The development of stratified skincare products based on ethnic specific manifestations

The skin is a barrier which intends to protect against environmental stressors such as UV radiation (UVR), which can be detrimental to skin health and result in premature aging. It has recently been recognised that human skin responds differently to environmental stressors due to ethnic variation, which can also affect the mechanisms of skin response to dermatological interventions aimed at amelioration. Hexis Lab are currently working with Newcastle University with the aim to pioneer new products and services for the ethnic and stratified skincare market by developing novel assays to assess the phenotypic responses of the skin to damaging extrinsic factors.

Research shows that darker skin has larger and more dispersed melanocytes which contain more melanin, as well as slower melanosome degradation in comparison to lighter skin. Lightly pigmented therefore has lower UVR protection and is more susceptible to skin damage and photoaging.

Skin phenotypes can be distinguished based on defined genotypic traits, structural organisation and sensitivity to extrinsic aging factors, the major extrinsic insult being chronic exposure to UVR. Melanin; also known to be responsible for skin colour, is the pigment generated by melanocytes which provides protection against sunlight through scavenging ROS or filtering UV to decrease the amount that penetrates the skin. Melanin production is initiated during periods of seasonally high UVR and acts as a protective mechanism, resulting in skin darkening in areas that have been exposed. Research shows that darker skin has larger and more dispersed melanocytes which contain more melanin, as well as slower melanosome degradation in comparison to lighter skin. Lightly pigmented therefore has lower UVR protection and is more susceptible to skin damage and photoaging.

Another factor affecting UV protection variation is expression of the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R), one of the major genes responsible for regulating human melanin production. All variants of this gene are associated with lighter skin, UVR sensitivity and susceptibility to skin cancer due to lower levels of melanin. Studies have shown that MC1R polymorphisms are near absent in African populations, indicating that the receptor is under strong functional control in regions of high UVR, therefore providing protection.

In order to quantify mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) damage in the skin of individuals from different ethnic groups, we will be using a skin swabbing protocol from which we are able to extract the DNA and perform analysis with Real-Time PCR (qPCR). This will be performed on skin cells which display different degrees of pigmentation defined by their melanin content to determine whether highly pigmented cells show higher levels of protection. We also aim to identify proposed protective mechanisms that are linked to ethnic differences and the physiology of extrinsic skin aging.

This approach allows us to formulate stratified skincare products to suit specific populations and ensure that formulations have optimum activity for the target ethnic group in order to provide complete care and protection.

Unique characteristics of individual skin responses, in particular ethnic skin types, are currently considered the shape of future clinical and pharmacological interventions as a basis for personalised skincare. This approach allows us to formulate stratified skincare products to suit specific populations and ensure that formulations have optimum activity for the target ethnic group in order to provide complete care and protection.