want to specialize in ethnic skin care, there are educational resources and advanced classes addressing this area of study.”
“Wow, that’s a lot of generalizations about my skin,” says Stephanie after we read that section out loud in class. Plus, some none-too-subtle reinforcement of racial stereotypes (those oily Hispanics, eh?). Not to sound all “We Are The World,” but color aside, Stephanie and I have noticed that our skin is a lot more similar than it is different; we both break out along our jawlines, get dry around our noses, and get dark circles under our eyes.
But here’s another reason that Stephanie handled the peel better than me: “It reminds me of this Fair & White skin cream I tried once to even out my dark spots,” she says. “Actually that was way worse — I got a little in my eye and thought I was going blind.”
Oh, you mean Fair & White, as in one of the skin lightening creams that the New York Times ran a front page story about last weekend, because they contain steroids and mercury, not to mention hydroquinone, which I told you about when Sammy Sosa went ghost-faced on us last fall? Yep, I bet those do make your basic glycolic peel feel like a walk in the park.
And so maybe Milady’s has a point, because for sure, nobody has ever tried to sell me a skin whitening cream. But does that make “ethnic skin” and “Caucasian skin” so fundamentally different? Or does it just mean the beauty industry has figured out different ways to get our money?